By Homeschool Mom
I’m so happy with my new HP color laser printer! Like most families, we started out with an inexpensive ink jet printer, but once we tried our first laser printer we never went back. When it comes to homeschool printers, ink jets are great for printing out kids’ drawings, homemade greeting cards, and photos. However, they’re not as good for printing out ebooks, worksheets, and other text-based papers. The ink kind of bleeds around the edges, so small print isn’t as crisp and clear as it is with a laser printer. That’s why a laser printer is also recommended if you’re going to be printing out QR codes, barcodes, or mailing labels. Color lasers have come down a lot in price from what they used to be, so they’re worth considering now. They work great for printing both color pictures and plain black text.
I loved my first Brother laser printer, it worked so well for years with no issues, which made me think Brother was the best brand. But I was pretty disappointed in my last Brother printer. For one thing, it had a defective switch almost from the very beginning. I could only turn the printer on and off by flipping the switch on my Belkin power strip, which was an effective workaround but it shouldn’t have been necessary. Plus, the newer models of Brother multi-function printers have gotten so big and bulky – and boy are they heavy! I got tired of seeing that hulk of a printer sitting there, it looked so massive and overbearing, and was totally bland with no character. Brother seems to specialize in the office printer market, so maybe they care more about functionality than aesthetically pleasing design.
The printer’s outward appearance is kind of a moot point, though, when the printout quality is bad. My printouts have looked so ugly for such a long time, printing even the simplest things would be discouraging. We tried everything, to no avail – although apparently we hadn’t tried everything. Because just recently I happened to come across this article that said, “Brother printers are very good on price per page, but very few people realize that every 3 or 4 toner replacements, you also have to buy a new drum. Certain brands like HP have the drum built into the toner cartridge. So be sure to calculate the drum replacement cost into your “per page” cost when buying a Brother.”
Why couldn’t the Brother tech support guy have told us that we might need a new drum??? Oh yeah, they won’t help you unless you’re using genuine Brother toner. That’s the first thing they ask, and if you have a third party toner cartridge in there, they just blame it on that and tell you to buy only genuine Brother toner. But I knew it wasn’t the toner, because we’ve been using the same brand of toner for years and it always worked fine. I sure wasn’t going to buy an expensive Brother toner cartridge just to find out the printer is simply too old and would need a major overhaul. (A printer’s expected lifespan depends on its level of use and operating conditions, but most desktop laser printers have an expected lifetime of about five years – and ours was almost six!)
Even though I’m sure we needed new drums for better print quality, our printer had other problems, too, like the toner wasn’t fixing properly. It stayed powdery and I could brush the printed text right off the page. We tried to adjust the settings and different things, but nothing helped. So I finally decided to buy a new printer – which I hate to do since they’re pretty expensive. But I couldn’t stand my Brother printer anymore, and we were at Costco one day and I instantly took a liking to the HP printers. (Even though I once swore I’d never buy an HP computer, but that’s another story.)
Here are HP’s latest offerings in inkjet and laser printers, and if you’re not a Costco member they’re all available on Amazon (just click on an image or link below).
The HP OfficeJet All-in-One Wireless Printer is sleek and compact so it takes up less desk or counter space, it has nice curves, and it works with Alexa (but it’s an inkjet):
I love the look and color of this HP Officejet Pro 8028 All-in-One Printer (also an inkjet), it’s stylish enough to put in your living room:
This HP LaserJet Pro M283cdw Wireless Color Printer was the one for me, a multi-function all-in-one color laser printer that isn’t too big or bulky:
When buying a printer, look for one that can print, scan, copy and fax. It’s usually called an all-in-one or multi-function printer. You’d be surprised, some cheaper models will only print and that’s about it! But copiers and scanners are extremely useful features to have in homeschool printers. The fax, not so much; it used to come in handy on occasion, but if you can scan to e-mail you can get by without a separate fax function. An automatic duplex printer is a must for printing double-sided to save paper. (I can never remember which way to turn the paper around with a manual duplex.) And if you have multiple computers in your house, a wireless (wi-fi) printer is extremely convenient. You can set the printer in one central location, and print from any computer or device in any part of the house, even upstairs or downstairs. One more thing we like about the HP LaserJet Pro is that it has a separate small document feeder in front for printing on DayTimer pages or envelopes. You can even print directly from a USB drive.
The toner cost is a huge factor to consider, especially if you will be using your printer fairly regularly. (The cost of ink or toner is calculated by dividing a printer’s page yield by the cost of the ink or toner cartridge.) Inexpensive printers are often marketed as loss leaders, the goal being to recoup their profit with expensive ink cartridges. You can save a lot of money over the life of any printer by doing the following:
- Choose a printer that has reasonably priced ink cartridges or laser toner.
- Print most things in black and white or “grayscale,” saving the color ink for when you really need it.
- Set the default to “ink saver” or “eco mode,” which uses less ink if you are just printing mostly drafts or unimportant documents.
- Buy “high-yield” ink or toner cartridges which give you more ink for the money.
I did a lot of research and found out that the HP LaserJet Pro is actually the best all-in-one printer on the market, both in terms of features and overall value. It’s expensive compared to inkjets, but it’s reasonably priced for a laser printer. Most importantly, the HP LaserJet Pro has the highest ink yield of any printer (double in some cases), so even though the toner is more expensive you’ll get more bang for your buck in the long run. Plus, the fact that HP printers have the drum built into the toner cartridge adds to the price but it gives you peak printing performance every time because the drums will never wear out. And the LaserJet Pro’s size is quite compact for a laser printer (which are always bigger than ink jets), not to mention it has a nice appearance.
One final note: it can be confusing when there are so many different model numbers of what essentially looks like the same printer. Take the HP LaserJet Pro, for example; the M283fdw and M283cdw are exactly the same printer, it’s just that the model M283cdw comes with a free bonus pack of paper while the M283fdw does not. And as the model numbers go up, the higher the number means the newer and/or better the model. So the M283cdw is newer than the M281cdw, but they’re still basically the same design – until you jump to the M479fdw, which looks similar but includes Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi so it’s a lot more expensive.
Well, I’m no printer expert but I’ve learned a lot about them through my experience and research. I hope this article will help you choose the best printer for your homeschool!
Please note: The above product was NOT provided for free or at a discount in exchange for a review. This item was purchased by a homeschooling family at their own expense.