Best budget printer 2022: Tried and tested cheap printers for under £ 150

If you want all the best and latest features, you could easily spend hundreds of pounds on your next printer. However, there are bargains to be had if you’re willing to compromise on one or two things, and know where to look.

Deciding how much you’re going to spend is one of the trickiest decisions to make. Here we’ve looked at printers that cost under £ 130, although you’ll also find a few that cost less than £ 100. This is something of a sweet-spot for budget printers, with manufacturers looking for a balance between affordability, while still providing a decent product.

We’ve put all the printers listed below through hours of testing and directly compared them to other models, so we know exactly where each one excels and falls flat. This means you can be sure there are unpleasant surprises when you find the model that best suits your needs.

Best budget printer: At a glance

How to choose the best budget printer for you

What type of printer should I buy?

Most printers in the budget category are inkjet models that work by spraying the paper with thousands of tiny dots. The ink is usually stored in cartridges, which are removed from the printer and thrown away when they’ve run out of ink. To refill with ink, new cartridges need to be purchased and clipped into place.

Laser printers are generally only monochrome models at this price so aren’t useful if you want to print photos or color handouts. The flipside is that the lasers use toner that is electronically fused to the paper instead of ink and, as a result, their cartridges last longer.

Ink tank inkjets – inkjets with refillable ink tanks instead of disposable cartridges – are the cheapest to run but they’re relatively new technology and haven’t quite made it down to this price point yet.

Can I get a budget MFP?

MFPs (multifunction printers) usually have a scanner built into the top of the device. This allows the printer to scan and copy documents and means you do not have to buy a separate scanner, which could save you money and space.

While MFPs are not common at the budget end of the price scale, there are MFP models available. These may not have the full range of tools that are available to the most expensive models, such as the ability to send and receive faxes (remember those?), But they can still perform perfectly good scans and make copies.

It’s worth noting that some basic printers now come with free smartphone apps that perform a wide range of functions, such as scanning and copying from your phone’s camera, even if they do not have the usual flatbed hardware built in.

Do I have to compromise on print quality?

There’s no particular reason why a cheaper printer needs to compromise on quality, with print resolutions of most of the models we’ve reviewed here easily rivalling that of more expensive models. What you will find, however, is that some printers are better at some jobs than others.

For example, a home office workhorse might be good at printing pages and pages of text, but not so hot when it comes to printing photos. If photos are the things you’re likely to be printing the most, look out for six-cartridge models, which have extra inks that excel at the subtlety needed to produce great-looking snaps.

READ NEXT: Best photo printer

Is a budget printer economical for ink costs?

Budget, cartridge-based inkjet printers tend to be amongst the most expensive to run. Cartridges are small, expensive and do not hold as much ink as other ink containers. This reduces the number of pages you can print before the ink runs out.

To make things worse, some of the cheapest inkjet printers only come with two cartridges, one for black and the other to hold all three colored inks. This is the least efficient way to supply color cartridges, because the cartridge becomes virtually unusable when a single color runs out of ink. Printers with colors in individual cartridges tend to be cheaper to run in the long term, although both the cartridges and the printer are typically more expensive to buy in the first place.

Depending on how much you intend to print, it may be worth considering a printer with an ink subscription. These offer free printing during the trial period, then a pay-as-you-go per-page printing service via an automated ink cartridge delivery service.

How we test

Every printer reviewed by Expert Reviews has been through a barrage of benchmark tests. We use a stopwatch to time how long it takes to print the first page and subsequent pages of a print job to assess speed. And the output from those documents and photos are used to assess print quality. The same settings are used in every review, so we can easily compare models and, if it is an MFP, we will also test the copying and scanning functions in a similar way.

READ NEXT: Best printer

The best budget printer to buy in 2022

1. Brother DCP-J1200W: The best budget MFP

Price: £ 96 | Buy now from Amazon

Physically, the Brother DCP-J1200W is a relatively simple multifunction printer (MFP). It can connect to your devices via Wi-Fi or USB, and you can use it to make copies as a standalone unit. It costs less than £ 100 and offers great value for money.

It uses a bank of buttons and lights to control its main functions, but if you download the Brother Mobile Connect app you’re presented with a full range of extra tools, such as scanning and photo printing. You can also perform scans from a computer, if you have one connected.

