Printers are so commonplace in homes and offices around the world that we often take them for granted. But there are so many different types of printers now available that it's important to make the right choice and buy one that suits your personal needs.
In this article we round up the best printers currently available for Mac owners, as well as for those who want to print from an iPhone or iPad. For further advice, read our roundup of the best printer deals.
Laser printers are still relatively expensive, primarily aimed at business users who need a high-performance device that can cope with the workload in a busy office. For home users, and people who work from home or in a small office, we'd still recommend inkjet printers instead.
Inkjet technology hasn't changed much in recent years, and most inkjet printers still stick to the traditional method of using cartridges that contain four different coloured inks - cyan, magenta, yellow and black, also known as 'CMYK' - for printing everything from simple text documents to glossy photographs. There are a few variations, though, starting with basic mono (black and white) printers that just use black ink on its own for printing letters and other text documents. At the other end of the spectrum there are specialised photo printers that may use five or six different coloured inks in order to produce really colourful, high-quality photo prints.
In the case of Epson's Eco-Tank printers, we're seeing a completely new type of printer that doesn't actually use traditional ink cartridges at all. We know that rivals such as Canon and Brother are exploring similar 'tank' designs, so this is clearly going to be an important trend in printing technology in the future.
Choosing the right printer is particularly important for Mac users, and owners of an iPhone or iPad. Most printers these days are Mac-compatible, but we have seen quite a few printers that work better with Windows PCs.
The problem here lies in the 'driver' software that controls the printer, which may be different on Macs and PCs. One common weakness is printer software that provides 'duplex' printing - two-sided printing, on both sides of the page - for Windows, but not on the Mac. So it's always worth checking the technical info on the manufacturer's web site to make sure that the Mac software provided with the printer includes all the same features as the Windows equivalent.
Of course, Macs have always been used for creative tasks such as graphic design and photo editing, so many Mac users may prefer to opt for a more specialised printer that is designed for graphics and photographic work.
You don't need to be a professional photographer, either, as many people now use their iPhone or iPad to shoot selfies, portraits and landscape photos when they're out and about. This has given rise to a new generation of printers that are more focused on mobile devices, so Apple users should check that the printer supports Apple's AirPrint software - which allows you to quickly print from an iPhone or iPad without having to install any other software or apps first.
Above all else, you need to keep a close eye on the day-to-day running costs of your printer. Many manufacturers sell their printers as cheaply as possible, but you may then find that you get stung in the pocket with the cost of replacement ink cartridges.
With all this in mind, here's our guide to the best inkjet printers currently available for your Mac and mobile devices.
Best Mac printer 2019
1. Canon Pixma TS8250
Canon's Pixma TS8250 uses no less than six different coloured inks, with photo blue and pigment black added to the usual quartet. As you'd expect, this translates into excellent print quality: photos were bright and bold with smoothly graduated skin tones, while text quality was crisp and sharp.
More surprisingly, having to deal with two extra cartridges doesn't appear to slow the Canon down, and it's an impressively quick performer. Running costs, meanwhile, are extremely reasonable for the print quality you're getting, provided you're canny about shopping round for high-yield multi-packs.
If you're just looking for a low-cost printer for letters and other routine documents then the TS8250 isn't the best choice. But if you're a keen photographer, artist, or designer who wants to print high-quality photos and other colour graphics then the TS8250 will be just what you're looking for.
Read our full Canon Pixma TS8250 review
2. Epson Expression Premium XP-6100
At just 349 x 340 x 142mm, Epson's Expression Premium XP-6100 is a good option where space is tight, yet it still squeezes in an impressive range of features: you get printer, scanner and copier, duplex, AirPrint and the option to print on DVDs, among other things.
This is a top-of-the-range printer with an emphasis on high-quality photos. Its fifth, 'photo black' ink adds definition, producing very bright, sharp images, and simple text looks good.
It's a quick machine, too. We recorded 13ppm for mono and 9ppm for colour, easily fast enough for most home users or small offices, and a less dazzling but still respectable 35 seconds for postcard prints.
The XP-6100 is a good choice if you want to print high-quality photos, or maybe some eye-catching graphics for a school report. However, its running costs are a little high, which means it's best suited to occasional use.
Read our full Epson Expression Premium XP-6100 review
3. HP OfficeJet Pro 6970
It's a little on the bulky side, but HP's OfficeJet Pro 6970 provides an impressive range of features and high-speed printing.
It's a 4-in-1 multifunction device that combines a printer, scanner, copier and fax, along with an automatic document feeder that helps to speed up scanning, copying and fax chores. Our tests produced a very respectable 17ppm for text, with colour coming in at a more modest 8ppm, but that should still be fast enough for most home users and smaller offices.
Quality is impressive too: smooth, detailed text that could give a more expensive laser printer a run for its money, and bright, bold colours with glossy photo paper.
If you're going to be using the printer at work every day, HP tempts you with a free, three-month trial for its 'Instant Ink' subscription scheme. It's still possible to buy ordinary replacement cartridges, though, so you should think carefully about your printing needs in order to choose the most cost-effective way of buying ink.
Read our full HP OfficeJet Pro 6970 review
4. HP Tango
You can download drivers for Mac or PC if you need it, but the design of the Tango and the way HP promotes its 'Instant Ink' subscription scheme make it clear this really is all about selfies and smartphones.
For this concept to work, the Tango needs to produce good-quality photo prints, and we weren't disappointed. Our test photos displayed crisp, bright colours, and good contrast and detail. It produces smooth, sharp text too, even though that's clearly not part of its job description.
It's not the quickest, mind you. We recorded speeds of 7ppm for text and a modest 5ppm for combined text/graphics, while postcard prints took a full 70 seconds.
If you're looking for a general-purpose printer you can use with a computer for letters and school reports, the Tango isn't a good choice at all. But for keen photographers who like to print out selfies the free photo-printing option could be a real bargain.
Read our full HP Tango review
5. Epson EcoTank ET-M1120
As the saying goes: "You only had one job." In the case of the M1120, that job is simply to churn out page after page as quickly and efficiently as possible, and the Epson snappily feeds out documents with smooth, finely detailed text. (Graphics print quality, on the other hand, was merely adequate.)
It also does its one job cost-effectively. Because, while the initial purchase price seems outrageous for a single-function mono printer, the running costs are exceptionally low, thanks to the use of high-yield bottles instead of expensive cartridges. You'll save money in the long term if you print text regularly - and this approach is better for the environment, too.
Read our full Epson EcoTank ET-M1120 review
6. Brother MFC-J895DW
In tests the MFC-J895DW managed print speeds of around 10ppm for text alone and 8.5ppm for text/colour graphics, which is perfectly adequate for light use at home or in a small office. It produced a 4x6in glossy photo in just 25 seconds, which is actually faster than some specialised photo printers.
Print quality is good too: text was crisp and smooth, and photo prints were very attractive with good contrast and strong, bright colours.
Brother really needs to do something about the cost of its ink cartridges, but as long as you stick to the reasonably priced XL multipack, it's a versatile workhorse with good connectivity options - including iOS devices.
Read our full Brother MFC-J895DW review