Buying a printer might not be the most expensive purchase you make. After all, technology has advanced immensely in the last ten years. That’s also meant savings for the consumer. It used to be that laser printers were so out of reach because of the cost that it was a no-brainer to opt for an inkjet. However, that wasn’t always the best solution.
It’s safe to say that it’s a level planning field now on many of the factors that would influence whether you chose a laser or inkjet printer. Some of the same pros and cons still exist. Nevertheless, there are still compelling reasons why you may opt for one over the other. Let’s begin with some practical matters and move on to the best uses to answer the question, laser or inkjet printer which is better?
The Laser Printer
The history of the laser printer goes back to 1971 to Gary Starkweather, a Xerox physicist. It was similar to an earlier technology called dye-stimulation because of its involvement with heat to transfer images onto other surfaces. Starkweather’s early printers didn’t look at all like what we know today. However, his experimentation propelled other companies, such as Canon and IBM, to create their versions.
IBM took the credit for bringing the first commercially available laser printer to the market, with its massive IBM 3800 in 1976. Suffice to say that the technology is light years away from this first model. It’s worth noting that the manufacturers producing these devices targeted businesses and institutions instead of the consumer market. Therein lies one of the key differences between the two technologies.
How It Works
As the name implies, a laser works in conjunction with the drum to create a positive charge. The image transfers to the negatively charged paper using the toner powder within the drum to draw it. The pressure and heat of the roller fix the image so that it’s permanent. That process means there are several working parts within a laser printer. That adds the risk of a service call to the pros and cons.
One of the first things you may think about when considering a laser jet versus an inkjet is the upfront cost. The former will command, even more, up to double the price of the latter. The reason is simply the technology. More moving parts also means they are more expensive to produce. It’s essential to put this information in context with the ongoing costs, which we’ll discuss next.
Nonetheless, it’s a critical factor that can drive your purchase. If you have to balance your decision with the durability of the products. The other thing to think about is whether you want a monochrome printer versus a color one. You’ll save money going with the former if the price is a consideration. We also suggest looking for a laser printer with a decent warranty.
Most manufacturers will back their products for at least a year, as long as you register the printers. We recommend reading the fine print to verify what’s covered. Some companies have authorized service centers to handle repairs. Other times, you have to ship the product to them. We suggest making sure this cost is covered with the warranty.
The value of a printer often lies with how easy it is to use. The first hurdles are connecting it to your network and computer. Most have physical ways to connect them via ethernet or a USB cable. WiFi and Bluetooth are other ways to get up and running fast. Many of today’s products also have smartphone apps that can simplify the process and add additional functionality or troubleshooting features.
The other factors affecting your choice include how often you print documents. A laser printer handles long spells of non-use better than an inkjet since the cartridge contains powder. That brings up another point about these products. Changing the cartridge is easy-peasy—as long as you don’t get powder on your hands. Few substances are harder to remove.
Most manufacturers will offer free recycling for the spent cartridges. After all, it is a win-win for them, even when picking up the shipping costs. Another feature worth checking out is if any built-in security options are present, especially if you’re using a WiFi connection. Of course, your network has a strong password, and you update the router’s firmware regularly.
Another practical consideration is the size and weight of a laser printer. They are often heavier with a larger footprint than inkjet models, although today’s models are lighter. It’s not a big deal if you have a home office with a set layout. It’ll make a difference if you have to move it.
Ongoing Costs and Printing Quality
The ongoing costs might slip under your radar until you need to get your first replacement cartridge. It’s another significant difference between inkjet and laser printer. One way to quantify it is by dividing the cost of the toner by the number of pages. Manufacturers typically provide a range since it’ll depend on what you’re printing. Color printers will cost more than monochrome models because you’ll use more ink.
While toner cartridges cost more, they also have a greater output than inkjet printers. That difference can affect your bottom line with ongoing costs. You’ll also find different qualities in these products that can lower your costs, making them worth considering. Some manufacturers offer subscription services, which can also save you money if you print a lot of stuff.
Another point of comparison is the pages per minute (PPM) that a printer can deliver. A decent laser printer will deliver 30 or more pages. Depending on the quality of the device, it can outperform an inkjet model on this front. However, whether it prints 30 or 40 PPM is often a moot point. Perhaps the deal-breaker issue is the quality.
Laser printers stand tall on this score. The output is clear, sharp text that looks professional. That makes them an ideal choice if you have to print batches of black-and-white documents where quality is paramount. They don’t do as well with color printing, although it is acceptable for most uses.
