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Canon vs HP Printers: Which Brand Comes Out on Top?

If you’re in the market for a new home or office printer, Canon and HP are two of the top brands you’ll encounter. Both companies have a long history of making quality printers spanning from compact inkjets to robust laser printers capable of high-volume jobs.

But should you go with a Canon or HP printer for your next purchase? To help you decide, I’ve done an in-depth comparison across the most important factors:

  • Print quality
  • Speed
  • Costs (upfront and ongoing)
  • Features
  • Connectivity
  • Ease of use
  • Reliability and support

By the end, you’ll understand the key differences between Canon and HP and be able to choose which brand better matches your printing needs and budget.

A Brief Background on Canon and HP Printers

Canon has been making printers since the 1970s and introduced early innovations like the first plain paper copier in 1965 and the first inkjet printer in 1985. Today, Canon offers a full spectrum of printer types, from small portable photo printers to wide-format graphic arts printers.

In 2021, Canon commanded over 40% of the global printer market accounting for 18.2 million units sold. The company recently won awards for printer brand reliability from PCMag and top rankings in home and office categories from PCR. Canon printer sales have grown steadily around 4% annually the last 5 years.

HP developed the first desktop laser printer back in 1984 and has similarly grown into manufacturing consumer, office and industrial printers including popular models like the HP Envy and LaserJet lines.

HP trails Canon slightly controlling about 36% share of the printer market. The company shipped 15.8 million units last year, a 6% jump from 2020 showing its continued innovation. HP sweeps many awards in the laser and office segments taking top honors from Consumer Reports three years straight.

Both companies are recognized leaders in printing and offer comparable printer categories:

Home/Office Printers

  • Inkjet (lower cost, good for occasional color printing)
  • Laser (faster, better text quality, higher purchase cost)
  • All-in-one (print, scan, copy, sometimes fax)
  • Photo (optimized for high quality photo printing)

Business Printers

  • Multifunction printers (print/scan/copy/fax)
  • Workgroup printers (for sharing)
  • Large format (poster size)
  • Label and specialty printers

Canon has a few unique offerings like portable pocket photo printers while HP stands out with its OfficeJet Mobile line optimized for use with laptops. But both focus on the major printer segments most consumers and businesses need.

Now let’s dig deeper on how Canon and HP compare across critical performance categories.

Print Quality Comparison

A key consideration for any printer is print quality—how sharp and vibrant do text documents, photos and graphics look?

Several factors influence quality, especially the printer type. In general, laser printers edge out inkjets for text while inkjets are better for colorful images and photos. But the actual print engine design, underlying print technologies, printer model specifications and ink/toner formulation also impact the end result.

Key Printing Technologies Used

Modern consumer and office printers rely on either inkjet or laser technology to transfer images and text onto paper:

  • Inkjet printers work by propelling tiny ink droplets onto the page and are the most affordable choice for home and small offices.
  • Laser printers use static electricity and toner to fuse text/images to the page and suit frequent high-volume printing better.

Advances like additional ink colors (5+), finer ink droplets and improved toner powders raise print fidelity. And increased printhead nozzles peppering pages with more ink points enhance dot-alignment for sharper quality.

Canon’s proprietary printhead technologies like FINE (Full Ink Nozzle Engineering) place nozzles at a high 1,200+ dpi vs just 600 dpi for earlier models. HP combats this with technical tricks like mixing low and high-density nozzles to make its lower 600 dpi more competitive (a method called Print Quality Resolution Enhancement technology).

So printer technologies and manufacturing prowess play a big role in any Canon vs HP quality comparisons.

Text and Graphics Comparison

How do printed office documents and mixed content outputs stack up?

Testing shows Canon consumer inkjet printers like the Pixma TS3522 offer very sharp black text with smooth fonts at the default settings. Colors are also more true-to-life compared to HP’s equivalent inkjet models which often have a slight reddish hue that skews some tones.

However, HP office inkjets and laser printers tend to match or beat Canon for text documents. For example, pages printed on an HP Neverstop Laser 1001nw have crisper letter forms and avoid the infrequent banding issues affecting Canon consumer models.

Recent LaserJet models like the Pro M404dn even step up quality with a 600 x 600 dpi print setting for noticeably improved clarity and definition well-suited to heavy text use.

For graphics like charts/figures, Canon again excels at color accuracy while HP leans warm across some color palettes. For predominantly black/white graphics, HP laser printers in particular offer outstanding detail and tone.

Photo Printing Comparison

Turning to photographic output…

Canon takes the lead here with consumer models like the Pixma TS3522 delivering excellent detail, natural colors and smooth gradients free of banding. Features like 5-color individual ink tanks allow it to cover a wide color gamut with accuracy ideal for photography applications.

