Laser Vs. Inkjet

Planning on buying a printer?

Before you do, here are a few questions to consider.

What is the main type of printing you are going to do?

Text or graphic? These are the two extremes of the printing spectrum. Text will result in a page that is around 5% ink or toner and 95% white space, while photos and graphics are the exact opposite. Most printer manufactures give an estimated page per cartridge based on 5% coverage. Laser printers tend to be better at text printing by providing crisper text and a higher number of pages per minute. Inkjets are quite good at producing low volume, hi-quality colour graphics. Resolution is measured in dots per inch. For high quality graphic printing, a higher resolution is better.

How much printing will you do?

Take time to accurately assess how much printing is done in your office. Often we estimate low because we may not see all of the usage. The easiest way to determine this is by checking the amount of printer paper your office buys in a month. Be careful, sometimes frugal staff may reuse the back side of the paper. Look for a recommended monthly page volume that is at least as large as the number you have calculated. Inkjets do well at 100 pages or less per month. Laser printers usually start around 1000 pages a month and go much higher. Usually the cost advantage goes to the laser for anything over a couple of hundred pages a month.

How long do you want the printer to last?

If you are planning on buying a new printer every year, then it may make sense to go with the lowest priced printer that will meet your usage level. If you want the printer to last for a few years, it is better to go with a higher end printer that has a monthly usage that exceeds your needs. Usually it is not feasible to repair low end inkjets. Sometimes it is cheaper to replace low end lasers or high end inkjets then to repair them, due to the cost of replacement parts. Depending on the problem, repairs are almost always cheaper then replacing a high end printer. To estimate the life expectancy of a printer, look at the length of the extended warranty offered by the manufacturer.

Compare the warranty price to the price of the printer. The closer they are to each other, the more likely your printer will fail within that time period. Plan on replacing it near the end of the warranty time period.

What is the comparison between the cost of the printer vs the cost of the print-out?

All printers use consumables (ink or toner) to create the print out. Inkjets use ink sprayed through tiny nozzles while Lasers fuse toner to a page with heat. Inkjet printers need ink while laser printers need toner. Ink cartridge life is usually measured in 100's of pages while toner cartridge life is measured in 1000's of pages. Inkjet print head life is measured in 1000's of pages while laser drum life is measured in 10,000's of pages. Some Inkjet printers replace both ink and print head just like some Laser printers replace both toner and drum. The overall consumable cost is cheaper if you can purchase the items separately. To properly assess the cost of ownership of a particular printer it is critical to find out the cost per page. An estimate is to divide the cost of the cartridge by its estimated page yield to get an estimated cost per page. Do not forget to add the cost of the inkhead or drum if these items are purchased separately.

In Summary

Generally lasers have a higher initial cost, are better at text, are faster, last longer and are cheaper per page. Inkjets are cheaper, good for graphics and have a higher cost per page.

NOTE: Not all printers are created equal. A lot of the cheaper models or Graphic Design Inkjet printers do not support all operating systems and all applications. Be sure to check with your system and software providers to ensure compatibility.