Ever wonder what the difference is between an inkjet printer and a laser printer? We have an answer to that question. This article will cover the differences in quality, cost, and durability. There used to be clear lines between inkjet and laser printers with regard to cost and quality. Due to improved technologies those lines aren’t as distinct. Laser printers have improved in quality and you get more bang for your buck now with ink cartridges. There is no longer a sharp distinction between quality and cost.
Both types of printers are similar in that their purpose is to create an image on paper. They both create an image using cyan, magenta, yellow, and black pigments. The pigments are a fluid in the inkjet printer and a dry powder in the laser printer. Both print on various types of paper. Although they have similar purposes, how they accomplish their task and why are have very different answers.
It’s often said, even on this site, that inkjets have better quality. It’s true as a rule inkjets are better, however there are exceptions. For example, the quality from a production laser printer can have better quality than an inkjet printer. This isn’t apples to apples though, these production printers cost a small fortune. I only mention this because it isn’t a certainty one type has better quality than the other. In the small printer market inkjets edge out laser in quality, however there is occasionally an exceptional laser printer.
In my experience, where quality is most crucial is with photographs of people or food. The difference between a laser and inkjet will be most noticeable with those images. Inkjet printers excel with those images. Images for advertising, while no less important regarding quality, such as cars or couches differences there will only be noticed if held side by side. That being said, with things such as vector graphics there will be very little differences between inkjet or laser printers even if held side by side. In some ways I think laser printers handle large sections of solid color better. When it gets hard to tell the difference in quality cost becomes an important consideration.
All types are similar in that there is the initial cost of the printer and then supplies needed during its lifetime. The biggest difference is with supplies. Inkjet printers only require ink cartridges, whereas laser printers require several types of supplies. Whether an inkjet requires 2, 4, or more cartridges will depend on the model. Laser printers require toner, developer, drum, and waste toner container. Whether these supplies are combined or separate will also depend on the model.
When it comes to monochrome printing costs are minimal between an inkjet or color laser printer. A monochrome laser printer is so cheap to operate they practically pay for themselves if you’re making several hundred or more pages per month. Color printing costs will vary depending on volume. Laser printers tend to cost a few pennies less per page, but at lower volume those pennies won’t add up to the dollars in initial cost.
Think of it as buying in bulk. In smaller quantities the cost per item may be more, but total isn’t as much as buying in bulk. Buying in bulk costs more but in the long run does save money. If an inkjet costs .23 cents per page and a laser printer costs .18 cents per page, at volumes of 1,000 pager per year the difference isn’t significant. It’s when the volumes get over 10,000 pages per year, the cost difference becomes significant.
Much of the durability depends on the initial cost of the printer. How long manufacturers are required to keep parts and supplies depends on the price of the printer. For example, a printer for $50 isn’t expected to last more than a few years. Supplies and parts (if any) won’t be available after 3 years. On the hand, a printer that costs more than $500 will be supported for 5 or more years. Manufacturer support tops out at 10 years for even the most expensive printers.
A few people have told me they get a new inkjet every 6 months. They have an issue and it’s easier to get a new one. Then again, I’ve seen 10 year old inkjets in working order, however the cartridges are impossible to find. Most inkjets should last 3 or more years. More expensive inkjets even longer. Laser printers tend to cost more and are expected to last on average 5 years or more.
As for the difference in durability inkjets have so few moving parts they are quite durable. Laser printers have many components therefore more points of failure. It would seem inkjets would be more durable, and from a purely mechanical standpoint they are. The issue is supplies become scarce and replacement parts are rarely made available. In most cases if something such as a cleaning station fails the inkjet printer will have to be discarded.
Supplies and replacement parts are somewhat more available for laser printers. Mostly because laser printers tend to cost more. Apart from the supplies, there is little that goes wrong with laser printers. Comparing them side by side there is little difference in durability between the two types of printers. The price is the biggest factor in determining which printer will last longer.
Those are the major differences between inkjet and laser printers.