What’s the best printer for Mac?

Printers are terrible.

Actually, to be fair they are marvels of modern engineering. It’s just a difficult problem for them to solve, converting our digital abstractions into concrete sheets of wood pulp. And some models are more successful at that than others.

In general, my recommendation is to not overspend. You can find fancy printers that cost several hundred or even thousands of dollars. But the reason for the high cost is volume. They are designed to turn out hundreds or thousands of prints per day without breaking a sweat. Or they have extra features such as collating, stapling, and folding. If you do need something that is that high volume you may want to consult someone who can recommend a printer for your specific needs.

You also don’t want to get a bargain basement printer, since then you’re guaranteed to have problems.

For the vast majority of home and small office users, I have a single recommendation: the HP OfficeJet Pro 9015e. It is a compact all-in-one with all of the features that nearly anyone could need. It’s user-friendly and reliable… well, as reliable as a printer can be. Or if you do a bit more printing the OfficeJet Pro 9025e gives you dual paper trays and a larger output bin, with slightly faster printing. Albeit with a larger size and price tag.

Both printers have great features:

  • Large individual color ink cartridges, rated at up to 2,000 pages
  • Easy-to-change ink
  • More robust WiFi than most printers
  • Options for USB, ethernet, or WiFi connections
  • Mobile printing from iPhone or iPad (or Android if you’re into that sort of thing)
  • No drivers to install–they use the AirPrint standard, meaning the software will never become obsolete with OS upgrades
  • Can automatically order replacement ink from Amazon when it gets low
  • Automatic 2-sided print, copy, and scan
  • Envelope printing ability
  • Fax (requires a phone line)

There are, however, a few limitations:

  • Printing to legal paper size is supported, but you can’t print on legal double-sided.
  • Scanning legal paper size is only supported in the document feeder, not the flat bed.
  • Photo printing is good, but not excellent. If you need quality photo prints on occasion you’re probably better off using the CVS app or Walgreens app on your iPhone or iPad. If you need regular photo printing you should probably look at a specialized photo printer.
  • It’s a little clunky. Not huge, but it’s not the most compact printer out there. Make sure you have enough desk space for it.
  • There is no paper bypass, so if you need to print an envelope or a sheet of labels you’ll need to remove the paper tray, insert the other paper, re-insert the tray, and then switch the paper back when you are done.
‎CVS Pharmacy
‎CVS Pharmacy
Developer: CVS Pharmacy
Price: Free
Developer: Walgreen Co.
Price: Free

Why is this the best printer for Mac users?

In recent history, I’ve found that HP’s software has been the easiest to use and seems to get updates for far longer. I’ve seen Epson and Canon both drop support for printers within a few years, meaning a new OS might break things. That’s becoming less of a problem with the new AirPrint standards but HP was one of the first companies to fully embrace this new standard and since then I’ve trusted them a bit more.

HP has many printer models, but this one strikes a great balance between cost and quality. Cheaper printers tend to have tiny cartridges that are finicky to install and run out more often. Many have all of the colors in a single cartridge. More expensive printers end up being bulky, expensive to maintain, and given how little printing most people do these days they are probably just overkill.

Another reason I recommend this printer is that it’s the very same model I own myself. I prefer to have most of my customers own the same few products so that when there is a problem it’s something I’m already familiar with and can more easily help with over the phone.

Setting up the printer

I never recommend using the printer manufacturer’s software when you can help it. Unless it’s an older printer or a printer with some very specific non-standard features, you’re better off using your Mac’s built-in software. For most printers, you simply connect it to your computer by USB or use the little touch screen on the printer itself to connect to your WiFi network.

During the setup of this particular printer, there is a step that asks you to install the HP app. You can skip that step by touching the question mark icon on the printer’s screen. Then you can enter your WiFi password on the printer screen and continue with the setup. Unfortunately, recent firmware updates have removed this bypass and you must use the HP app on your phone to complete the WiFi setup process.

‎HP Smart
‎HP Smart
Developer: HP Inc.
Price: Free

Setting up your Mac to print couldn’t be easier. Just go to print and if you open the dropdown menu where you choose your printer you should see the printer as an option if you are on the same network.

For details on the setup process, watch my video:

HP Instant Ink vs Amazon Dash Replenishment

Buying new ink is a hassle. It seems that there are a million different possible cartridges and oftentimes you’re not sure if you’re even getting the right one. Fortunately, the new printers like the 9015 are smart and internet-connected. This means they know when the ink is getting low and they will order it for you!

HP offers its own automatic ink service called Instant Ink, which I despise. It’s like signing up for a 90’s era cell phone plan where you have to estimate how many minutes you are going to use every month. Print more than your selected number of pages and you get charged ridiculous overages. Use less than that and you’re paying for printing that you didn’t use. And really you’re leasing the cartridges. If for some reason they can’t charge your monthly service fee your printer will refuse to print, even if it has ink in it.

I’m sure that certain printing habits could make Instant ink a financial win for some people, but for most people, it’s probably not the right solution.

My preference is the much more transparent Amazon Dash Replenishment service. The way it works is you authorize your printer to make purchases on your Amazon account. When your printer gets low it just asks Amazon to send more ink and your account is charged as if you had ordered it yourself. That’s it. This doesn’t give your printer free rein to make orders should it somehow get hacked. You are just giving the printer the authority to order the four specific ink cartridges that your printer needs.

So in practice, as soon as your printer reaches a “low-ink” status it sends the order to Amazon. You will receive an order confirmation email from Amazon. you then have 24 hours to cancel the order before it’s shipped in case you decide you don’t need it. If you miss that 24-hour window you can send it back to Amazon as per their standard return policy.

Once you receive your new printer you can sign up for Dash Replenishment on Amazon’s website.