Inkjet vs. laser: which printer is right for you?
Inkjet versus laser printer? When you buy a printer, you have probably wondered about the two technologies and the top models in both categories. It’s the most basic and important question in printer buying, but what’s really the difference? We are here to clear up the confusion.
While both printing technologies have their place in homes and offices, there’s a good chance one will suit your needs better than the other. The question of inkjet and laser printers comes down to what you want to do and which technology is better suited for those needs.
Inkjet and Laser Printers: The Key Findings
The basic distinctions between inkjet and laser printers are limited to how each technology actually prints. This in turn affects what a printer does well, how expensive it is to print documents and photos, and how much you pay up front.
Inkjet printers are cheaper to buy. If you don’t print a lot, you can buy an inexpensive inkjet for $ 100 or less. Note, however, that the cost of ink can make these lower cost inkjet printers more expensive to operate.
Laser printers are better for text and documents. If you print a lot of basic documents, a laser printer – even a black and white laser printer – can produce better quality page after page than an inkjet printer. However, inkjet printers are better at printing photos.
Laser printers have the lowest cost per page. Toner is incredibly cheap per side and doesn’t dry out like old ink cartridges. However, there are inkjet printers with refillable tanks that offer similarly affordable printing options, provided you are willing to pay more up front.
Inkjet printers are more compact. Without the need for various internal drums and rollers, inkjet printers can provide full-page printing in a much smaller footprint than most laser printers, even if they offer copy and scan capabilities.
Printing Technology Basics: Inkjet vs Laser
While the most basic definition of printing is the same for both inkjet and laser printers – putting letters and images on paper – the two methods achieve this result in very different ways.
Inkjet printers are based on liquid ink deposited on the page via a printhead with dozens of micro nozzles. It is printed by applying microscopic drops of ink to the paper. Depending on whether this ink is dye or pigment based, the ink can change the color of the paper or simply dry as a deposit on the surface of the paper.
Laser printers, on the other hand, use toner, a powder. The “laser” in laser printing is used to create an electrostatic charge that is used to transfer the toner to the paper, which is then bonded to the surface of the page using heat.
These two approaches affect everything from the size of a printer to the cost of a single printed page. In addition to scan, copy and fax functions, both technologies are also available in single-function or all-in-one printers. Either can be a good fit, as long as you understand each of the strengths and weaknesses.
|Canon Pixma TS9120||Brother MFC-L2750DW XL|
|rating||4.5 stars||4.5 stars|
|price||$ 149||$ 329|
|Ink / toner||Six cartridges (pigment black, dye black, photo blue, cyan, magenta, and yellow)||Monochrome|
|Black and white printing time||00:26||00:16|
|Color photo printing time||01:57||N / A|
|Dimensions||14.7 x 14.2 x 5.6 in||16.1 x 15.7 x 12.5 in|
|Black and white text printing||7.8 cents per page||3.75 cents per page|
|Color printing||19.8 cents per page||N / A|
Inkjet and laser printers: upfront cost
When buying a printer, the cost of the printer is an important factor in the decision. Sure, you want certain features, but often your budget will decide for you.
Inkjet printers are usually much cheaper than laser printers. The technology is a little less complex and therefore cheaper to manufacture. Also, most manufacturers sell inkjet printers at a loss, knowing they can make up the difference in ink sales in the future. Sometimes it is cheaper to buy a new printer than to buy a full set of new ink cartridges!
Laser printers, on the other hand, rarely sell for less than $ 200, and even the most affordable models sell for $ 150 or more.
Now, printing costs should definitely be part of your thinking. However, if you rarely print or use the printer’s scan and fax features rather than actually printing, you can find some very affordable options for as little as $ 50.
Bring away: Inkjet printers cost less to buy, but you can pay more in the long run.
Inkjet and laser printers: print quality
The specific properties of liquid ink and toner powder also affect how well they are suited for certain types of printing.
Inkjet printers, with their dye- and pigment-based inks, are particularly good at dealing with color, especially images and photos that tend to have more subtle hues. The nature of liquid ink means that these mixtures are easier to reproduce on an inkjet printer than on a laser printer.
