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When it comes to technology, more functionality doesn’t always translate into a better experience for the end-user. While color printers may seem inherently superior due to their ability to print in full color, black and white printers are the superior choice for many home office workers. Black and white printers are far less expensive to operate, and they often offer faster print and scan speeds than their color counterparts.
According to market research consulting firm IndustryARC manager Akshay Reddy, “The high cost of ink for color printers (two to three times as much as monochrome printers) has been a major proponent of this niche market for black and white printers [...] The low-end home printer market will have a major demand for monochrome printers due to the lower ink cost per page. This cost difference is also prevalent in commercial printing applications where the price is a significant factor of consideration.”
Just because you opt for a monochrome printer doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality, either. Here are the best black and white printers for creating high-quality monochrome prints.
Best Overall: Brother MFC-L2750DW
The Brother MFC-L2750DWXL is a multifunctional printer that’s robust enough to serve several office workers. With two years of toner included in the box, assuming a print rate of about 3,700 prints per year, this printer delivers a lot of functionality for a reasonable price.
Brother claims this black and white printer offers 36 pages per minute (ppm) for both printing and copying. Despite being a monochrome printer, it is fully capable of scanning in color—up to 1,200 x 1,200 dots per inch (dpi) using the flatbed, and up to 600 x 600 dpi using the automatic document feeder (ADF). The wireless printer’s 2.7-inch color screen also lets users print from (or scan to) such major cloud services as Google Drive, OneNote, Dropbox, Evernote, SharePoint, and Microsoft Office, meaning nearly any device will be compatible.
Additionally, the high-yield toner for this printer produces about 4,500 prints for around 2 cents a print, according to Brother. The printer also comes with a two-year limited warranty.
Best All-in-One: Brother HL-L2395DW
The Brother HL-L2395DW is a true all-in-one machine with fast printing, faxing, scanning, and copying capabilities. Perfect for use with multiple people, the printer has excellent claimed print speeds (36 ppm) and a 250-page tray capacity with automatic duplex printing. The touchscreen lets users access Brother Cloud Apps or print and scan directly from (or to) the Microsoft Office suite, and wireless printing makes it easy to use with a variety of devices.
Inexpensive printers are often more expensive to run than their pricier counterparts; companies purposefully manufacture and sell cheap printers, which require inefficient and expensive (per-print) cartridges. This Brother printer, however, is not only reasonably-priced but its high-yield toner cartridge replacement produces around 3,000 prints, for a rate of about 2 cents a print. The only potential downside is the printer’s size (16.1 x 15.7 x 10.7 inches), which might be too bulky for small offices.
Best Basic: Brother HL-L2370DW
If you don’t need scanning, copying, or faxing capabilities with your printer, opt for the Brother HL-L2370DW, which still offers excellent monochrome printing. Its print speed (36 ppm) is comparable with other highly-rated all-in-ones on the market. It features automatic duplex printing, a 250-page tray capacity, excellent print resolution (2400 x 600 dpi), and a manual slot for feeding through envelopes and other irregularly sized items. This printer is Wi-Fi-enabled so you can print remotely from your connected devices or connect directly with a USB or ethernet cord. It is compatible with Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux devices.
Though there are cheaper options out there, this Brother printer balances low costs with efficiency. Its super high-yield toner replacement produces around 4,500 prints for just 2 cents a page, so long-term operating costs are affordable.
Best All-in-One Tank: Epson EcoTank ET-M3170
If you want to save money on operating costs without sacrificing efficiency and quality, look no further than the Epson EcoTank ET-M3170. Its tank design means there aren’t any replacement cartridges, just bottles of ink, which are far less expensive and produces about 6,000 prints for a quarter of a cent per print. The tank design is environmentally friendly, too, because the refill process doesn’t include the disposal and re-purchase of a large plastic cartridge.
As an all-in-one for everyday use, this Epson printer comes with a two-year warranty, 250-sheet paper tray, separate 35-page ADF tray, automatic duplex printing, high-quality scanning, and wireless and wired connectivity options. The claimed 20 ppm speed for single-side prints and 9 ppm speed for duplex prints are decent, though there are faster inkjet printers out there.
Best Basic Tank: HP Neverstop 1001nw
The HP Neverstop 1001nw is a great entry-level tank printer thanks to HP’s reloadable mess-free toner system, which allows users to inject new toner directly into the printer’s tank. It offers excellent value compared to similar-sized and priced cartridge printers, as it comes with about 5,000 pages worth of toner in the box.