Traditionally, cheaper printers tend to come with very little ink and be expensive to refill but this is not the case with the DCP-J1200W. It comes supplied with enough ink to print 720 mono pages and 480 color pages, and refills work out to 3p per mono page and 6.2p for color, which is very reasonable for a budget printer.

Read our full Brother DCP-J1200W review for more details

Key specs – Technology: Inkjet; Maximum print resolution: 6,000 x 1,200dpi; Scan specifications: 1,200 x 2,400dpi; Dimensions (WDH): 435 x 359 x 161mm; Weight: 6.5kg; Maximum paper size: A4 / legal

2. Epson Expression Home XP-4100: The best budget printer for occasional printing

Price: £ 88 | Buy now from Amazon

Although it’s been around since 2019, the Epson Expression Home XP-4100 continues to provide decent service at a great price. It isn’t the fastest printer, averaging around 11 pages per minute when printing black and white pages, but it balances this out with decent quality, and is particularly good at photos.

The printer has a color screen, which is controlled using buttons to the right of the screen and there’s a single paper tray at the rear of the device that can hold 100 sheets. Automatic duplex printing (printing on both sides) seems to have dropped off the list of essential functions in many budget printers but it is still present in this model, which is a boon if you do not like to waste paper.

If there is a downside, it’s that prints can work out expensive, particularly when printing in color. After you’ve used the supplied ink cartridges, costs work out at 6.4p per mono page but color pages cost 20.5p per page. This is not such a problem, however, if your printing requirements are small.

Read our full Epson Expression Home XP-4100 review for more details

Key specs – Technology: Ink pie; Maximum print resolution: 5,760 x 1,440dpi; Scan specifications: 1,200 x 2,400dpi; Dimensions (WDH): 300 x 170 x 375mm; Weight: 4.3kg; Maximum paper size: A4 / legal

3. Epson Expression Photo XP-8600/8700: The best budget MFP for photo printing

Price: £ 119 | Buy now from Argos

Just because a printer is inexpensive, does not mean it should not produce great results. The Epson Expression Photo XP-8600 is particularly good at producing photo prints but can be used for everyday printing, too.

It’s best suited to users looking for occasional rather than volume printing, as its cartridge-based ink isn’t particularly cheap, and it uses six individual cartridges to produce its great-looking photos. Mono prints work out to around 3.6p per A4 page, but color printing is a pricey 13.6p per page.

If you can not find the Epson XP-8600 for a reasonable price, look for the XP-8700 instead. It’s virtually identical in most respects, except that it lacks wired Ethernet connectivity.

Read our full Epson Expression Photo XP-8600/8700 review for more details

Key specs – Technology: Ink pie; Maximum print resolution: 5,760 x 1,440dpi; Scan specifications: 1,200 x 4,800dpi; Dimensions (WDH): 527 x 183 x 349mm 183 x 349 x 527mm; Weight: 6.7kg; Maximum paper size: A4 / legal

Buy now from Argos

4. HP Envy Inspire 7220e: The best budget printer for office printing

Price: £ 130 | Buy now from Argos

If most of your printing is centered around home office tasks, the HP Envy Inspire 7220e is worth a look. It isn’t the best at printing photos or even color documents but it is good at churning out text documents.

The 7220e is simple to control thanks to its slick color touchscreen, a feature that other manufacturers rarely include in devices around this price. It means that making copies or scans is an easy, straightforward process.

Unfortunately, this printer uses just two cartridges, one for black ink and the other to hold all three color inks. This can be wasteful, as it will not print color properly when a single color runs out. You can mitigate the annoyance, if not the wastefulness, of this with HP’s Instant Ink subscription, which sends out new cartridges automatically when your ink is getting low. Depending on the subscription plan, this puts printing costs between 9p and 3p per page, although it comes with six months of free printing to get you started.

Read our full HP Envy Inspire 7220e review for more details

Key specs – Technology: Inkjet; Maximum print resolution: 1,200 x 4,800dpi; Scan specifications: 1,200 x 1,200dpi; Dimensions (WDH): 460 x 383 x 191mm; Weight: 6.91kg; Maximum paper size: A4 / legal

Buy now from Argos

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