Suddenly in Need of a Printer?

Here are three great options.

A sleek HP printer prints out a color photograph of a flower.
Photo illustration by Slate. Image via HP.

Social distancing means many of us are working from home rather than the office, and many school-age children are completing coursework from their bedroom rather than a classroom. Both of those changes probably also mean you’ve got a significant need in your home for something you may not have had in years: a printer.

If you’re considering buying a new printer right now, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that printers have gotten less expensive over the years—plenty of budget options exist that easily handle everything your average office printer can. The bad news? That printer isn’t the only expense you’re going to incur.

No matter what printer you purchase, the included ink will likely only last for a handful of pages, so you’re going to need to purchase a replacement ink cartridge along with that printer. Depending on your selection, that ink might cost as much as the printer. You’ll also need to buy some paper, and depending on your computer setup and the printer’s capabilities, you may need a cable to connect the printer to your computer.

All that said, it’s still possible to gain the ability to print at home for a reasonable amount of cash. Here are some great (and affordable) printers that can get the job done.

Canon PIXMA TR4520 Wireless All-in-One Photo Printer

The Canon PIXMA TR4520 Wireless All-in-One Printer is easy to use but still offers some sophisticated options. Its pros? Wireless printing is easy, and with the Canon Print app, you can even print from your mobile phone or tablet, making it ideal for kids who might be using one of those devices for distance learning, rather than a regular computer.

The printer is “all-in-one,” in that it can be used not only to print but also to scan documents, make copies, and send faxes. All those features are likely attractive to someone who’s accustomed to having access to a large office printer.

One unique feature of the printer: IFTTT (If This, Then That) support. IFTTT allows you to create “recipes” that automate the printer to accomplish customized tasks. For instance, you can set the printer to print your child’s schoolwork every time something new is added to a Dropbox folder, or automatically print each grocery shopping list you create via Alexa.

The printer is 17.2 inches long, 11.7 inches wide, and 7.5 inches high, so it also doesn’t take up much space. Here are the ink cartridges you’ll need if you go with this option.

HP OfficeJet Pro 8035

One big advantage of this HP printer: You don’t have to worry about ordering ink—at least for a while. If you purchase the printer from Amazon, it comes with a code to redeem eight months of ink delivered to your door. That “eight months” presumes you only print 100 pages a month, which might underestimate your needs right now, but it should be plenty for the average user to stay appropriately stocked through quarantine. Once you’ve run through the redeemable supply, here’s the ink you’ll need to buy.

The wireless printer can print, scan, copy, and fax documents, and can also default to printing pages double-sided so you can conserve your precious paper supply while everyone is at home. HP’s app allows you to print from tablets and phones as well as computers, which is another bonus. Even better, a USB port on the side of the printer allows you to print directly from a USB memory stick, rather than needing to first insert that memory stick into another device.

Canon TS302 Wireless Inkjet Printer

A basic inkjet printer like the Canon TS302 Wireless Inkjet Printer is a practical solution if you don’t see yourself having the need to scan or copy documents.

The TS302 is just 6.5 pounds, so it’s easy to move around. It’s also compatible with Canon’s XL ink cartridges, which is a plus because they last a little longer than the average ink cartridge.

Like the other printers on this list, with the use of a dedicated app, this wireless printer allows you to print documents directly from your phone or tablet rather than from a computer. The Canon app also has a built-in scanning function. While its scanning quality isn’t quite as good as what you’d get if you scanned via the printer itself, it works in a pinch.