The 8 Best Color Laser Printers of 2021
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Color laser printers have become more affordable over the years, letting home-based professionals as well as small business owners access these higher-end units. Laser printers offer faster print speeds over inkjet models as well as better monthly print volumes; toner cartridges are designed to last longer than ink cartridges, letting you print thousands of pages in a month. Most laser printers feature automatic duplex printing as well as duplex scanning and copying on all-in-one models to help save on paper as well as time.
Many also feature wireless printing capabilities via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or cloud printing services; this lets you print from your computer or mobile devices with or without an internet connection, meaning you'll be able to get your reports done no matter where you are. Some of the higher-end all-in-one models allow you to scan documents directly into email programs or network locations for faster distribution or saving, and you can even create searchable PDF documents for better organization. Color laser printers can vary greatly in print volume and speed, so be sure to check each model carefully to see if it will suit your needs.
Printers with low printing speeds are best suited for smaller businesses that may be just starting out or home-based professionals who only occasionally deal with hard copies of documents, while higher-speed models are better for large offices with dozens of employees. We've rounded up our top picks from brands like Canon, Brother, and HP and broke down their features to help you decide which color laser printer is best for your business or home office.
Best Overall: HP Color LaserJet Pro M255dw
The HP Color LaserJet Pro M255dw is one of the best color laser printers available for home offices and small businesses. It can connect to your computer or mobile devices via USB cable or Wi-Fi for fast, reliable printing from email, network locations, and cloud storage services. It's also compatible with Apple AirPrint and HP ePrint for more mobile printing options.
With printing speeds up to 22 pages per minute and automatic duplex printing, you'll be able to create physical copies of documents quickly while also saving paper. The compact size of this single-function laser printer shouldn't fool you; it has a 250-sheet capacity input tray and a 100-sheet capacity output tray so you can spend less time refilling the printer and retrieving documents, and more time finishing daily tasks.
The 2.7-inch color touchscreen makes it easy to navigate menus, set up print jobs, and check printer statuses like toner and paper levels. The printer is compatible with both Windows and macOS computers, so it will work in offices with multiple types of devices.
Best Budget: Brother HL-L3270CDW
If you're just starting your small business or just looking for a budget-friendly printer, the Brother HL-L3270CDW is a great option. This color laser printer is capable of producing up to 25 pages per minute with automatic duplex printing to help save both time and paper; there is also a toner saving mode for even more print cost reduction.
The 2.7-inch touchscreen lets you set up shortcut options for fast printing from network locations, cloud storage services, and even mobile devices. With both Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, it's fast and easy to wirelessly print documents from computers and mobile devices, but if you want a hardwired connection, there are USB and Ethernet options as well. With 250-sheet input and 150-sheet output trays, you'll be able to tackle large print jobs. A manual feed slot in the rear of the printer allows you to take care of very small or specialized print jobs like envelopes, labels, or cover sheets.
Related: The Best Cheap Printers
Best Splurge: HP Color LaserJet Enterprise M652dn
If you're looking to invest in a high-end color laser printer for your home office or business, look no further than the HP Color LaserJet Enterprise M652dn. This single-function laser printer comes with a hefty price tag, but it's backed up by some truly impressive features. You'll be able to print up to 50 pages per minute with the first page out in as little as 6.4 seconds, perfect for when you need to print large or multiple documents fast.
It also has an 8.4 second wakeup cycle, meaning you can spend more time getting work done and less time waiting for your printer to warm up; it also automatically self-repairs any print code errors upon startup to prevent external hacks and network errors. With 1GB of internal memory, you'll be able to store multiple documents for printing at a later date or set up specific print modes for custom print jobs; you can print up to 16 pages on a single sheet and even add watermarks to protect intellectual property. With automatic duplex printing and optional high-yield cartridges, you'll be able to save on print costs, paper use, and time.
