Updated on March 19, 2012, with new printers and pricing information. Looking for the best deal on a printer? You should certainly consider buying a laser or LED printer. They're not quite as cheap as inkjet printers--yet--but they're getting closer. Plus, while laser toner is expensive, it lasts a long time compared to inkjet cartridges, so the total cost of ownership is lower. LED printers are essentially laser printers that use LED lights instead of a laser as their primary light source.) Here's a look at some laser and LED printer best bets.
Photo copyright Samsung
A color laser printer at a great price (not much over $200) from Samsung will fit the bill for small and home offices that need sharp and clear color prints. It's quiet but not all that fast, which isn't a major issue unless you need to print a lot. A networkable version (not tested) adds something to the price tag along with a level of convenience. All in all, a good entry-level color laser printer.
Photo courtesy HP
It doesn't come cheap--at more than $500, this is certainly at the high end of color laser printers, at least for companies that aren't multinational firms--but the HP LaserJet Pro 400 can provide some good value for busy small offices. Speed is its main qualification, shooting out 20 pages per minute; colors and text looked generally fine. Not that many bells and whistles attached, but if you need a color laser printer with a heavy monthly-duty cycle, you might check out the Pro 400 series.
Photo copyright Brother
If you need a high-quality and fast monochrome printer for a home or small office, this is a great choice. It's fast, connects easily to wired or wireless networks, and features an automatic document feeder to help you get work done quickly and efficiently. At just over $200, this is a great printer at a decent price.
Photo courtesy Brother
Brother's HL-3070CW is a very good deal--for under $200 it can compete easily with color laser printers. (An LED printer uses LEDs rather than a single laser as a light source.) I found it fast, relatively easy to set up (though wireless could've been a tad simpler), and the output (color and black) excellent. Replacement toner isn't cheap (around $70 per cartridge), but the black cartridges are estimated for 2,200 pages and the color ones for about 1,400 pages, so they should last a long time.
Photo copyright Samsung
Fast, quiet, and very cool looking, this is a reasonably priced monochrome laser printer. Why is it just as much money as the CLP-315 Samsung printer above? Well, it's mostly the futuristic styling. But it's also extremely quiet, and I appreciate that a lot, working in a small home office. Souped-up versions that can be networked cost extra; they're only worth the extra dough if you need those features.
Photo courtesy Lexmark
A very competitive laser printer in terms of cost--I've seen them well under $200, which is an amazing price for this printer. And even though it's not the fastest of the bunch, it turns out some excellent prints and offers a scanner and copier as well. Those extras alone make it a very good deal, so keep an eye on this one--particularly on its price, which seems to be on the decline.
Photo copyright HP
SMBs with a knowledgeable IT person (and a few strong backs) in search of a color laser printer that will make handouts look like they came from an expensive printer will find a match with the HP Color LaserJet CM2320nf all-in-one printer. It's huge and heavy, and it can be quite slow in printing large files; but the color output is extraordinary enough to help you overlook most of its shortcomings.
Photo courtesy Samsung
The Samsung ML-3712DW monochrome laser printer certainly earns some points. It's very fast, prints look excellent (which of course they should with any laser printer), and I noticed very little paper curl--which is fairly common to find, so kudos to Samsung for whipping pages through so fast they don't have time to curl! With built-in WiFi, an automatic duplexer, and a configurable Eco mode, you'll find this a very competitive monochrome laser printer.