Inkjet and laser printers are both very mature technologies, so you wouldn’t expect to be surprised by any major innovations in this field. However, the end of 2011 did see the arrival of a few more printers that take advantage of  Apple’s new AirPrint technology (launched in 2010), which provides wireless printing from iOS devices to any AirPrint-compatible printer.

Like all the best Apple technologies, AirPrint just works. The feature is built into the iOS operating system and automatically detects compatible printers on your home or office network. The printer then shows up within apps such as Pages or Photos, allowing you to print photos and documents with a tap of your finger. There are no drivers or software to install, so printing from an iPhone or iPad is even simpler than on a Mac or PC. The only downside is that only a few printers currently support AirPrint. The first manufacturer to support AirPrint was HP. Only very recently have Epson and Canon brought out printers that can print from iOS devices. A number of printer manufacturers have released apps that also provide wireless printing options.

It was a good year for HP with its Envy 100 model bringing an unexpected dash of style to the normally staid world of office printers. The Envy 100 is one of the most compact and streamlined printers we’ve ever seen, thanks to an ingenious paper-handling system – a robotic arm pops up from behind its touch-sensitive LCD screen and grabs your pages as they feed out of the printer. It gets top marks for ingenuity and style, but the Envy’s print quality and speed are average, so it didn’t make the cut as one of our printers of the year.

Elsewhere, the trend towards multifunction devices continues, with few manufacturers still producing conventional printers that don’t also include scanning and copying features. There’s a continued emphasis on reducing printing costs too – Kodak’s Office 2170 printer offers really competitive pricing on replacement ink cartridges. However, if you need top-quality photo output, then Epson’s range of six-colour Stylus printers again sets the standard.

It was quiet in the world of laser printing, apart from the ES9410 from OKI – not just because of its A3-format printing – but thanks to its 10,000 pages per month output that turns it into a personal printing press. Still, a £5,999 price tag makes it a niche product. HP’s LaserJet Pro 100/M175nw was one of the cheapest colour laser printers we’ve ever seen. However, it was slow and expensive to run, so in the end we opted for the faster and more affordable Kyocera FS-C5150DN as the best general-purpose office laser printer of the year.

Laser printer

Product name: Kyocera FS-C5150DN
Company: Kyocera
Price: £347

There’s nothing fancy about the FS-C5150DN, but it’s a fast and reliable workhorse laser printer that’s cheap enough for small businesses and also offers exceptionally low running costs. Plus it’s versatile, offering additional upgrade options such as a maximum 1,300-sheet paper capacity to
meet the needs of larger workgroups.

Inket printer

Product name: Kodak ESP Office 2170
Company: Kodak
Price: £119.99

If you’re after an affordable office printer then Kodak’s aptly named Office 2170 is an excellent choice. It’s a 4-in-1 device that can print, copy, scan and fax, so it’s ideal for small businesses or home workers that need a good all-round printer. Text and graphics output is very good, and Kodak’s affordable inks keep running costs really, really low.

Photo printer

Product name: Epson Stylus Photo PX720WD
Company: Epson
Price: £99.99

Most inkjet printers use four coloured inks – cyan, magenta, yellow and black – but Epson’s Stylus Photo range use six colours to produce amazing colour photos. The extra inks push up the running costs, but the quality is worth it if you need top-notch photo prints. A recent price cut to £99.99 makes the PX720WD an even more attractive choice.