Choosing a printer should be an easy task, right? You would think so, but once you start diving into the many available options, making a choice can quickly get confusing. To get started, the first question to ask yourself is whether you need a laser or inkjet printer.
As a quick comparison, inkjet printers use ink to print on the page and laser printers use toner. Inkjet printers tend to be cheaper and typically better suited for home use. On the other hand, laser printers are better suited for the office environment, due to a higher monthly print volume and the ability to connect to your network. However, there are many additional factors to consider before deciding which type of printer is right for you. First, let’s dive into the differences between these two printer types.
How does an Inkjet Printer Work?
Inkjet printers have a printhead with hundreds of small nozzles that spray thousands of ink droplets onto a sheet of paper as it feeds through the device. In the majority of inkjet printers, the printhead moves left and right across the paper to create the print pattern, while electricity heats the nozzles to release the ink droplets.
HP has introduced a new type of inkjet printer to the market, the PageWide series. This device works very similarly, however, the printhead doesn’t move because it spans across the entire width of the page. This results in a faster, more reliable printer.
How does a Laser Printer Work?
A laser printer uses static electricity to attach powder toner to the paper. A laser “draws” the image on a drum that has a positive charge. Anywhere the laser hits the drum, the positive charge is replaced by a negative charge. Toner is then released onto the drum and only sticks to the places the laser has drawn, the negatively charged areas. Then, a sheet of paper is rolled through the printer. As it passes the toner transfers to the paper. Finally, heated rollers fuse the toner into the paper.
A nice bonus benefit to this technology is that the ink does not smear if it gets wet.
Factors to Consider
When deciding whether a laser or inkjet printer is right for you, consider the below:
Color vs B&W
Both inkjet and laser printers are capable of printing in color. However, a laser printer is often a better solution for users who only need to print in black and white.
A laser printer is excellent for creating crisp text-based documents and is superior to an inkjet printer when creating thin lines and small font sizes. Additionally, thanks to advancements in print technology, a laser printer can print high-quality color images, perfect for the business environment. However, if you require vivid, high quality photos with a wide color range, a photo inkjet printer is the best option.
With the technology used in inkjet printers, they tend to print at a slower speed, approximately 15 pages per minute. Conversely, laser printers can print at speeds up to 100 pages per minute. The higher speed of a laser printer makes it more suitable for an office environment.
Print volume refers to the quantity of prints a printer can produce. This is typically a monthly measurement.
Printers have a maximum monthly volume and a recommended monthly volume. The maximum volume is how much a printer can print in a month without damaging the parts. In contrast, the recommended monthly print volume is the amount you should print to keep your printer performing at its best.
Print speed plays a large part in the determination of the monthly print volume. Because laser printers typically have higher print speeds, they also have a higher recommended monthly volume.
Ink cartridges and toner cartridges are both offered in high-yield cartridge options. However, ink cartridges can dry up if they aren’t used quickly enough. For that reason, laser printer toner cartridges are typically larger and capable of printing a much higher number of pages than ink cartridges. This makes the maintenance of a laser printer far less frustrating.
Laser printers are often more costly upfront but tend to have a lower cost of ownership over time and have a longer lifespan. For example, inkjet printers start at $30 and run upwards of $150. While laser printers tend to start at $100.
A toner cartridge tends to be more expensive than an ink cartridge. However, the higher page yield of a laser printer cartridge means the cartridge needs to be replaced less frequently than an ink cartridge would. This refers to the cost per page, a measurement of how cost-efficient your printer is.
Cost per page = cartridge price / cartridge page yield
Most often, the cost per page is lower for a laser printer. Ultimately resulting in a lower cost of ownership. However, it truly depends on your anticipated use.
Inkjet printers’ cost-per-page varies, but it tends to fall within the same general range. Prints consisting of black-and-white text usually run at 5-10 cents per page, and color printing will run between 15-25 cents per page.
Toner, on the other hand, tends to be less expensive on a per-page basis for laser printers. The fact that toner comes in powder form makes it a much simpler substance to ship, store, and use.
While individual toner cartridges are more expensive than ink cartridges, they print hundreds of pages, far exceeding the print yields offered on inkjet printers. As a result, plain-text printing falls into the cost range of 2-5 cents per page, and color printing sits right around 10-12 cents.
Which Printer Is Right for You?
Deciding between an inkjet and laser printer really boils down to what you want to use your print for. As a rule of thumb, inkjet printers are commonly used in home offices because of their smaller size and are preferred for photographers and designers due to their high-quality color images.
Laser printers tend to be a better solution for business environments because they can print high volumes without getting damaged. Additionally, laser printers produce crisp black and white documents and documents with basic imagery, which is common in most businesses.
However, there are more device options to consider, such as multifunction printers or wide-format printers. Multifunction printers are often a more cost-effective device for business use.