Have you ever wondered, is an inkjet printer right for you? Or would a laser printer be better? Here’s a simple guide to the basic strengths and weaknesses of inkjet printers. This guide will help you selecting which printer is a right fit for your needs. If it turns out an inkjet isn’t, we can also check out if a laser printer is right for you as well. Either way, we want to help you get the most from whatever printer you buy.
In a nutshell, how inkjet printers work is by boiling a tiny amount of ink which expands and sprays out onto the paper. It takes several passes to form an image, which also mixes the ink before it dries. A fluid tends to mix better than a dry powder. This is why an inkjet printer can generally produce a wider range of colors, aka gamut, than a laser printer. Basically, they make exceptional glossy images because they use a fluid. Especially with paper designed for inkjets. If you want a more detailed explanation check out Wikipedia or How Stuff Works.
Is an Inkjet Printer Right for Me?
First, we need to determine your printing needs. What do you print the most? Articles from the internet? Advertisements for your business? Learning material for your kids? Pictures to display? What you are printing the most will play a role in whether an inkjet is the right fit.
Next, how much on average do you think you print per month? That’s the other piece of information which will help determine the right printer for you. Selecting extra features like scanning or wireless are secondary considerations.
Whether an inkjet printer is right will be determined by:
- What you print the most.
- The amount or volume of printing.
Purpose of printing
When it comes to printing glossy photographs an inkjet printer is the way to go, especially when it comes to pictures of people or food. With other types of printers if the colors on those pictures are slightly off it will get noticed. Pictures of sunsets or houses may be better with ink but this is where purpose can be a factor. If it’s for display or resale an inkjet printer is the better choice. However, if it is something people will just look at and set aside, a laser printer should be considered. Due to the nature of vector graphics, clip art, charts, maps, text effects, etc, a laser or inkjet printer will have similar output. Depending on the purpose an inkjet printer is not the most cost-effective for those type of jobs.
Volume of printing
When the volume is low enough to keep the cost of ink below $100 per year, an ink printer is a good choice. At lower volumes there isn’t any issues printing any clip art or internet recipes you need on an ink printer. On the other hand, some businesses might find it works for them to print 1000’s of pages a month on their inkjet printer. In this case, high volume also means high cost. However, that may be offset by other factors, such as bringing in more business or perception of the business in general.
Since the most strained part is the print head, which is regularly replaced, a maximum monthly volume should be viewed in terms of cost, not necessarily number of pages. According to the research $300 a month would be on the expensive side. As a rule of thumb an inkjet printer is a good fit for either:
- Printing high quality glossy photos for display or resale.
- Moderate to low volume of printing in general.
Operating costs are much lower than they used to be but not quite as low as they advertise. When they advertise less than a penny per print, it’s based on a low coverage image in econo mode. Printing pictures with much higher than 5% coverage, on good inkjet paper doesn’t typically cost less than a penny a print. When the cost per page is figured for 100,000 pages, an inkjet does cost more than other printers. This is due to the comparatively low yields from ink cartridges. When the cost per page is figured for 500 pages an inkjet costs less than other types of printers. This is due to low initial costs of inkjet printers.
Most people don’t expect to print anywhere near 100,000 pages in three years on their inkjet. Which is why at lower volumes the initial investment becomes a greater factor than price per page. For example, suppose someone bought an inkjet printer for $50 and spends less than $100 per year on ink. It would be hard to justify spending $200 on a laser printer, even if they only spent $50 a year on toner. A good printer should be expected to last three years.
Compatible ink or refilling ink are suggested to keep operating costs down. Warranty claims on any ink cartridge that does not achieve the expected yield is another way to keep operating costs down. Printing in “econo” mode is not suggested to keep operating costs down. Not that there isn’t ever a reason to print in econo mode, just that saving money isn’t a good reason. It’s demonstrating cost, not quality, is the higher priority. In such a case consider if a laser printer is the right choice.
Is an Inkjet Printer Wrong for me?
Suppose on one end of a scale is printing color photos. On the other end of the scale is printing a high volume of monochrome documents. To the extent someone selected an inkjet for sharing photos and printing a few documents a month the happier they will be. If someone selected an inkjet because they are cheap, however are mainly printing documents and rarely print in color they might not be as happy with their choice. They might notice their color cartridges dry out more or the text isn’t as sharp. Many people will fall somewhere in the middle of that scale and would probably be happy with either a laser or an inkjet printer. As a rule of thumb an inkjet printer is a bad fit for either:
- Primarily grayscale aka monochrome, or vector graphics printing
- Greater than $300 per month in costs
Inkjets offer a low initial cost and great quality. They are best at printing images for display, sharing, or retail purposes. They are great for printing color, descent at printing B & W documents. At higher volumes the operating costs can become an issue. However, if you don’t flinch at changing ink cartridges. Only put in inkjet paper with great expectations. Then the answer to the question: is an inkjet printer right for you? Is yes!