How to pick the best printer for your new Mac mini

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in General Discussion
You've added a keyboard, mouse and display to the machine, now it's time for a printer too. AppleInsider explains what you need to know and what you need to decide before you spend your money.

Mac mini 2018
Mac mini 2018


If Johannes Gutenberg were alive today, he'd be amazed -- partly at how printer technology has progressed but chiefly at how fiddly ink cartridges are. He'd also be a bit puzzled how the printer is so cheap as to be practically disposable but the ink costs about $2200 a gallon.

It is a funny world, but it's now also one where the primary question about buying a printer is whether you need one at all.

If you only ever print out the odd page then you certainly don't need a high-performance color laser printer and maybe you can just skip it completely. Get your client to print the sheet for you. Use a local library or Internet cafe.

Printing text pages on a Brother printer
Printing text pages on a Brother printer


We're saying that we all do so much online now than on paper that you can do without a printer more easily than ever. We are definitely not saying that you can print out your novel at work.

You do most certainly need a keyboard for your Mac mini and undoubtedly you must get a display at least for setting up the machine. A mouse or trackpad are pretty essential too.

Yet a printer isn't. Nonetheless, if you do need a printer to use with your new Mac mini then in theory the decisions and the choices you have to make are the same as if you had any computer at all. In practice, just to narrow down some options and get you to the answer quicker, we're going to make some assumptions.

People who buy the Mac mini may do so for myriad reasons but those are unlikely to include that they're doing high volumes of intensive Photoshop work as they print roadside billboards.

The Mac mini is a powerful machine but it is small and, at least comparatively, inexpensive. So we're not looking for a printer that costs more than it, we're looking for an economical one that is quick enough when you're doing short jobs.

What you really need

Just by making a thoroughly sweeping generalization there, we've cut out untold hundreds of printers. Go one step further in thinking about how you'll use one and you'll narrow the options down even more dramatically.

Think about how much and how often you expect to be printing anything out. Then triple that because once you have the printer, you will use it more than you expect.

Next, think about who you're actually printing it out for. If it's that you like sitting at a couch with a pencil in your hand as you physically mark up pages, that's one thing. If it's work that you will be handing to a client in order to get paid, that's another.

There is also the question of how long you're prepared to wait for your pages and the answer to that is not entirely down to your patience. If you found a model that printed one page per minute but you have a thousand-page funding application to get to your client, nobody is that patient and nobody could afford to be either.

Stop right there

We can see you thinking about printers with scanners and faxes in. Please don't. Multifunction printers were briefly the rage and occasionally come back into fashion but they have never even tried to address our central problem with them -- if the scanner breaks and you have to send it off for repair, you've just lost your printer too, and whatever else was in this Inspector Gadget-like device. Plus, none of them seem very good at the things that they say that they can do on the box.

We're going to recommend some printers that do have scanners in but we're not going to lift the lid and scan anything. All we want is the printer.

The quick answer

If you're in a hurry, let us direct you to the Brother HL-L2350DW. It's a black and white laser printer which is typically available on Amazon and other stores for around $85. It does come with a scanner but we won't hold that against it.

Brother HL-L2350DW
Brother HL-L2350DW


There are many reasons we pick this and most of them apply to all laser printers in this class. Laser printers produce crisp, clear text that looks excellent, for one thing, and this model is rated as printing at 32 pages per minute.

There is the issue that they look so good because laser printers use toner cartridges and those are expensive. One for this printer rated for about 3000 pages typically costs around $40 so nearly half the price of the Brother HL-L5200DW itself.

However, laser printer toner cartridges are better value if you only print out rarely. If, say, you don't print out anything at all for a year, a laser printer will still produce fine pages when you do.

And an inkjet printer may not. That's because they rely on ink cartridges and over time, these can clog.

Inkjet

For this reason, inkjet cartridges come with an expiry date. Even if you don't take them out of their ridiculously convoluted packaging, you can expect a cartridge to last no more than 18 months.

That said, those 18 months can be filled with color. To our eyes, text from inkjet printers never look as good as monochrome laser ones do but it is subjective and we've yet to turn our noses up at any pages from one.

