Best Small Printers of 2023

When desk space is tight in your home or office, try these compact models from Brother, Epson, and HP

By Allen St. John and Melanie Pinola

If you’re working at home or just have too much stuff and not quite enough room, a normal-size printer can take up more space than you care to spare. If you shop carefully, though, you can find a compact model that performs well without monopolizing your precious home office real estate.

But size isn’t everything. Some portable printers are small enough to stash in a drawer (they even run on battery power), but they’re also expensive to buy and operate, with per-page ink and maintenance costs sometimes running two to three times higher than those of regular-size inkjets, according to Rich Sulin, who leads CR’s printer testing program.

The cartridges tend to be smaller, too, so they hold less ink, which means more trips to the store.

“Unless someone really needs the printer to be portable or needs to stow it away in a very small space, such as a mobile home, I would consider one of the smaller conventional all-in-one models,” Sulin says.

We’ve picked out five of the best small printers in our ratings, including one portable model and two laser printers—notable because that tech tends to be more reliable but typically more bulky than inkjets.

Because our ratings don’t take size into account, a few of these models don’t achieve CR Recommended status, but they’re still capable of solid performance. Our ratings have also changed recently, placing much more emphasis on the ability to print quality text than on graphics or photos, which reflects survey data about how people actually use their printers. We also tweaked the scoring for print speed, given that today’s printers are faster than ever.

Note that the measurements listed for each printer below are taken when the model is ready for operation, with paper trays in place, so the footprint may be even smaller when the device isn’t in use. And speaking of that, remember that one way manufacturers make a printer smaller is by shrinking the capacity of those feed trays, sometimes to under 50 sheets or less.

These models, like every printer we test, have been put through the wringer in our dedicated labs, evaluated and scored by our testers on almost 250 data points. Consumer Reports is a nonprofit member organization dedicated to working for a fairer, safer marketplace. And to make sure the model you buy is no different from the one we test, we purchase every product that enters our labs from a retailer, just like you would.

Single-Function Laser Printer

Brother HL-L2350DW

Size: 7.9 inches high x 14 inches wide x 16.9 inches deep

If you mostly print black-and-white documents, from term papers to a recipe for a veggie "sausage" pizza, the Brother HL-L2350DW is a smart choice. No, it doesn’t scan or copy, and like most black-and-white laser printers, the graphics quality isn’t great, but it’s more than passable for, say, a map for driving directions. And in our lab, the model receives exemplary scores for text quality and speed. That performance, combined with a price that’s typically around $150, makes this laser printer a great value.

The Brother also has auto-duplexing capability, meaning it can print on both sides of a page to save on paper. The estimated toner cost comes to about $9 per year, which is a lot cheaper than inkjet printers that use ink cartridges, where annual ink costs can exceed $70. Laser printers also tend to rate higher than inkjets in our surveys for reliability and owner satisfaction.

All-in-One Inkjet Tank Printer

Epson EcoTank ET-3830

Size: 7.2 inches high x 14.8 inches wide x 19.5 inches deep

If you want a compact inkjet that can print in color and do so inexpensively, consider the Epson EcoTank ET-3830. It has a reservoir you can refill with low-cost bottled ink instead of expensive ink cartridges. We estimate that ink costs can be as little as $5 a year compared to $70 or more for a traditional cartridge-based inkjet. The Epson isn’t cheap at around $350, but the ink savings can more than make up for that in the long run, especially if the printer gets heavy use.

The ET-3830 doesn’t earn CR Recommended status from our testers, but it does deliver above average text quality at an acceptable speed. It also doesn’t excel at printing graphics and photos, but it does those jobs about as well as most inkjets.

This model offers auto-duplexing for printing both sides of a page, and the main paper tray has a generous 250-sheet capacity.

All-in-One Inkjet Printer

Brother MFC-J1010DW

Size: 6.7 inches high x 15.7 inches wide x 18.9 inches deep

If you’re looking for a home inkjet that’s small and cheap, the Brother MFC-J1010DW could be a good choice.

But before you buy it, you might want to do the math. The good news is that the Brother MFC-J1010DW sells for around $100. The not-so-good news? Our ink cost estimates are $68 a year. That’s pretty average by the standards of a conventional inkjet, but when you compare it with the $5-a-year ink costs of a tank printer like the Epson EcoTank ET-3830 above, you see how costly inkjet printing with cartridges can get in the long run.

This budget model from Brother still makes sense, though, if you need a printer right away and can’t afford to shell out hundreds of dollars.

The model performs fairly well in our tests, with middle-of-the-pack scores in text speed and quality as well as convenience. Our testers report that it uses very little ink for maintenance, so at least that costly ink is being used for documents rather than for keeping the print heads clean.

All-in-One Portable Inkjet Printer

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile

Size: 10.6 inches high x 15 inches wide x 15.8 inches deep

If portability is your highest priority, the HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile should be on your shopping list. The dimensions may not seem especially compact, but the model collapses into an even smaller footprint when not in use.

This printer is pricey—you can buy a larger, top-rated color laser for the same money—but it carries a variety of features, from a lithium-ion battery (sold separately for $100) to a built-in LCD screen for viewing images from a memory card. CR testers say this model is one of the easiest printers to use and give it high marks for text and graphics quality.

As you might expect, the HP does have some drawbacks. Printing and scanning are slow. The paper tray fits only 50 sheets and the model can scan only one sheet at a time. Also, it’s not especially frugal when it comes to ink, with costs of about $77 a year—and when a single color runs out, the multicolor ink cartridge needs to be replaced.

That’s why the OfficeJet 250 falls short of the CR Recommended benchmark in our ratings, though it’s likely to perform well enough for anyone who needs an itsy-bitsy printer.

All-in-One Laser Printer

HP Laserjet Pro M29W

Size: 7.5 inches high x 14.2 inches wide x 17.4 inches deep

If you want a black-and-white laser printer that also faxes, copies, and scans, and you’re willing to sacrifice some performance for size, the HP M29W is an option.

It’s small by laser printer standards. When the feed tray is stowed away, the unit is a mere 10.4 inches deep, so it’s small enough to sit on a bookshelf. And unlike many smaller printers, the M29W includes a fairly generous 150-sheet feed tray.

At $22 per year, though, the estimated toner cost is high for this type of machine. And the model accepts only HP-brand cartridges. The graphics quality is poor, too, compared with other models, so it’s best to stick to printing text, which this printer excels at.

That’s why the M29W doesn’t earn a CR Recommended designation from our testers. Its performance should be fine for most users, but if you’re willing to compromise on size, you can get a better but much larger all-in-one laser printer, like the Canon imageCLASS MF264dw, for around the same price.

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