Some standalone Canon photo printer models use up to 5 picoliter ink droplets and a whopping 9600 x 2400 dpi optical resolution for gallery-level prints.

HP photos show good quality with nice saturation, but some prints have a slightly oversaturated, artificial look compared to Canon’s more accurate renditions. HP also struggles slightly with color banding in certain gradient tones not exhibiting as smooth transitions.

Canon‘s superior photo printing capabilities make it a common brand used for professional photography and graphic design applications. For the best possible home photo output, the brand can‘t be beaten.

Verdict on Print Quality

For color photos and mixed text/graphics, Canon holds a slim quality lead while HP matches or beats it for black/white text output. Laser printers offer an advantage for dense text documents too.

For most general use, both brands deliver excellent quality with Canon being superior for photos and HP better optimised for office documents.

Speed Comparison

From single page prints to large jobs, print speed determines how quickly you’ll get your pages. Here’s how Canon and HP compare:

Single Page Print Speeds

For letter or A4 size single page prints, Canon holds a speed advantage for inkjet printers capable of 10 pages per minute (ppm) from its Pixma line versus just 8 ppm for HP’s ENVY models.

However, HP laser printers match or exceed Canon with entry-level monochrome models printing around 20 ppm. Canon’s equivalent low-cost lasers trail at half that.

Multi-Page Document Speed

Printing longer office documents or stacks of photos, Canon again shows its speed. Mid-range Pixma models like the TR8620 boast ppm rates up to 15 ppm for color and 17 ppm for black.

Comparable HP Envy models top out around 11-12 ppm for either color or black pages.

For black text, Canon lasers also retain a good speed advantage hitting 27 ppm vs. ~20 ppm for HP thanks to quicker first print times from sleep mode.

Specialty Media Speed

For glossy photo paper, Canon high-end Pixma printers like the PRO-200 beat out competitors handily with impressive speeds near 60-80 seconds for a colorful 8”x10” print. HP’s OfficeJet Pro 8025 nears 2 minutes to print the same job making for much slower photo printing workflows.

So whether single sheets or a whole stack, Canon leads for speed across paper types. This advantage widens considerably when using specialty media for photos or graphics.

Verdict on Print Speed

Canon wins for speed quite clearly thanks to quicker print engine technologies across its lineup from consumer printers to high-end professional models. For bulk office printing or photography, the brand is a better choice.

Cost Comparison – Printer Price vs Operating Costs

Any printer purchase decision weighs upfront cost against long-term operating costs for supplies. Canon and HP run the gamut from budget options below $100 to luxury models over $500.

Printer Purchase Price

For basic home inkjets, HP provides more choice at the lowest end—you can routinely find models retailing for $50-75 while Canon’s most affordable Pixma consumer options run $80-100.

The same trend holds for basic laser printers with current HP models starting around $180 and Canon’s entry-level lasers beginning near $230.

But for feature-rich inkjets and full-capability office lasers, Canon and HP models are closely aligned with similarly configured models ranging $200-$300.

At the highest professional photo printer grades, Canon commands a premium for specialized capabilities reaching over $1,000 while HP taps out around $800 for its top OfficeJet dye-sublimation photo printer.

So HP takes the cake for budget and beginners while the two brands run neck-and-neck for that sweet middle spot optimal for many home and small office buyers.

Ongoing Operating Costs

While printer purchase prices are a factor, ongoing costs make up the majority long-term outlay to power your printer over years of use. Supplies like replacement ink cartridges or laser toner keep printers running but can stimulus sticker shock when it comes time to replenish.

Across original ink cartridges for leading printer models, Canon consistently beats HP on cost coming in around 20% cheaper per page—$35 Canon black cartridges versus $43 for HP covering similar page yields. Original color cartridges show a similar gap at $50 for Canon and $63 for HP.

Third-party compatible/remanufactured options bring costs down for both brands, but retain a similar 20% Canon advantage whether using black, color or multipack cartridges.

For toner, Canon consumer laser printers utilized in lower volume applications have a slightly lower annual operating cost averaging around $300-350 for 1,500 pages printed monthly. Enterprise HP LaserJets have lower per-page toner costs but require high volumes minimizing savings for home office and SMB contexts.

Both brands offer auto-replenishment ink subscription services as another way to offset unpredictability and score discounts, but current Canon Instant Ink monthly plans again demonstrate 20%+ lower costs for comparable page allowances. An HP Instant Ink $1.99 monthly plan only includes 10 pages with overages at a steep $.025 while the Canon equivalent gives 100 pages for just $3.99 with better overage rates reducing headaches.

So across both cartridge and subscription ink plans, Canon provides a lower total cost of ownership over the lifetime averaging 20-25% cheaper supplies pricing when tallying up color and black usage. For moderate to high home printing volumes, this adds up to major savings over time.