Epson Expression Premium XP 6000
Epson Expression Premium XP 6000


Then models such as the Epson Expression Premium XP-6000 can produce full-color photographs and you're not going to get one of those out of a mono laser.

You can print black and white text pages on inkjet printers so they are more versatile and they are also cheaper: that Epson model may retail for $150 but it's typically on Amazon for $60.

Then a black ink cartridge for it costs around $12.99. It's oddly difficult to find the right cartridge for your printer just because there are so many different ones. However, printers like this one now include Amazon Dash Replacement: they're capable of ordering replacements for themselves when they're running out.

This can be good or bad, depending on how you want to look at it.

Canon PIXMA Pro 100
Canon PIXMA Pro 100


If it's photos that you're going to be printing out the most and you're less concerned about cost, there is the Canon PIXMA Pro-100 which typically costs around $312. Ink cartridges for it usually cost around $17.

Best of Both Worlds

We pretty clear on how you get a monochrome laser printer when you want just text or an inkjet when you want color photos but there is another way.

You can get a color laser printer such as the HP Color LaserJet Pro M254dw. It's hard to pin down a price for this: depending on when we look we've seen it sold anywhere from $150 to $300.

HP Color LaserJet Pro M254dw
HP Color LaserJet Pro M254dw


However, on the good side, this has the feature of laser printers that it won't clog up and it has the precision color. On the bad side, it's a big machine, when you need to replace the toner that comes with it, you're looking at $400, and you're still probably going to want to send your snapshots out for printing.

You only have to do that twice to have paid more for the cartridges than for your Mac mini.

Worst of Both Worlds

If our wireless printers go wrong one more time, we're just going to phone our clients and describe the pages to them.

To be fair, it's usually when you first setup a new printer or if you haven't used it in a long time that you tend to hit complexities. A typical HP printer, for instance, is now reasonably straightforward in what you have to do to get it working with your Mac but you won't believe that as you schlep through the instructions.

Printers are curiously delicate machines so watch where you place them. So many printers have their paper tray in the bottom and if you've placed them on an uneven or an interrupted surface, you'll have problems printing.

Equally, though, when you've a good printer and it's working well, nothing beats the convenience of being to print off anything you need, any time you want.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 29
    cashxxcashxx Posts: 102member
    I would stay away from all inkjet if you don't print often. They dry up and eventually ruin the printer and just a pain in the end.  Get a cheaper brother laser printer.  I wouldn't recommend anything HP either as they can't keep up with driver updates for the Mac.   Brother, Canon, Xerox seem to be ok at keeping drivers up-to-date for the Mac in my experience.
    gutengeltycho_macuserGG1macxpress
  • Reply 2 of 29
    Funny like article says what I need. I spent months oNn research while I know what I need exactly after running small business office. And yes Brother is always preference as nobody (that includes HP and Canon) is close to their SOHO solutions for heavy duty printing. Unfortunatelly some of these mentioned here are not quality, lack of HD support or shove at every user some funky re-supply reminding software that cannot be turned off for productive work (only admin is interested in re-supplying... not a daughter or son doing some casual printing or small office worker). Trust me I researched all these printeres mentioned in the article and none of them had real good reviews (check Amazon and read negative reviews instead of those prising that printer is doing what it is supposed to do). Hence, the only choice was a bit older model that behaved with proper software driver. These days printer manufacturers try to make money off supplies rather than good solid printer and they will be happy if you had to replace printer more frequently as well.

    For the record toner is still way to go for volume printing. Ink prointers are only good for photos, but then only those printers that support individual color ink tanks are worth to consider... except that Canon lowered their quality so badly over last 15 years that printers clog easily (with their genuine ink as well), there is no support and once you get error code your printer is dead and junk (and that can happen quirte frequently so even if it is cheap many do not have time to keep replacing them or testing - besides it is not enviroment friendly to produce junk).
    edited December 3
  • Reply 3 of 29
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,456member

    For the record toner is still way to go for volume printing. Ink prointers are only good for photos, but then only those printers that support individual color ink tanks are worth to consider... except that Canon lowered their quality so badly over last 15 years that printers clog easily (with their genuine ink as well), there is no support and once you get error code your printer is dead and junk (and that can happen quirte frequently so even if it is cheap many do not have time to keep replacing them or testing - besides it is not enviroment friendly to produce junk).
    I had a Canon before I bought the Brother Inkjet. 

