Updated January 20, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

The 9 Best Color Laser Printers

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If you're looking to attain high quality in your hard-copy materials, a top-tier color laser printer is the answer. We've evaluated models designed for intermittent use in the home, as well as units intended for use in a busy office, and have ranked them by efficiency, clarity, connectivity, and value. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best color laser printer on Amazon.

9. Brother HL-3180CDW

8. HP M452dw LaserJet Pro

7. Dell C2660dn

6. Canon ImageClass LBP612CDW

5. Brother HLL8250CDN

4. Canon Color ImageClass MF634Cdw

3. HP Color LaserJet Enterprise M553dn

2. Dell C1760NW

1. HP LaserJet M477fdw

A Brief History Of The Laser Printer

In the 20th century, as the pace of technological development and innovation quickened, myriad printers were developed and released to the marketplace.

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 first century of the Common Era. 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 CE. 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.

In fact, you can find excellent laser printers that cost well under $1,000.

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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Brett Dvoretz
Last updated on January 20, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as in front of a laptop screen, Brett can either be found hacking away furiously at the keyboard or, perhaps, enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He has been a professional chef, a dog trainer, and a travel correspondent for a well-known Southeast Asian guidebook. He also holds a business degree and has spent more time than he cares to admit in boring office jobs. He has an odd obsession for playing with the latest gadgets and working on motorcycles and old Jeeps. His expertise, honed over years of experience, is in the areas of computers, electronics, travel gear, pet products, and kitchen, office and automotive equipment.

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