This printer is compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux based computers as well as iOS and Android mobile devices, making it perfect for businesses and offices that use multiple networks and devices. It features built-in ethernet and USB ports for network connectivity and printing directly from flash drives, and you can also upgrade the printer for wireless printing via Wi-Fi.
Best for High Volume: Brother HL-L8360CDW
For larger, busier offices, the Brother HL-L8360CDW is a great choice for high-volume printing. This color laser printer can produce up to 33 pages per minute, letting you handle large or multiple documents quickly. The dual input trays give you up to 300-sheets for both multi-purpose and specialized printing; you can also buy additional input trays for up to 800-sheet capacity. The output tray can hold up to 150 sheets, meaning you can print large or multiple documents without worrying about jams or having everything fall to the floor.
A USB port on the printer allows you to print directly from flash drives and other memory storage devices, though you can also print wirelessly over Wi-Fi or through apps like AirPrint and Google Cloud Print. The 2.7-inch color touchscreen lets you effortlessly check on printer status, queue print jobs, or change settings like toner save mode or energy save mode to help reduce operating costs. Brother claims that this printer can handle a monthly print volume of up to 60,000 pages, making it perfect for busy offices.
Best for Smart Home Offices: Canon ImageClass MF644CDW
As more and more people are working from home, there is an increased need for smart devices, and the Canon ImageClass MF644CDW is one that will fit perfectly in your smart home office. You can connect this printer to your Alexa-enabled devices for hands-free voice controls, letting you print, scan, copy, and fax with just a word; this is perfect for when you need to set up a print job while you're on a video call or in a virtual meeting.
It's compatible with iOS and Android mobile devices as well as Windows and macOS computers, so no matter what you've equipped your office with, it will work with just about every device you have. The 5-inch touchscreen allows you to set up shortcuts and change settings as well as switch between duplex and simplex printing, scanning, and copying. You can print up to 22 pages per minute and scan up to 51 images per minute in simplex mode, letting you quickly get through large jobs and documents.
If you want to print something at a later date, you can store documents in the printer's short term memory; you can queue a job at the end of the day Monday for the next morning or Friday evening for the next week. When you scan documents, you can create searchable PDF files for better organization or scan directly to email, network locations, or cloud storage services like Google Drive.
Related: The Best Wireless Printers
Best for Low Volume: Brother HL-L3210CW
If your home or traditional office has only occasional printing needs, the Brother HL-L3210CW is a great option. It prints up to 19 pages per minute, and it can handle both letter and legal size paper as well as card stock, glossy photo paper, and envelopes. The 250-sheet input tray lets you load the printer less often, and the manual feed slot lets you take care of single-sheet print jobs or specialized paper. The 1-line LCD display is clear and easy to read, letting you check on printer statuses and print jobs with just a glance.
The printer has built-in Wi-Fi for wireless printing from Windows and macOS computers as well as iOS and Android mobile devices; you can also use a USB connection for a more permanent connection to a laptop or desktop. It comes with starter toner cartridges that yield around 1,000 pages, almost matching the recommended monthly print volume of 1,500 pages; this is perfect for businesses and home offices that only very rarely need to print physical copies of documents. The compact size of the printer also makes it great for smaller spaces, letting you tuck it away on a shelf, desk corner, or dedicated cart.
Best Single Function: HP Color LaserJet Pro M454DW
Sometimes, all a business needs is a solid, reliable printer, and the HP Color LaserJet Pro M454dw is built from the ground-up to be the best single-function printer on the market. This color laser printer is compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux computers as well as iOS and Android mobile devices, letting you effortlessly print documents from almost any device. It features a USB port for printing directly from flash drives as well as built-in Wi-Fi for wireless printing options; it even has Bluetooth connectivity for wireless printing without an internet connection.