    The printer head clogged and I was told by Canon support that once I got the error code, the printer is finished. This particular model was about two years old.
    "But I can put you through to sales and you can order another printer if you like."
    "What makes you think I'm going to buy another piece of shite from you people, if the last piece of shite you sold me only lasted two years?"
    "Fair point."

    As it happens, I found you can get replacement print heads, but they cost more than the value of the printer.
    chia
  • Reply 4 of 29
    I remember, way back when, b/c of the price of ink, we'd not only choose BW but a setting that was a 'faded gray' print quality. (I can't remember the exact term.)

    I've used Brother printers for over 10 years now. Mainly b/c they seemed to work really well with Macs. Also, I'm printing about 1 or 2 pieces of paper a month now! :)

    Best.
  • Reply 5 of 29
    There are no good printers, just less bad ones.  I’d avoid HP.

    If you don’t need a scanner don’t buy one with a scanner.  

    If you don’t need color, don’t buy an inkjet.  

    My biggest beef with printers is the crapware that’s included.  If the drivers are included with the OS don’t load their crapware.  If the printer isn’t natively supported see if you can download just the drivers.  HP is loaded with crapware, but they aren’t the only ones.

    It’s just like buying Windows PC...  
    Step1: download the latest Windows ISO (installation file)
    Step2: use the ISO to wipe that crapware the OEMs installed

    After all that work, don’t let printer manufacturers undo the hard work loading their crapware.  Windows is self corrupting (windows updates) no need to make it worse.



  • Reply 6 of 29
    TomETomE Posts: 129member
    Maybe even use a Good Smart phone App to "Photo Scan" a document(s) and you will not have to have a physical printer.  I have an HP & and an Epson Printer.  They take up too much space.  
  • Reply 7 of 29
    I'd stay away from Brother printers. After thorough research, I bought an Brother HL 3140CW - basic color laser printer. All I needed was reliable AirPrint and compatibility with no-name toner cartridges. However, it's completely useless piece of scrap. After two warranty repairs, it still does not print over AirPrint at all. And only sometimes is it able to print via cable. It even has a new logic board. The Brother repairman told me, there's nothing else he can do - and if I want him to try, I shall pay hour rate. No, thanks, I'm going to get rid of it. I also have a cheap inkjet Canon MG series inkjet. It sometimes requires restart, but otherwise works fine.
  • Reply 8 of 29
    maltzmaltz Posts: 106member
    I don't care what brand you get (my personal favorite is Brother) but... Whether you choose color or B&W, get a LASER printer!

    I print very little, so for a long time, the up-front cost of a laser didn't seem to make sense.  So I got an inkjet, and was continuously battling $30+ cartridges, plugged jets, fuzzy text, etc.  I even replaced whole printers a couple of times when the mess got too unruly.  But in the last 10 years, laser printers, even color laser printers, have become affordable enough that they're by far the cheaper option whether you print a little or a lot or almost never.  If you print a lot, laser has always been a no-brainer because toner is WAY cheaper than ink cartridges per page.  If you print very little, you're still better off because toner doesn't expire, so you're not throwing away ink (or entire printers) over plugged up jets.

    My anecdotal experience:  I bought a Brother color laser MFC-L8850CDW for around $450-500 around 4 years ago, and I've still got the toner cartridges it came with in it!  No plugged jets or maintenance issues of any kind.  I haven't spent a dime on consumables.  It's been awesome.  I've probably come out ahead in replacing wasted, plugged up ink cartridges, and definitely in frustration level.

    I do disagree with the universal disdain towards multifunction printers in the article, though.  If you're buying the cheapest MFP you can find, then yeah, it's gonna suck.  But if you get a quality, workgroup-sized printer, the fax/scan/copy functions are decent enough, especially for occasional home use.
  • Reply 9 of 29
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,737member
    I bought a high end Samsung color laser a couple years ago for several hundred dollars. I'm not a big Samsung fan but at the time it was the only printer I could find that had actual Adobe Postscript, so they claimed. I do a lot of graphic design work and create PDF documents from inDesign. Almost every one of my documents has Photoshop CMYK photos with transparent backgrounds. Samsung says they have Postscript but it can't print images with transparent backgrounds. It prints a light gray box behind them. I use the printer for non-essential prints and B/W but for anything presentation quality I have to go to the reproduction service.
  • Reply 10 of 29
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,301member
    There are no good printers, just less bad ones.  I’d avoid HP.

