Since the invention of the first electronic printer by Epson in 1968, printing technologies have taken a huge leap, which have made printers more efficient and affordable. Nowadays, many computer users have their own personal printer and many others are in the process of buying one. When searching for the right printer, the two main types of printers that an individual or business must decide between are Laser printer and Inkjet printer. Although the main difference between these two printers is signified in their name, there are many more differences which one must consider before making a final decision.
In this comparison guide, we will do a laser printer vs inkjet printer comparison, so that you can decide the right printer for your requirements. We will look at all the factors that might affect the performance and affordability of a printer and how both of these printers stand against each other in those factors. In short, this will be the most comprehensive comparison between the laser printer and the inkjet printer you will find anywhere. So, read this comparison guide carefully as the information you are about to get will surely help you in choosing the best printer for your requirements.
Laser Printer vs Inkjet Printer
|Factors||Laser Printer||Inkjet Printer|
|Print speed||Good across all price ranges||Good print speed only for high-end printers|
|Printing costs||Low||High unless an ink-tank printer|
|Print quality||Good for text documents, but not for photos||Excellent for photos, but reduced quality for small fonts|
|Paper support||Limited||Supports a wide range of media|
|Warranty||1 year||2-3 year|
Most Common Myths about Laser and Inkjet Printers
First, we need to clear some common myths, which are believed to be real facts about these printers. Unless we clear the air about certain false beliefs it would be difficult to understand other facts. Both laser and inkjet printing technologies have evolved a lot in the past few years and many facts which were truths a few years ago are no longer true.
- Print quality of a laser printer is always better than an inkjet printer.
- Operational costs of a laser printer is always lower than an inkjet printer.
- Inkjet printers always have slower print speeds than a laser printer.
- Laser prints are longer-lasting than inkjet prints.
- Inkjet printers are less durable than laser printers.
Both inkjet and laser printers are neck-to-neck with each other on many performance and durability factors. Therefore, when it comes to choosing between them the final decision has to be made on your subjective requirements and limitations. Therefore, keep reading this in-depth printer comparison as the information given below will tell you exactly in which factor one printer outshines the other and is best suited for a specific application or usage.
Print Speed Comparison
Print speed is an important factor for many printer users, especially if they are business owners. If you want to print high volume of pages at regular intervals, then print speed should be an important factor in your decision making process. However, if you only have to print one or two pages at a time, then print speeds will not make much of an impact on your overall printer user experience.
Traditionally, inkjet printers have been a lagging performer in this aspect of printing when compared to laser printers. Therefore, inkjet manufacturers have worked hard on this deficiency and now you will find many inkjet printers which are capable of printing at high speeds. However, if you compare the low-end cheap inkjet printers with their laser counterparts, then laser printers are still faster than inkjets. This means if you want a fast printing inkjet printer, then you will have to pay some extra money.
To fully understand why lasers tend to print faster than inkjets, you will have to understand the difference between these printing technologies. The laser printer maps and applies the toner to one page at a time, while the inkjet cartridge moves back and forth over the page as it sprays the ink line by line. Due to this difference in printing technology a laser printer can print at much faster speeds than an inkjet printer and in low-cost entry-level printers a laser printer can sometimes print at twice the speed of an inkjet printer.
Therefore, if your top priority is print speed for a printer, then laser printers have a slight edge in this department. Although high-end inkjet printers are able to challenge and sometimes beat laser printers in this factor, you will have to configure your printer correctly. More importantly, these inkjet printers will have a higher purchase price.
Print Quality Comparison
Print quality is not as objective a factor to analyze as the print speed. What it means is, if you look at two pages printed out of two printers at the same resolution, using the same print technology, with the same ink/toner configuration, etc., may look different to you. Therefore, print quality is a highly subjective aspect of judging a printer’s performance, but this aspect does have certain barometers which can help you decide its output result.
- B/W vs Color: Usually, businesses prefer black and white printers, but this is no longer the case. Now, both home and business users prefer color printers as color printers are becoming affordable to own and maintain. Therefore, inkjet printers have an edge over laser printers in this aspect because ink cartridges tend to deliver more vibrant color prints as compared to the color toner cartridges. If you want your laser color prints to be as vibrant as inkjet color prints, then you will have to go for high-end laser printers.
- Print Resolution: Inkjet printers clearly beat laser printers in the aspect of print resolution. The highest print resolution offered by laser printers is up to 1200 x 1200 dpi, while the same for inkjet printers can go up to 4800 x 2400 dpi. Most inkjet printers have a wide range of capabilities when it comes to print resolution. They are able to offer this variety, which laser printers don’t offer.