Laser printers are not always designed for photo printing, but instead use halftone dots to create specific colors on documents. Even laser printers that can process the higher quality color for photo printing require special laser printer-compatible photo paper, which makes it much easier to use standard photo paper on an inkjet printer.
However, laser printers are better at printing text, and they provide crisp, clear letterforms that most inkjet printers cannot match. Inkjet printing often bleeds easily, and while the print is legible, the individual letters on closer inspection are not as sharp in detail.
Ink is also prone to smudging, and since inkjet prints continue to dry after printing, the possibility of smeared documents is an issue that inkjet users must reckon with. Because laser printers use a method of heat transfer, printing is ceased and smudge-proof the moment it comes out of the printer.
Bring away: Laser printers are better for text documents, especially high volume, but inkjet printers have an advantage when it comes to printing photos.
Inkjet and laser printers: printing costs
Another major difference is the cost of ink and toner. Liquid printing ink has been identified as one of the most expensive liquids in the world and is a sophisticated product. Designed to achieve precise flow rates, mix and bleed with predictable consistency, and dry in moments while providing colors that look just right – printer ink is very important. Since this is a high-margin product that print shop owners have to buy time and time again, printer firms are only encouraged to keep you coming back with pleasure.
Inkjet printers differ in cost per page but tend to fall in the same general range. Black and white text typically runs at 5 to 10 cents per page and color prints at 15 to 25 cents per page. For example, the publisher’s choice, Canon Pixma TS9120, costs 7.8 cents per page of text (black and white print), while color prints cost 19.8 cents per page.
On the other hand, toner for laser printers tends to be cheaper per side. While no less carefully crafted, the fact that toner is in powder form makes it a much simpler substance to ship, store, and use.
Individual toner cartridges are more expensive than ink cartridges, but they print hundreds of pages, far exceeding the print yields offered by inkjet printers. As a result, the cost of plain text printing drops below the 5 cents per page mark, and color printing is around 15 cents.
For example, the Brother MFC-L2750DW monochrome laser printer prints for 3.75 cents per page, with the standard toner cartridge designed for a life of 1,200 pages. Switch to a high capacity cartridge and the cost drops to 2.7 cents per page.
Toner also stores better in the long term. Ink cartridges can be stored for months if properly stored. However, if you rarely use printers, the liquids filling your ink cartridge can dry out, leaving you with an unusable cartridge that has only printed a fraction of the pages it was intended for. Since toner starts out as a powder, you don’t have to worry about losing its liquidity.
Bring away: Laser printers offer cheaper prints per page, but toner is more expensive upfront. Toner is also a better choice for long-term use because it stores better than liquid-filled ink cartridges.
Inkjet and laser printers: printer size
Another differentiating factor that printer buyers may not consider when comparing printer types is size. Of course, printers vary in size and design, but overall, laser multifunction printers tend to be larger and heavier than their inkjet printers. When you have limited space on a desk or shelf, it will be easier to find an inkjet that will fit in that smaller space.
Inkjet printers have benefited from some significant advances in miniaturization, with features such as printheads built into the ink cartridge. Some, like the HP Tango X, are small enough to be portable. They measure just 9.7 x 15 x 3.5 inches and weigh only 7.5 pounds.
Laser printers, on the other hand, have to accommodate a larger print drum, laser module, and thermal element, all of which add to the bulk. Add multifunctional features like scanning and copying to the list, and laser all-in-one printers tend to be quite bulky.
Bring away: If space is tight, an inkjet printer may be more suitable.
Choosing between an inkjet printer or a laser printer depends on what you plan to use your printer for. Some people print a handful of pages a year or print photos more often than text documents. Others may print tons of text, but rarely need a photo. Or they estimate long-term operating costs as well as the pre-purchase price.
Inkjet printing is generally better for casual printers. Ink costs more per page, but refills are cheaper than toner. Inkjet printers are also better suited for small spaces as laser printers tend to be larger. It’s also a better option for printing pictures and photos because ink offers richer colors and fewer printing restrictions.
Laser printing, on the other hand, is the most cost-effective way to print many text-heavy pages. It’s also faster and has finished, smudge-free pages in seconds. And if crisp, easy-to-read text is your priority, choose a laser printer that will do better text printing every time.
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