Ever wonder what the difference is between an inkjet printer and 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 improvements in both technologies those lines aren’t as distinct. Still, their purpose has not had the same degree of change. Laser printers are still great for volume. While inkjet printer costs still remain low. When you look at their costs per page that seems to tell yet another story, but that will be covered as well.
Different types of printers have some overlap as far as purpose is concerned. They 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. However, the major difference is what the pigments are made of. Laser printers use powder based pigments, inkjet printers use fluid based pigments. Sublimation ink printers use dye based pigment suspended in a fluid. Which requires another article entirely. All of these printers can print on multipurpose paper. But each type printer has a paper suited for best results.
When comparing inkjet vs laser process it largely depends on the printer. Some of the production color laser printers can produce magazine quality photos. They also cost a small fortune. Professional photo inkjet printers produce incredible quality. They also print about 1 page per year. For the purposes of this article, small office or home office printers I’ve used or worked on are being compared.
In my experience, where quality is most crucial is with photographs of people or food. The difference between an inkjet and laser printer will be most noticeable with these images. In this case photo Inkjet printers with photo paper will excel. Some of the inexpensive inkjet printers I’ve used aren’t as good as the laser printers I’ve worked on. One of my customers uses a HP color laser printer for their daily menus. They use OEM supplies and the quality is a good fit for their purpose.
For many other images differences will only be noticed if held side by side. While no less important regarding quality houses, cars, furniture, or tools will come out fine with most printers. Inkjets with good paper tend to do better. An exception is inexpensive printers will not do well with this application. The $300 laser printer will do better than a $100 inkjet printer.
As for color graphics found in presentations, letterhead, resumes, or what they call accent color there will be very little difference between inkjet or laser printers. In some ways I think laser printers handle large sections of solid color better. While inkjets tend to have a bigger color gamut. Inkjets can achieve more individual colors.
In my experience laser printers suffer less from streaking while printing large blocks of solid colors. However, laser printers struggle with matching colors. For example, the blue block behind the text will look great. But it’s supposed to look more purple than blue. The inkjets I’ve worked with don’t match 100% either but are typically less obvious.
Inkjets seem to have a bad reputation with text. Text comes out fine as long as you don’t use bond paper.
All printers 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 printer cartridges may seem expensive. However, a full set of laser printer cartridges can cost more than the original printer. This is typically only true for inexpensive laser printers. For a $200 laser printer, all four toners may cost more than the printer. Yet for a $500 printer a full set of cartridges may only cost $160.
This seems to play out with inkjet printers only on a smaller scale. Inexpensive printers seem to have relatively expensive cartridges. Sometimes running more than the cost of that $50 printer. While the $300 inkjet printer cartridges may run around $20.
If your printing needs are low, it is hard to justify getting a laser printer. The $200 expense for an inkjet, paper, and ink cartridges may get you through an entire year. Then again, if you’re spending $100 per month on ink cartridges, it might be time to look at a laser printer.
Which bring us to cost per page
The differences between inkjet and laser printing costs is like buying in bulk. In smaller quantities the cost per item may be more. Yet the total cost is lower. Which wouldn’t justify buying in bulk. However, if you use large quantities, buying in bulk makes sense.
If an inkjet costs .23 cents per page and a laser printer costs .18 cents per page, at volumes of under 1,000 pager per year the difference isn’t significant. Especially considering the cost difference between the printers. It’s when the volumes approach 10,000 pages per year, the cost difference becomes significant.
In my experience, many people make the switch from inkjet printers to laser when they’re spending a lot on ink cartridges per month. Cost seems to be the first consideration, quality is secondary. Then again, the ones who primarily need quality will continue to spend considerably more for the higher end printers.
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.
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.
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.
Supplies and replacement parts are somewhat more available for laser printers. 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. I hope this helps when you’re deciding which printer is right for you.