- Color Gamut: The color gamut describes the range of colors printable by a printer. Again, in this aspect an inkjet printer beats a color laser printer. The ultra-fine print-head nozzles of modern day inkjet printers are designed to mix and arrange droplets of ink in such a way that you get better detail and increased color gamut when compared to a laser toner cartridge. Therefore, the final print output that you get is more accurate and has greater detail, which means it’s much closer to the original image. You will never get the same level of vivid colors and details from a laser printer.
- Ink Configuration: You get a wide variety of ink configurations to choose from inkjet printers. A B/W laser printer uses one toner cartridge, while a color laser printer uses four toner cartridges. However, an inkjet printer can use from two to six ink cartridges. Most low end inkjets use two ink cartridges, but some inkjets which are specially designed for photo printing can use up to six cartridges. The extra colors widen the color gamut, enhance the details and reduce color roughness. These inkjet printers can be best suited for the users who want to get professional quality printouts from their printers.
There are many factors that can help you decide the print quality of a print out, but the most relevant ones are shared above. As you can see, in print quality inkjet printers beat laser printers in most of the factors, especially if you want to buy a color printer. Laser printer is a nice choice if you want to print B/W text documents, but if you need to print color documents or images, then inkjet printers are the best option.
Overall Cost Comparison
For a long time it has been believed that the long-term ownership costs of a laser printer are less than that of an inkjet printer. However, now a days it’s not that simple, it can be possible that laser printers are cheaper in the long run, but this equation can change for some inkjet printers.
Laser printers are usually costlier than inkjet printers in their purchase price. Most printer owners consider the purchase price as an investment and are ready to pay a high price for a laser printer because they know they can save on printing costs later. Inkjet printers used to offer replacement ink cartridges to their users when the original cartridges ran out of ink. This system increased the cost of printing as the cartridges were costly and they printed way less pages than a laser toner cartridge. Therefore, laser printers were cheaper in the long run.
Sensing an opportunity in this trouble, many inkjet printer manufacturers have come-up with their own solutions to make their product cost effective in the long run, and their efforts have yielded great results. For example, the present day ink-tank printers don’t require you to buy replacement cartridges, rather you can refill the ink tanks with ink available in ink bottles. This dramatically reduces the printing costs without causing any hassles or any other type of problem. Also, some inkjet printer manufacturers offer discount schemes on their ink cartridges, which can reduce the ink costs without making any big initial investment.
Nowadays, you can find laser printers which are fitted with refill toner cartridge systems. This is a sign that inkjet printers have squarely beaten laser printers in the race for low-cost printing machines. However, these low cost solutions are feasible only for those users who want to print in high volume and that too on a regular basis. Those who want to print a few pages per month should better go for laser printers because toner cartridges are still cheaper to use when compared to replacement ink cartridges.
Another factor that can impact the running costs of a printer is the energy consumption. Since laser printers need to heat themselves before they can start printing they consume more energy than the inkjet printers. The difference in energy consumption is anywhere between two to ten times in the favor of inkjet printers. Although energy consumption doesn’t add too much to the operational costs of a printing device, but you shouldn’t overlook your electricity bill. Therefore, your electricity bill will be lower if you use an inkjet printer.
Design & Durability Comparison
For some people the looks of a printer is important as it can enhance or spoil the aesthetics of their workspace. However, there is more to the design of a printer than just the looks of it. For instance, if you have a confined workspace, then you should go for a compact printer. Generally, it’s seen that inkjet printers are more compact in size than laser printers. That’s because the ink cartridge printing system is compact as compared to the toner cartridge printing system. So, if you are a user who is short of workspace, then you will most probably find inkjet printers more suitable for your requirements.
Durability of a printer is dependent upon two factors: manufacturer and usage. If you buy a printer from a reputed printer manufacturer, then most probably the material used for building the printer will be of good quality and you can expect a durable performance from it. Otherwise, you may end up with printers with flimsy paper trays, loose top covers, etc. Therefore, it’s better to go for printers which use heavy plastic material, metal-reinforced frames and other durable parts. Manufacture quality is an important factor and fortunately there are plenty of good choices available.
Generally, inkjet printers shake or vibrate more than laser printers while printing a page. That’s because inkjet printing requires an ink cartridge to move back and forth multiple times as the cartridges print line by line. This constant exposure to vibration can cause the inkjet printer chassis to loosen its grip, which can reduce the durability of the printer. The chances of this happening with a laser printer are fairly low, which means that they tend to be more durable than inkjet printers. However, this problem is doesn’t arise with mid-range, high-range or all-in-one inkjet printers as they have a heavy body which can easily withstand constant vibrations.