Automatic duplex printing means you'll be able to save on paper as well as time, with the ability to print up to 28 pages per minute with the first page out in as little as 9.5 seconds. This printer features two input trays: a 250-sheet capacity tray for letter size paper and a 50-sheet tray for multipurpose printing, and you can purchase an additional 550-sheet tray for even more paper storage. With the automatic on/off feature, this printer helps save on energy use by only turning on when a print job is ready to go and shutting off when idle. This printer also has a bevy of embedded security features like threat alerts and PIN printing to prevent unauthorized use and access.
Best All-in-One: HP Color LaserJet Pro MFPM281fdw
All-in-one printers revolutionized business when they first arrived on the market in the early 90s, and the HP Color LaserJet Pro MFPM281fdw continues to improve upon that legacy. It offers some of the fastest print speeds in its class with up to 22 pages per minute single-sided or 13ppm in duplex mode. It also features a 50 page automatic document feeder for fast copying and scanning of text documents as well as a flatbed scanner for high-quality scans of images and small text. With the HP Smart app, you'll be able to print, scan, copy, and fax images and documents from your iOS or Android mobile device and even cloud storage services like iCloud and Google Drive. The 2.7-inch touchscreen interface lets you scan documents to email programs, network locations, and cloud storage services as well as set up user profiles and shortcuts for more efficient workflow. There is a USB port on the front of the printer for walk-up printing directly from flash drives or other storage devices. The compact footprint of this all-in-one laser printer makes it great for smaller businesses and home offices where shelf, floor, or desk space is at a premium.
Related: The Best All-in-One Laser Printers
The HP Color LaserJet Pro 255dw is one of the best color laser printers available to buy (view at Office Depot). It offers 22ppm print speeds as well as Wi-Fi connectivity and cloud printing capabilities for fast, wireless printing. While the HP Color LaserJet Enterprise M652dn (view at Amazon) may be pricey, it offers some of the best print speeds (up to 50ppm) and one of the fastest warmup times (8.4 seconds) in its class. It also has almost universal compatibility with computer and mobile device operating systems as well as walk-up USB printing.
What to Look for When Buying a Color Laser Printer
Print speed refers to how many pages per minute (ppm) a printer can produce as well as how long it takes to print the first page. The lower the ppm, the slower the printer is; lower ppm printers are more suited to low-volume offices while higher ppm models are better for larger businesses that may employ dozens, if not hundreds, of people
Single function vs all-in-one
Single function printers do one thing: print. All-in-one models can print, scan, copy, and even fax documents and images. If your business or office deals with graphics as well as text documents, an all-in-one may be the better choice. But if you only need to occasionally print hard copies of contracts or other important documents, a single function is more than enough.
Nowadays, printers can connect to your computers and mobile devices in multiple ways. You can use a USB cable, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and even Bluetooth to print wirelessly, from cloud storage services, and directly from flash drives.
How long will the toner cartridge last?
That all depends on the manufacturer and the type of toner cartridge it is. Some cartridges are labeled as "high-yield," meaning you'll be able to print hundreds, or thousands, more pages than the standard cartridges allow. However, high-yield cartridges are also much more expensive, so you'll have to weigh the operation costs against the benefits.
How can I clean the laser printer?
Many office supply stores sell cleaning sheets for laser printers. These look like regular paper, but are specially treated with cleaning agents to remove excess toner and dirt from print heads and drums. You can also manually clean toner cartridge heads and drums with rubbing alcohol, canned air, and even specialized vacuums designed to gently remove toner dust and dirt. Check your printer's operating manual to see how you can disassemble the unit for cleaning.
What security features can I have with a laser printer?
When dealing with sensitive information such as employee records or financial reports, keeping your company's printers safe from outside hacks and unauthorized use is important. Many new laser printers come with embedded security such as password or PIN protected modes that require an employee ID to print, firewall protection and threat alerts, and even encryption for added data protection. Check your printer's operating manual to see what features it offers and how to set them up.
Meet the Expert
Taylor Clemons is a tech writer who has written for IndieHangover, GameSkinny, TechRadar, The Inventory, and The Balance: Small Business. Taylor specializes in PC components, operating systems, and gaming console hardware.