You can print to this HP printer from all of your wireless devices or connect directly using a USB cord. Its print quality is adequate (600 x 600 dpi) for producing simple black and white word documents or spreadsheets, but if you regularly print extremely detailed images, like architectural schematics or technical drawings, you’ll need to spend more on a higher resolution printer.
This printer doesn’t scan, fax, or copy, but according to industry experts, sometimes a simple printer is the best option. Jack Daly, an industry research analyst at IBISWorld said, “If an individual is looking for a printer that purely serves the purpose of printing documents, I would suggest a single function printer as they are typically cheaper and easy to use.”
Best Budget: HP LaserJet Pro M15w
For those on a tight budget, take a look at the HP LaserJet Pro M15w. Though incapable of serving a busy office, this printer is perfect for modest use (HP recommends a workload of between 100 and 1,000 pages per month).
This HP printer comes with a USB cord so you can print wirelessly or directly out of the box, which isn’t typically found on inexpensive wireless printers. The 150-page tray capacity and respectable, claimed print speed of 19 ppm are nice bonuses too. The compact size (13.6 x 13.7 x 11 inches) makes this printer ideal for small spaces.
Keep in mind that ongoing operating costs are twice as high as many other printers on the market (if you can spend more up front, you’ll save on additional costs in the long run). Replacement toner for this printer only delivers about 1,000 prints for nearly 5 cents a page.
Best Label Printer: MUNBYN ITPP941
The MUNBYN ITPP941 is a handy label printer that checks every box for frequent shippers. Since it’s a thermal printer, there is no toner or ink required (only thermal label paper). Individual paper refills typically translate to just under 4 cents a label—though if you buy from a bulk retailer, you should be able to lower that cost.
Compatible with Mac and PC, this workhorse of a printer can produce warehouse labels, shipping labels, food nutrition labels, FedEx labels, UPS labels, Amazon FBA Labels, and more. This printer also works well with all major sales platforms like Etsy, Poshmark, and eBay. To top it all off, the MUNBYN printer can batch print up to 700 labels in one run before taking a 5-minute pause and continuing the job.
If you want an all-in-one printer that can serve multiple users, we recommend the Brother MFC-L2750DWXL (view on Amazon). It’s functional, reliable, and affordable to run. If you’re looking for a bare-bones printer that just prints, we recommend the HP Neverstop 1001nw (view on Amazon) because it’s quick, compact, and extremely affordable to operate.
Should I buy a black and white printer or a color printer?
Black and white printers are less expensive to own and operate because they only require one type of toner or ink to produce prints. If you mostly print word documents and spreadsheets, it’s worth considering a monochrome printer for home use.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: if your standard weekly business doesn’t require making full-color prints, you will probably be better off buying a black and white printer and utilizing third-party printing services for the odd color print. Third-party printers have access to commercial printers, which are much higher quality than home printers anyway, and the cost-per-print is not exorbitant if your color printing needs are modest.
What is a thermal printer?
Instead of ink or toner, thermal printers use heat to print on thermal paper to produce an image. Because these printers don’t have any ink tanks or cartridges, they can be extremely compact and have low, long-term operating costs. On the flip side, you must use thermal paper with a thermal printer or it won’t work, and thermal printers can be slower than inkjet or laser printers.
What is a tank printer?
Most inkjet and laser printers have cartridge systems where the ink or toner is inside a plastic cartridge. A tank printer uses internal tanks to hold ink or toner instead, which means the refill process is different. With a tank printer you typically buy a bottle of ink or toner and fill the empty tank. Bottles of ink and toner are far cheaper than cartridges, so the cost-per-print for a tank printer is usually drastically lower than even the most efficient cartridge printer.
There are also hybrid tank printers, which utilize both internal tanks for overflow ink storage and plastic cartridges. Hybrid tank printers save costs but aren’t as environmentally friendly as their cartridge counterparts, since they still require disposable plastic inserts.
Why Trust Investopedia?
Mona Bushnell is a former IT professional who spent several years servicing printers and scanners for an arts college in Boston. Following that job, she worked as a software admin for a large college in New York City. She’s been a writer for the past seven years, often testing and reviewing hardware and software, then making recommendations based on her experience.
Selecting black and white printers for consideration began with a quick review of the top manufacturer’s best-selling monochrome printers. Next, a detailed comparison of printer specifications was done, followed by a price comparison based on not only the sale price of the printer but also the ongoing operating costs. Several use cases were identified based on consumer printing needs and the winning printers were selected based on a combination of research gathered, industry opinion, and the author’s own domain knowledge.