Placement of your printer can also impact its lifespan. As said above, if you have a confined workspace, then buy a compact printer. Otherwise, your printer may be continually subjected to unnecessary blows or jolts, which may lead to undesired damage. There are some compact printer models in both laser and inkjet printers, but inkjets have an edge in this aspect.
Paper Types Differences
You can use the same ream of paper for inkjet and laser printers. However, if you are specific about output quality, then you can use two types of paper for these two printers. Firstly, you need to know that an inkjet printer sprays ink on the paper. Therefore, if you use a paper that can’t respond to moisture properly, then no matter how good your printer is, you will end up with blurry images. Similarly, the laser printer melts the toner (solid powder) before placing it on the paper, which means a high level of heat is generated while printing. Therefore, the paper for laser printer should be heat resistant, otherwise it may ruin the sheet or even spoil your printer.
Now that you know the different effects of these printing technologies in a paper sheet you can choose your printer based on the paper type you will use more frequently. For example, if you want to print on plain office paper, then both inkjet and laser printers will deliver expected results. However, if you are going to use glossy paper, then inkjet printers will deliver much better results as glossy papers can’t withstand too much heat. There is special media available for both inkjet and laser printers, but the inkjet printer supports a wider range of paper types.
Power Consumption Comparison
Inkjet printers are more power-hungry than laser printers. Laser printers use heat to print an image on paper. They use a transfer medium such as toner or ink to fix the image onto the paper. Inkjet printers work by spraying thin streams of ink onto paper, which is then heated.
The difference in power consumption can be attributed to the different methods of printing – laser printers use heat to print an image while inkjet printer sprays thin streams of ink onto paper. For more details, checkout this article: Laser vs. inkjet printer power consumption comparison.
Other Operational Factors
There are certain operational snags that may affect the overall performance of the printer. Although these snags are common among both types of printers, some snags occur more frequently on a particular printer type. Manufacturers are constantly working to solve these issues and you may not even experience them in mid-range or high-end laser as well as inkjet printers.
- Noise: Inkjet printers tend to be noisier than their laser counterparts. This is primarily because of their printing mechanism which requires an ink cartridge to move multiple times while printing a sheet of paper. While in a laser printer the toner is melted and then placed over a paper sheet. This type of printing only requires the rolling of a toner cartridge, which creates very low sound. If you are looking for a printer which makes less sound while printing, then laser will be a better choice.
- Ink Blockages: Whether you buy an ink cartridge inkjet or an ink-tank inkjet, they both use print-head nozzles. The problem with these nozzles is that they tend to get blocked with dry ink if you don’t use your printer for a long time or if you use too much of your printer without regular cleaning. Finally, you will have to perform the ink blockage removal process to restore the proper functioning of your printer. Therefore, most inkjet manufacturers recommend printing at least two to three pages every 30 days. Such problem doesn’t occur with laser printers due to lack of usage. However, after prolonged use of the toner cartridge you will have to perform the toner cartridge cleaning process. Therefore, if you need to print from your printer only once every few weeks, then it’s better to opt for a laser printer.
- Warranty: Nowadays, inkjet printers offer better warranties than laser printers. Most laser printers offer just one year of warranty period, but for the inkjet printers you can easily get two years of warranty and in some cases you can even get three years of warranty without paying any extra amount. In the long run this can be a major benefit, therefore, most inkjet printers offer better value for your money.
- Health Hazards: Laser printers use toner cartridges for printing. These toner cartridges are filled with toner powder, which is a minutely powdered form of some metal. Studies have shown that the powder in the toner cartridges can leak through laser printer cartridges while printing a document and disperse in the environment. Eventually, these tiny particles can enter the lungs of the nearby printer users through their breath. This can cause serious respiratory problems in the long run related to your lungs. No such health hazards are associated with using an inkjet printer. Therefore, if you are a person who wants to avoid such health risks, then it would be better to opt for an inkjet printer.
- Support: This depends on the printer manufacturer and not much on the printer type. Before buying a printer it’s better to search which manufacturer has a support center near your home or workplace. It’s difficult to say which printer among the laser or inkjet requires more service support.
Hopefully, now you understand the difference between laser and inkjet printers. However, if you want to decide which printer to buy, then you are only half way through. There are a wide range of printers, ranging from single-function to multi-function devices, to choose from, in both inkjet and laser printer categories. To make your decision making process simpler you need to ask yourself three questions. If you are still undecided whether a laser printer is better for you or inkjet printer, then also these three questions will help you clear your doubts. These three questions are:
- What do you need to print?
- How often do you need to print?
- What is your printing budget?
Once you can clearly answer all the three questions given above, then not only will you know which device among the laser or inkjet printer is better for you, but you will also be able to pinpoint the exact laser or inkjet printer which fulfills your requirements and suits your work-style.