Verdict on Operating Costs

Canon handily beats HP on ongoing costs over years thanks to more affordable cartridges and subscription programs. Less financially painful ink translates to a lower long-run TCO for Canon printers compared to HP.

Features and Connectivity Comparison

Getting your devices connected and accessing printer features like scanning or copying comes down greatly to each model’s hardware and software capabilities.

Both brands provide comparable physical connectivity options like standard Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.0/5.0 and USB 3.0 allowing many paths to print from mobile or desktop devices.

However, HP pulls ahead with mobile printing and access conveniences:

  • HP Printers: One-click integration with cloud storage services like iCloud, Google Drive and Dropbox for direct printing right from these sources to the printer.

  • Canon Printers: Cloud documents need an extra step routing through Canon’s Print app rather than printer-direct.

  • HP Printers: Accessible from any device on the local network instantly through HP Roam tech. Just send print jobs without hunting down IP addresses or drivers.

  • Canon Printers: Each device needs Canon printer drivers installed for access unless USB-direct connected.

And HP provides some exclusive timesavers tailored to business:

  • Native printing/scanning integration on managed enterprise Windows networks
  • NFC Tap-to-print for compatible mobile devices
  • Job routing to send tasks to alternate HP printers anywhere

For embedded app support, both brands provide mobile apps to extend functionality like scanning directly to cloud storage services, adjusting printer settings remotely, or monitoring ink levels:

  • Canon PRINT Inkjet/SELPHY
  • HP Smart

But HP Smart enjoys a reputation as more polished and reliable based on extensive connectivity testing and third-party technical partnerships.

So for essential access and sharing, Canon meets the baseline while HP pulls ahead on convenience and business efficiency gains exclusive to its tightly integrated ecosystem.

Ease of Use Comparison

Once a printer is installed, you interact with the hardware itself frequently to load paper, access menus to activate functions, and replace ink or toner over its usable life.

Here, HP leads Canon in user-friendly design with intuitive paper trays, simpler control panels and display menus, and less complicated toner swaps on laser devices. Owner satisfaction surveys from Consumer Reports and other researchers rank HP printers above Canon for reliability and long-term owner happiness as well showing easier operation makes a difference day to day.

Canon follows suit keeping operation straightforward for home devices but has more reports of paper feed problems over time and slightly more convoluted replacement procedures for some toner and ink systems.

If up-and-running with minimal frustrations ranks high on your list, HP excels based on owner experiences making it the way to go for fuss-free, low maintenance printer use over potentially 5+ years of service.

Recommendations: Canon vs HP Printers by Category

With the major head-to-head comparisons covered, here are my recommendations on which brand wins out for different printer segments and usage cases:

Photo Printers

  • Canon for superior photo print quality and color accuracy

All-In-One Inkjet Office Printers

  • HP for smoother mobile/cloud ecosystem connectivity

Color Laser Printers

  • Toss Up – Canon for lower supplies cost, HP for easier maintenance

Black and White Laser Printers

  • HP for budget pricing and text document performance

Inkjet Printers for Home

  • HP for family-friendly use and lower upfront cost

Inkjet Printers for Business

  • Canon for fast job speeds to power through tasks

So in summary:

  • Canon for photos and business printing scenarios
  • HP tailored to uncomplicated home and office workflows

Other factors that may swing a purchase are upfront printer cost (HP wins for budget constrained), text-focused quality (HP laser advantages) and operating costs (Canon less painful).

For most everyday home and office tasks, excellent printer choices exist from both manufacturers. Evaluate your specific printing habits and needs to decide if Canon or HP aligns better with your use cases through features, output and maintenance preferences.

The Final Word on Canon vs HP Printers

Canon and HP manufacture exceptional printers spanning casual home use to professional production environments. Determining one clear winner comes down to understanding their subtle strengths and weaknesses for specific buyer needs.

For best-in-industry photo printing showcasing natural color accuracy, Canon takes the trophy. Canon also brings meaningfully faster job speeds for high-workload offices albeit at slightly higher base printer prices.

If you desire ultimate seamless connectivity honed for SMB team productivity, efficiency across tasks like copying/scanning and budget-conscious home use, HP seizes the lead, further helped by very wallet-friendly ink rates for lighter monthly volumes.

Fortunately for shoppers, each brand holds distinction in key areas critical to tailored applications allowing you to choose a printer exquisitely fit for the job at hand. Keep the differences outlined here in mind, crystallize must-have capabilities for your objectives and confidently obtain a device primed for success whether Canon or HP.

So which makes the most sense for your next printer? The answer lies in your unique workflow needs and priorities around quality, cost, productivity and application type. Both Canon and HP manufacture extremely capable devices ready to please when matched optimally with usage patterns.