    If you don’t need a scanner don’t buy one with a scanner.  

    If you don’t need color, don’t buy an inkjet.  

    My biggest beef with printers is the crapware that’s included.  If the drivers are included with the OS don’t load their crapware.  If the printer isn’t natively supported see if you can download just the drivers.  HP is loaded with crapware, but they aren’t the only ones.

    It’s just like buying Windows PC...  
    Step1: download the latest Windows ISO (installation file)
    Step2: use the ISO to wipe that crapware the OEMs installed

    After all that work, don’t let printer manufacturers undo the hard work loading their crapware.  Windows is self corrupting (windows updates) no need to make it worse.



    Why avoid HP?  I recommend to folks to only buy HP.  We exclusively use HPs in our corporate offices and we use Macs.  They work flawlessly, albeit only laser printers.  I stay clear away from Inkjet printers regardless of brand simply because they clog if one rarely prints.

    Our Macs will discover the HP printers, download the drivers and life goes on.  Never had issues with them, and we have LOTS of HP printers.  I use an HP laser MFP at home for ages and works great through all iterations of MacOS.  So what's your experience with HP?

    macpluspluswilliamlondon
  • Reply 11 of 29
    I bought a Brother mono laser printer when I bought a 2006 iMac. It survived that machine, a MacBook, a 2011 iMac, a 2012 Mac mini and a MacBook Air. Now it's on a 2018 mini and still going strong, though it shows signs that the drum should be replaced. The printer's biggest drawback is its wireless technology: 802.11g was the order of the day in 2006 (fortunately, I don't run much wireless in my home or office). It might be better to replace the printer than the drum, but my priority in choosing this printer was cost of consumables: third-party toner cartridges could be had for around $25, and I bought a box of 6 for about $100. The toner cartridges have worked fine, and any other type will be hard-pressed to beat them price-wise. My total cost of printing over the last 12+ years: $180 + electricity. Monoprice (for example) wants $22.50 for the drum... I've also bought HP, Epson and Brother inkjets, and HP, Lexmark and Samsung lasers. The Brother is the clear winner among them in TCO and reliability. At this point, barring a change in direction from them, I won't waver from Brother. If you need to copy and scan, get a Fujitsu ScanSnap, period. I say this as one who used many flatbeds in my graphics days. Get a flatbed only if you need to scan books etc., and even then consider finding other ways to get those sheets scanned.
  • Reply 12 of 29
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,719administrator
    The fun thing that's developing in this thread is the same thing that develops in a hard drive thread. 

    1: "X burned me, so I'll never get X again. I like Y."

    2: "What? I like X. Y is awful."
    baconstangwilliamlondonchiamacxpress
  • Reply 13 of 29
    I've had Hp printers for years with Macs with very few problems.  I usually avoid the cheapest ones and look for sales on the mid priced HP color lasers.  We print a lot in my small home office so I do wear them out after 5 years.  I currently have a HP LaserJet Enterprise m553dn with 1gb of memory it is really really fast.  almost like a copy machine when duplex printing.  with 10,000 page rating per toner.  best Hp color laser I have owned.  It's just a very big printer compared to my old one.   If you buy printopia for the Mac by decisive tactics then your can AirPrint and wirelessly print from all your devices.  I've used this software since AirPrint first came out and it works very well.

    Laser is defiantly a must. By far the cheapest way to print. We stopped using inkjet printers 15 years ago when they all clogged up.  With such cheap online photo printing from Snapfish or Shutterfly it made no sense to print photos at home anymore.
    edited December 3 macplusplus
  • Reply 14 of 29
    Are there any printers available with a non user replaceable toner cartridge?
  • Reply 15 of 29
    The Brother Printer, the first mentioned.  Doesn’t include a scanner as the article states.  I’ve had very good luck with Brother printers.
  • Reply 16 of 29
    As others have said here, never get an inkjet. Even if you need to print photos, unless you need the convenience of instant gratification, you can send your jpg files to a nearby shop for about 14¢ each and they'll be better quality and will likely last longer. Ink is always more expensive, slower, and lower quality.