- Sharp, clear text output
- Fast PPM speeds
- Higher output per cartridge
- More expensive upfront cost
- Pricey replacement cartridges
A laser printer is a worthwhile investment for the home office or small business that needs a reliable device to deliver higher volumes of monochrome documents.
The Inkjet Printer
You may think that inkjet printers are a newer invention than laser models. The fact is that they appeared on the scene earlier by about 20 years. The concept is simpler. The means to deliver for both the consumer and commercial markets lagged behind several years, giving the laser printer an early edge. Both HP and Canon began developing the technology in the 1950s.
It wasn’t until the late 1980s that the inkjet printer made it to the consumer market. And like most computer hardware, the first models were quite expensive, with HP leading the pack. The development of this product was something of a team effort, with many manufacturers contributing.
How It Works
Instead of using a powder toner, the inkjet uses a liquid form that it deposits on the paper, using either a fixed or disposable head. The latter is the cartridge that you replace. You’ll also find hybrid models, with a longer-lasting head. The printing process is often noticeably longer. However, we’re talking about the difference between eight versus 20 pages a minute.
The overall advantage of an inkjet printer over a laser model is the upfront cost. You can easily find a satisfactory product for under $100. They often include additional technologies, such as scanning, copying, or faxing. Their value depends on how much you use them. You’ll likely find that inkjet printers are more lightweight and include more plastic in their construction.
These factors bring down the cost, but can also affect the long-term durability of these products. Because they are so affordable, many consumers consider them disposable if something goes wrong. You may find that the warranties are considerably shorter, with some manufacturers only guaranteeing them against defects. However, third-party sellers often offer protection plans at reasonable prices.
Inkjet printers use similar technologies for connectivity. You’ll see the same lineup of choices. You’ll see additional features that you may find useful, such as auto document feed, mobile print, or connectivity with personal assistants like Alexa. One factor you should note is the type of print media the printer will accept. One of the advantages of these models is that you can use a variety of paper types.
The early days of inkjet printers brought to light one glaring disadvantage of these products—clogged nozzles. Essentially, your cartridge is useless if it happens, making it necessary to have a spare one around, just in case. It’s often a problem if you only print occasionally. The ink at the end of the nozzle merely dries up from non-use.
Manufacturers have recognized this issue since it has a direct impact on the ongoing costs of getting an inkjet printer over a laser model. Many have incorporated a starting function when you turn it one to unclog the nozzles before you start printing. That makes turning off the printer when it’s not in use a smarter option than letting it go into a hibernation mode.
Alternatively, you can also use a cleaning cartridge to ensure you get the most out of each cartridge. It’s a viable option if you print only occasionally. Many products use thermal technology to ensure continuous ink flow.
Ongoing Costs and Printing Quality
The manufacturers quickly realized that the profit of inkjet printers is in repeat cartridge sales. That’s one reason why many have proprietary replacements to cut off the third-party market. Some companies will also void your warranty if you use these products and it damages it. However, some manufacturers, such as HP, offer another solution with subscription programs, like its Instant Ink service.
They operate like other subscription options. You set how often you want to receive replacements, based on your usage. Some products even include technology to monitor the ink levels and order cartridges as necessary for a total hands-off choice. It’s a reasonable compromise versus the lower-priced offerings from third-party sellers, given their lower page output.
The other question is print quality. Smearing and spotting are annoying problems that used to occur frequently with inkjet printers. You also couldn’t handle the printed sheet or do two-sided documents right away. Luckily, the industry has overcome these issues. Inkjet printers exceed when it comes to color printing. The colors are attractive and can cover a wide range of profiles and document types.
Whereas a laser printer is acceptable for charts and graphics, an inkjet printer will make photographs and detailed images pop. However, this feature comes at a price. High-quality output means a lot of ink, which can add up if you bring color documents often. Fading is also an issue, which makes choosing high-quality pigment inks a must-do.
- Cheaper upfront cost
- Excellent color quality
- Subscription ink programs
- More media options
- Clogging cartridges
- Potential higher ongoing costs
An inkjet printer is an excellent option if you print color documents often and want high-quality images. It’s also a viable choice if you don’t print often or a lot, particularly with black-and-white text most often. Your upfront costs are also considerably lower.
When asking the question, is laser printer better than inkjet, it’s helpful to start with your price range. A budget-friendly model will set you back over $100 for the former and often much more. However, you’ll get a fast printer that will provide high-quality output, particularly for text and black-and-white documents.
An inkjet printer offers a more affordable option for the user who will only use it occasionally or wants to print color documents often. You’ll get more for your money with this type versus the higher out-of-pocket cost of a color laser printer. review our top selection of printers and copiers on sale today.