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What’s the Difference Between Laser and Inkjet Printers?

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Businesses today need technology and equipment they can rely on when they need it. Among those equipment needs are printers.

How can you know whether to choose an inkjet vs. laser printer? We’ll break down the pros and cons of each to help you decide which one will be the best option based on features, price, speed and more.

First, let’s define these two different types of printers.

What is a Laser Printer?

As its name suggests, laser printers use a laser with an electrostatic charge to print documents. A laser beam goes back and forth across a negatively charged drum and transfers images onto paper using toner, a powdered ink. Heat fuses the toner to the paper.

What is an Inkjet Printer?

Unlike laser printers which use powdered ink, inkjet printers use liquid ink to create images. The printer sprays tiny droplets of ink onto paper or other mediums to create images.

Inkjet vs. Laser Printer Comparison

There are clear differences in how each printer works and the results they produce, as well as differences in their cost and performance over time. Here’s an overview of the real differences between laser and inkjet printers.

Up-Front Printer Costs

If your only criteria for choosing a printer is the upfront cost, there’s no doubt that an inkjet printer will almost always cost less than a laser printer… at first. Some inkjet printers cost as little as a couple hundred dollars. But the old adage of “you get what you pay for” rings true here. One of the reasons they’re cheap is, well, they’re usually really cheap. As in, their quality and longevity can be considerably lower than most laser printers. Some business owners practically treat inkjet printers as disposable, which is bad for business and bad for the environment.

When considering the replacement ratio of most inkjet printers, it levels the playing field and costs will likely be comparable when factored out over time.

Ink and Toner Costs

Calculating equipment’s total cost of ownership is a critical aspect of running any business. In addition to considering how often a print device needs to be repaired or replaced, you also need to factor in how much it costs to run it. While toner cartridges for laser printers have a higher up-front cost than ink, they last much longer, won’t dry out, and provide a better value overall. A laser printer’s cost-per-page will end up being less than an inkjet printer.

RELATED ARTICLE: Why is Printer Ink So Expensive?

Print Speed

Laser printers print faster than inkjet printers, meaning you’ll also get much higher output. For organizations that need to print a lot of copies quickly, a laser printer is a much better choice. Laser printers can print anywhere between 20–75 pages per minute depending on its quality. You’ll be lucky to get 20 pages in that time from an inkjet. Most will print far fewer. Even if you just need a single copy, laser printers will get it to you quickly. Most inkjet printers take their sweet time to wake from standby mode, making it feel like an eternity before it finally prints.

Not surprisingly, monthly print output for laser printers is significantly higher than inkjets — up to 20,000 pages compared to inkjets which might top out at up to 1,000 pages. For high-volume printing, choose a laser printer.

Printer Size

One of the reasons that inkjet printers are often used for home offices is their compact size. Although, like most technology, basic laser printers have become more compact. Printers that offer more power, speed and features are generally going to take up more space, meaning laser printers are usually larger than inkjets.

Print Quality

Laser printers produce higher quality on printed pieces that contain text and images. You’ll get crisp, clean copies, whether small black and white text or detailed color graphics. If you need to print high-quality color photos, however, a specialized inkjet printer can deliver. Photo images with gradation are more suited to inkjet printers that are specifically made to print photos because the liquid ink is more capable of blending colors to reproduce a broader range of shades. Because inkjet printers don’t require high heat to set the ink, they can also use a broader range of papers, including those with specialized coatings for photos.

Laser vs. Inkjet Printer Comparison at a Glance

In general, we’ve found that laser printers for business are a better value and more versatile than inkjet printers. To further help, we created this easy side-by-side comparison to recap our findings so you can better determine which is right for your business.

  Laser Printer Inkjet Printer
Up Front Printer Cost Costlier than inkjet Less expensive
Ink/Toner Cost More expensive Less expensive
Print Costs Lower cost per page Higher cost per page
Overall Value Lower total cost of ownership Higher total cost of ownership
Environmental Impact Longer life translates to less waste in landfills A higher number of inkjets end up in landfills
Speed 20–75 pages per minute 5–20 pages per minute
Output Can print large quantities Not feasible for large print jobs
Size Larger footprint Smaller footprint
Maintenance Durable and long lasting, requiring less maintenance Typically cheaply made, requiring more repairs
Print Quality High quality with crisp edges, ideal for detailed black and white text and color graphics Average quality, although better for color photos with delicate gradation


Which is Better: Laser or Inkjet?

For some businesses, the best choice is neither a single function laser or inkjet printer. Rather, a multifunction laser printer may be the best option, especially if you do high-volume printing and need additional features like duplex printing, scanning, photocopying, collating, faxing and sometimes even stapling.

In the end, there are many more factors to consider when making a decision. We’ve developed a simple Checklist for Office Printers to help you assess your current print fleet. Download it now when you click the link at the end of this article.

The best way to know which type of printer you need, however, is to talk with a print professional, one who can help you explore how your organization uses printers and whether added functionalities could benefit your business.

Reach out to the print experts at Gordon Flesch Company today for a free print assessment and receive recommendations for improving your print environment.

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