    In my experience, the Canon ImageClass printers are the best printers I have ever used. Print quality is outstanding, and fast. Check for duplex printing (unless this isn't important to you, although it should be to save paper). I also scan a lot of documents and when upgrading from a B&W to a Color ImageClass, I opted for a duplex scanner (meaning it scans both sides of the paper simultaneously).

    The printer was under $300. Canon-branded toner is expensive (about $300 for all four high capacity cartridges) but will last years. On my old B&W Canon (which I still use because it's faster), I bought a third-party toner two-pack for about $50. The starter cartridge lasted about a year, and I'm about four years into the first replacement.
  • Reply 17 of 29
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,456member
    sflocal said:
    There are no good printers, just less bad ones.  I’d avoid HP.

    If you don’t need a scanner don’t buy one with a scanner.  

    If you don’t need color, don’t buy an inkjet.  

    My biggest beef with printers is the crapware that’s included.  If the drivers are included with the OS don’t load their crapware.  If the printer isn’t natively supported see if you can download just the drivers.  HP is loaded with crapware, but they aren’t the only ones.

    It’s just like buying Windows PC...  
    Step1: download the latest Windows ISO (installation file)
    Step2: use the ISO to wipe that crapware the OEMs installed

    After all that work, don’t let printer manufacturers undo the hard work loading their crapware.  Windows is self corrupting (windows updates) no need to make it worse.



    Why avoid HP?  I recommend to folks to only buy HP.  We exclusively use HPs in our corporate offices and we use Macs.  They work flawlessly, albeit only laser printers.  I stay clear away from Inkjet printers regardless of brand simply because they clog if one rarely prints.

    Our Macs will discover the HP printers, download the drivers and life goes on.  Never had issues with them, and we have LOTS of HP printers.  I use an HP laser MFP at home for ages and works great through all iterations of MacOS.  So what's your experience with HP?

    That’s another good thing about Brother inkjet printers: if you don’t print regularly then they run through a cleaning routine every few days to stop the heads from clogging up. 
  • Reply 18 of 29

    I personally don't think people should actively stay away from scanner-cum-printers. If the scanner part needs to be repaired, you can take the occasional print from the local library or your client.

    I've had a scanner-cum-printer for over 5 years now and only had it sent out for repair once. It is a Canon.

    That said, my next printer will definitely be a laser printer - hopefully one that can print A3 sizes.

  • Reply 19 of 29
    Our brother laser is over a decade old, paid <$100 for it new and have printed over 26,000 pages thus far. I’m supposed to have replaced the drum a long time ago, but I just reset it and keep on using it.   Toner works out to < 3 cents per page. 

    I bought a really nice Brother MFC inkjet a few years ago and it didn’t even last through the first set of ink cartridges. 

    I have a $35 HP MFC and it’s good enough for the type of scanning we do and rare color needs.  
    edited December 4
  • Reply 20 of 29
    I bought a Brother mono laser printer when I bought a 2006 iMac. It survived that machine, a MacBook, a 2011 iMac, a 2012 Mac mini and a MacBook Air. Now it's on a 2018 mini and still going strong, though it shows signs that the drum should be replaced. The printer's biggest drawback is its wireless technology: 802.11g was the order of the day in 2006 (fortunately, I don't run much wireless in my home or office). It might be better to replace the printer than the drum, but my priority in choosing this printer was cost of consumables: third-party toner cartridges could be had for around $25, and I bought a box of 6 for about $100. The toner cartridges have worked fine, and any other type will be hard-pressed to beat them price-wise. My total cost of printing over the last 12+ years: $180 + electricity. Monoprice (for example) wants $22.50 for the drum... I've also bought HP, Epson and Brother inkjets, and HP, Lexmark and Samsung lasers. The Brother is the clear winner among them in TCO and reliability. At this point, barring a change in direction from them, I won't waver from Brother. If you need to copy and scan, get a Fujitsu ScanSnap, period. I say this as one who used many flatbeds in my graphics days. Get a flatbed only if you need to scan books etc., and even then consider finding other ways to get those sheets scanned.
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