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Cheapism: Best budget laser printers

May 29, 2013 at 3:16 PM ET

The Brother HL-5450DN is ideally sized for a home office.

When you routinely print large documents, you can’t afford to wait for page after page to inch out of an inkjet printer. That kind of workload demands a laser printer. While big corporations spend thousands on multifunction machines the size of small refrigerators, small business owners and professionals who work from home can make do with cheaper models that better fit their offices and their budgets. Even at less than $150, a laser printer can turn out 20 or more high-quality printed pages per minute.

Here are the top picks from Cheapism.com:

  • The Brother HL-5450DN (starting at $135) is a speedy machine with a stated output of up to 40 pages per minute, or ppm. That’s for a text-only job on standard paper, though. Expert testers peg the speed at more like 10 or 20 ppm for common business applications -- still pleasingly fast for the price. The drawer holds 250 sheets of paper, a tray holds 50 more, and a built-in duplexer automatically prints on both sides of the page. An Ethernet connection lets users set up a wired network for sharing the printer among multiple computers. This model also supports various apps and cloud services for wireless printing from a mobile device. (Where to buy)

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  • The Dell B1160w (starting at $67) is a pint-size printer with an almost astonishingly small price tag, given that it features Wi-Fi capability. Users can wirelessly print from a computer or an Android phone, instead of connecting via USB cable (although that’s also an option). Experts and users alike say the printer is easy to set up and so light and compact that it’s essentially portable. Reviewers have taken it with them on the road and brought it into meetings. The capacity is 150 sheets. (Where to buy)

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  • The Canon ImageClass MF3010 (starting at $89) lacks networking capability, wireless or otherwise, but it’s a multifunction printer that can act as a scanner and copier, as well, saving consumers money they might otherwise spend on separate devices. Reviewers credit this model with swift printing, especially compared with an all-in-one inkjet printer. The input drawer houses 150 sheets. (Where to buy)

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These are all monochrome or “mono” laser printers that print only in black and white. Such models are excellent for churning out documents with crisp text, and perhaps some black-and-white graphics, but not color photos. Color laser printers cost more and inkjets are best for printing glossy photos.

Apartment Therapy lays out more of the pros and cons of laser printers vs. inkjets. If it sounds like a laser printer would best suit your needs, try not to be intimidated by the high price of toner cartridges. Although they generally cost more than inkjet cartridges, they also generally last far longer. Standard-yield toner for the Brother HL-5450DN, for example, costs nearly $50 on Amazon but promises to last for 3,000 pages. Even assuming the yield will vary in practice, the cost per page comes out to mere pennies.

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