Ask LH: What’s A Good Cheap Laser Printer For A Student?

Ask LH: What’s A Good Cheap Laser Printer For A Student?

Dear Lifehacker, Dear Lifehacker, I am a first year university student in need of a new printer that better suits my needs as a student. Ideally the printer would be around the $100 budget, have a high page per minute output and relatively cheap toner. Any suggestions would be appreciated! Thanks, Printing Profusely

Dear PP,

You know that old axiom about having things good, fast or cheap, but you’ve got to pick only two? It totally applies here, and arguably within this category you can’t really have fast anyway. Even within the laser world (although some of them are more accurately LED printers now), cheap printers are built on the razor blades model; the replacement inks/toners are more expensive than the comparatively more costly ones, if only because it’s expected at the cheap end of town that you’ll be using them for lower-impact printing that a small to medium sized office might.

But if budget is your primary consideration, Brother’s standalone monochromes are a good bet in this regard; for whatever it’s worth I’ve got a cheap Brother HL-2150N in my office right now, and while it’s been complaining for a while that the toner is low, it continues to chug along. That’s an obsolete model right now, but the slightly more current HL-2130 can be had for around sixty bucks. You won’t find too many really budget-priced single function mono lasers with really cheap toner, but careful use of draft mode (which shouldn’t be a concern for most University students unless you’re producing a lot of very fine drawings or such) should also keep your toner costs low.

As always, I’d be interested to hear what other Lifehacker readers think. Are cheap laser printers a good buy, or do you prefer a more expensive model with better toner performance?

Cheers Lifehacker

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    • I was going to suggest the uni printing options (20c/page or so, plus some ‘free’ departmental ones) until I realised: It’s well over half way through the year. If he’s just buying it now, he must have realised that his volume of printing would be cheaper if he did it himself.

      Owning a printer eventually leads to heartache, despair, and tears. They will betray you at the worst possible moment, however reliable they seem. but if you’re printing 20+ pages a day they’re still the best option.

  • It sounds stupid but changing the printer each time you run out of toner keeps the costs low as well. Some times you do get the brother ones for under $50 bucks. If you have a networking gear with spare USB slot for printer you save an extra $20 for wireless functionality

    • Going to have to say this but that’s a bit of bull, manufactures caught onto this some years ago so now they provide “Starter/ Introductory” cartridges.

      Those $50 brother printers are crap as well since the cartridges are locked at around 1,000pg @ 5% so with an introductory cartridge in hand your better off buying an ink printer.

  • I have a HP laserjet 1010 , must also be an obsolete model by now, but chuggs along and toner is cheap, even fixed the fuser cover for $7 and watched a youtube video on how to do it, would have cost me a lot more for a new fuser !!

  • I have an old HP LJ4000 sitting under my desk at home. It was on a chuck out pile at work a few years ago…. In 4 years, I’ve bought one toner. If it ever stops working, I’ll chuck it out and find another oldie somewhere.

  • I can vouch for the Brother HL-2050N (2150N now). It cost me $98 from Office works 5 years ago, still using the original toner (that came with it). Has gone through 2 people doing Uni courses (bachelor and masters). I checked how much printing I have done and I have printed out almost 9000 pages…. I have applied the tape trick to ensure my toner cartridge gets used fully before having to replace it (2 bits of dark electrical tape on the light sensors on either side of the toner cart – clear windows).

    Never missed a beat, toner is pretty cheap under $60 for a new toner cartridge, and they last and last!

  • Brother HL-2132. I’ve purchased, deployed and currently using arounf the place +10 of these and they have proven to be rock-solid, cost effective, run on the smell of an oily toner cartridge, simple no-fuss work-a-day printers.

  • Surely we’ve reached a point in technology where the only reason to use a printer at all is to supply information to someone who is unable or unwilling to accept an electronic copy. If we stuck to that criterion, even a crappy cheap inkjet would suffice for most people.

    • As a former student and now professional writer of research-based material, I would disagree. At some point any substantial essay or paper will need to be printed out so that you can set out the pages and assess things such as structure and flow of argument, and mark up your work. Proofreading, too, should *always* be done from a printed copy: there will be errors or problems that you won’t spot on screen but which will leap to the eye the minute you print it out. Then there are articles and documents as well as personal notes, all of which you may want to print out in order to be able to easily refer to various sources side-by-side while writing. The paperless world is a lovely idea, but in many academic disciplines – especially any requiring long-form writing – students will still need to use a printer on a pretty regular basis.

      By the way, I own an older-model Brother laser printer which has yet to fail me. My inkjet nowadays only gets switched on for scanning and “photocopying” or printing the occasional photo.

  • If you can afford to spend AUD$50 more, I would also look at the Brother HL-2240D as a possible direct-connect duplex-printing option. I have reviewed this one on ( although it costs up to approximately AUD$150 the standard toner cartridge which is reckoned to run for 1200 pages costs up to AUD$70. It prints on both sides of the page and is a reliable midrange machine.

  • Your seriously asking life hacker a question that can easily be answered by a OfficeWorks Catalog, or by looking at office works online webstore?

    You can pick up a laser printer, brother $37. Which I have bought one of. They are not the fastest printers around but, i mean come on its $37!!!!!

  • We got 2800 pages out of a singe cartridge in a Brother 2040 (now obsolete, but superseded by the model in the article above). Cartridge replacement after years of reaching 2800 pages was about $70. Cheaper on eBay, etc.

    Seriously, if you want an absolute rock-solid beast, which just prints then go for it. Office works are about the cheapest and tend to have palettes of them on display in the entrance to some stores. Just don’t get burnt by their ‘oh you’ll need a $25 USB cable to go with it’ line…

  • Honestly, find yourself a cheap used workgroup printer (ie HP 4000 or similar) off eBay, they go all day, have good options, and the toners last forever compared to some of the sub-$100 printers. Had a quick look around and found a few for $10 or less with duplex, networking, etc.

  • The wirecutter did a good review and came up with the Brother 2270DW.
    $108 at umart – price match at Officeworks for 5% discount and you’re just over the $100 budget.
    I bought one of these for my partner, who prints from her laptop wherever she is in the house, and loves it.

  • I know that it’s really important to leave Laser Printers On AT ALL TIMES.
    So many of my uni friends have turned theirs off for a time, (a few weeks or months while not in use,) and because of being off, the printer has not been able to keep itself in function and they have had so many unnecessary preventable problems.

    I don’t know about the person who is buying this, or if this is even helpful anymore, but the electricity costs might be taken into consideration.

    I stumbled across this page while looking for information about BROTHER vs FUJI. I have come to the conclusion that BROTHER is the brand I will be investing in.

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