The 7 Best Color Laser Printers

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This wiki has been updated 22 times since it was first published in May of 2015. Whether you run a small business that relies heavily on hard copies of materials or you simply want to increase the clarity of letters you create at home, one of these color laser printers will surely do the job. We've evaluated models suitable for a wide range of budgets, and have ranked them by their efficiency, print quality, durability, and user-friendliness. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best color laser printer on Amazon.

7. Brother HL-L3210CW

6. Canon ImageClass LBP622CDW

5. HP LaserJet Pro M281

4. Lexmark C2535DW

3. Canon ImageClass MF644CDW

2. Brother 3290 Compact Wireless

1. Lexmark Multifunction Duplex

Editor's Notes

May 08, 2019:

While our previous ranking certainly contained plenty of capable models, our latest list has removed 100% of those. That's mainly because each model on our old list was either getting a little long in the tooth on its own or its company came out with something a little newer and a little better. In the case of the Lexmark model at number one (we didn't even have a Lexmark on our previous list) you see a brand determined to compete with the likes of Canon and Brother, offering a large touchscreen interface with intuitive menus. Those other two companies each have a pair of products ranked here, with one Canon at number three representing a similar class as the Lexmark we already mentioned, and a Brother at number two showing what the company can do when they want to save their customers a little money. That model is incredibly effective when you look at its actual features, even if it lacks a flashy display.

A Brief History Of The Laser Printer

In 1450, an innovative German blacksmith named Johannes Gutenberg devised the first printing press that can be thought of as essentially modern.

The history of the modern printer arguably begins with the development of the first viable paper, which was developed in Ancient China, likely in the 1st century C.E. Early papers were made not from wood pulp, which wouldn't see common use in the paper-making process until hundreds of years later in the 1840s. Instead, ancient paper was made primarily from hemp fibers or from repurposed scraps of linen, cotton, or other types of cloth.

The next innovation toward modern printing again came from China, where the first printing presses featuring movable type were designed sometime during the early years of the Northern Song Dynasty, which lasted from 960 to 1127 C.E. Movable type was far more efficient than traditional woodblock printing, which required brand new carvings for each set of pages to be printed. Chinese is a character-based language, however, and it still made for a laborious printing process, even with movable ceramic tablets available for each character. As a result, the use of these units was not widespread.

In 1450, an innovative German blacksmith named Johannes Gutenberg devised the first printing press that can be thought of as essentially modern. It used movable type tablets made of a durable blend of three materials — lead, antimony, and tin — and took advantage of the Arabic-alphabet-based European languages that made typesetting much more efficient. Gutenberg's new printing press would change the nature of information dissemination across the Renaissance world, with the prolific publication of the eponymous Gutenberg Bible serving as the most lasting legacy of his achievement.

Until the advent of the printer — an approximation of which appeared in the mid 19th century, but was used only for recording specific mathematical calculations — the printing press remained the standard method for getting words and simple graphics down on paper. In the 20th century, as the pace of technological development and innovation quickened, myriad printers were developed and released to the marketplace. Many were successful, such as the once ubiquitous dot matrix printer, while others saw short-lived use, such as the Selectric-type-based Flexowriter from IBM, which essentially used the printing technology of a typewriter hooked up to a computer system.

The first functional laser printer was conceived of and developed by an American named Gary Starkweather who worked for the Xerox Corporation. His idea for using an electrostatic printing process in which a laser created a selective charge on a drum which could then draw powdered ink toner onto a sheet of paper came to him in 1969. By 1972, after several years of development, Starkweather and several of his colleagues had created the first working laser printer.

While not suitable for creating extremely high-resolution color graphics or photographs, laser printers are prized in many fields, from the professional to the academic, for their incredibly high printing speeds. If you need multiple pages printed quickly, you need to consider a laser printer. While Gutenberg's printing press could create approximately 240 "impressions"" (e.g. pages) per hour in the hands of skilled workers, today's top of the line laser printers can churn out up to 40 pages per minute (that's about 2,400 pages in an hour).

Choosing The Right Laser Printer For The Busy Office

The first laser printer specifically designed for office use was the Xerox Star 8010, a workstation released in 1981 that sold for the prohibitive price of $17,000. (That figure today has the buying power of $46,592 USD when adjusted for inflation, for the record.) Fortunately, today a commercial laser printer that is entirely adequate for even the busiest offices can be had for considerably less. In fact, you can find excellent laser printers that cost well under $1,000.

Rather, you should look for a unit that boasts plenty of flexibility when it comes to document type.

One of the most important considerations when selecting a laser printer for an office is not necessarily print speed; even moderately priced units can turn out as many as two dozen pages per minute, after all. Rather, you should look for a unit that boasts plenty of flexibility when it comes to document type. An office will likely see printing on everything from sheets of basic eight by eleven paper, to envelopes of all sizes, card stock, and more. So look for units with large multipurpose tray capacity as well as those with plenty of storage room in the primary paper tray.

Also, consider designating your office's laser printer for use only with written documents, and invest in a separate printer for printing that involves graphics, photos, and even for type-based documents with color; an inkjet printer can't match a laser printer for speed, but it will offer better quality for image printing, and many units are priced affordably.

A Laser Printer For Home Or Small Business Use

If you are looking to buy a laser printer for use at your home, in your small business, in a school or church office, or anywhere else where printing is important but not necessarily a high volume affair, a laser printer still may be a wise choice. That's thanks to the efficiency of a good laser printer's toner ink system.

Many laser printer's use toner cartridges that can produce thousands of pages before needing a replacement, so their use saves you time and might even save you cash in the long run. Toner cartridges are expensive, but they yield plenty of printed documents.

If your laser printer will be used in a school or for a small business, don't overlook the fact that these devices use much of the same technology as photocopier machines; choose one with a copier tray and you will essentially be getting two machines in one.

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Daniel Imperiale
Last updated on May 10, 2019 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel Imperiale holds a bachelor’s degree in writing, and proudly fled his graduate program in poetry to pursue a quiet life at a remote Alaskan fishery. After returning to the contiguous states, he took up a position as an editor and photographer of the prestigious geek culture magazine “Unwinnable” before turning his attention to the field of health and wellness. In recent years, he has worked extensively in film and music production, making him something of a know-it-all when it comes to camera equipment, musical instruments, recording devices, and other audio-visual hardware. Daniel’s recent obsessions include horology (making him a pro when it comes to all things timekeeping) and Uranium mining and enrichment (which hasn’t proven useful just yet).

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