Both inkjet and laser printing technologies have their place in homes and offices, large or small. But, there is a high probability that one will be a better fit for your needs than the other.
The basic differences between laser and inkjet printers ultimately boil down to their underlying printing technologies.
While an inkjet uses a printhead with thousands of microscopic nozzles to deposit dye or pigment-based (liquid) ink onto the paper, a laser printer uses a drum unit and laser technology to transfer toner (powder) onto the paper using heat.
Both laser and inkjet printing technologies can be found in single-function or multi-function and color or monochrome printers. But, the underlying technology will affect everything from what a printer can do best, how big it is likely to be, and how much the cost-per-print or upfront cost would be.
Inkjet printers tend to cost much less in comparison to laser printers for an identical set of features.
For instance, you can get an entry-level, all-in-one color inkjet printer in under $150. But a multi-function color laser printer will cost around two-three times more.
But why do inkjet printers cost less than their laser counterparts?
First, inkjet printing technology is less complex in comparison to laser printing.
Second, manufacturers often sell inkjet printers at a loss, knowing they can earn more down the road by selling high-margin ink cartridges.
This is the reason why so many inkjet users are on the lookout for cheap ink and prefer using compatible or remanufactured ink cartridges made to work with different printer models, to cut down on printing costs.
Takeaway: Buy an inkjet if you want to spend as little as possible on the device.
Individual toner cartridges generally cost more than ink cartridges. However, toners cost much less in comparison to ink cartridges on a per-print basis. This is because toners far exceed ink cartridges in page-yield.
Inkjet printer models will vary in cost-per-print but it generally falls in the same range; a color print will cost around 15-25 cents while a B&W text print will cost around 5-10 cents.
With high-yield ink cartridges or large ink tanks, some inkjets can print at around 25% to 50% less cost. If you must buy an inkjet printer and need to print often, one of the cartridge-purchase mistakes to avoid is to stop opting for standard-yield cartridges.
Monochrome laser printers can print at around 1-5 cents per page. Color laser printers (which cost a lot more) can print at a cost of less than 15 cents.
Takeaway: Buy a monochrome laser printer if you need to print 100s of pages in B&W each week/month. If you want both a relatively lower cost-per-print and a color printer, opt for an inkjet printer that uses high-capacity cartridges.
With dye and pigment-based inks, inkjet printers outperform laser printers when it comes to printing photos, images, graphics-rich documents, etc. Inkjets are better at handling color and can produce subtle shades of color on the substrate.
Fundamentally, laser printers are not designed to handle photo/image-printing. A laser printer relies upon halftone dots to produce various colors. But even expensive color laser printers require specialized-laser-printer-paper to produce reasonably good quality output in color. With inkjets, on the other hand, you can use standard paper.
Laser printers are better at printing text. In fact, laser printers can produce razor-sharp text with clear letterforms, even at small font sizes. The quality of printed text cannot be matched by most inkjet printers.
Even though the text printed by an inkjet printer will be legible, ink smudging ensures that the individual letters aren’t as sharp.
So, depending on the type of printing job at hand, the best printer for professional use can be a laser or an inkjet.
Takeaway: Get an inkjet if you need to print photos, images, or color documents on a regular basis. Consider buying a monochrome laser printer if you need to print text documents.
Different printer models vary in size but laser printers tend to heavier and larger than their inkjet counterparts. All-in-one laser printers, in particular, can be quite bulky.
Takeaway: If there are space constraints, you may want to consider choosing an inkjet printer.
The choice between laser and inkjet comes down to understanding what you really want to use a printing device for and how.
If you are a small business owner, consider reading our guide on how to choose the best printer for your small business.
Lastly, whether you choose an inkjet or a laser printer for personal or professional use, consider buying affordable cartridges for HP, Canon, Brother, and Epson printers. You can save at least 20% on printing costs by opting for compatible ink and toner cartridges.