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Buyer's Guide: Budget Mono Laser Printers

The choices in black and white

The essential guide to IT transformation

If you look at identical pages of text printed on inkjet and laser printers, the laser print will look sharp and clean and probably a denser black, too. New pigmented inks used in inkjet printers have made inkjet print much closer to laser intensity, but the best black print quality still comes from lasers.

Where you lose out, of course, at these kinds of prices, is that the lasers can only print black. If you want a sub-£100 colour printer, you have to go for an inkjet. There are still many small businesses, though, that don't need or colour print or simply can't afford it.

So, you’re looking for print speed and good print quality, and the third attribute is convenience. Even the hungriest of laser printers, and certainly of those reviewed here, can print 1,500 pages at five percent cover – a typical business letter – before needing replacement. You'll be lucky to get a third of that out of most inkjets between cartridge changes.

Three out of the six laser printers reviewed here are designed to be folded shut and the paper put away when not printing. They have no covers for their paper trays, meaning that house dust, biscuit crumbs and drinks can easily clog up the mechanism or ruin a stack of paper.

Many people also quote running costs as a reason for picking a laser printer over an inkjet, but if you compare ink and toner costs for equivalently priced printers, you’ll see this doesn’t bear up.

Take, as an example, the HP OfficeJet 6000, with an SRP of £87 – in the middle of the price range of lasers reviewed here. It has a black page print cost of 2.0p, based on an ISO page yield of 1,200 pages from its £24, 920XL black cartridge.

The most cost-effective of the laser printers in this group has a cost per page of 3.0p, a full 50 percent more than the OfficeJet. While inkjet ink prices may be something to get heated about in the pub, they’re still lower than those of equivalent toner.

Here are six entry-level machines showing the best that inexpensive laser print can offer, but with sufficient design differences to make them interesting competitors.

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