Which printer is better? An inkjet or a laser printer?
The answer depends on the purpose of your printing job. If you are printing on something other than standard paper — photo paper, velum, iron-on transfers, etc. — an inkjet printer is the choice for you. However, a laser printer is a good choice, if you are looking for the most economical way to print images and text.
Laser printers and inkjet printers are very different devices that use different technology and fulfil different printing needs. Before we decide between laser or inkjet, let us look at the different types of printers available:
Document printer — this is your “basic printer”, great for printing text documents and low-resolution graphics. Document printers can be colour or black-and-white, inkjet or laser.
Photo Printer — Do you primarily print high-resolution colour photos? High-end photo printers are almost always inkjet printers, which produce brighter, sharper colours and smoother colour gradients.
Multi-function/ All-In-One Printer — Need to copy, scan and fax in addition to print? An all-in-one printer is probably for you. Multi-function/ All-In-One Printers can be colour or black-and-white, inkjet or laser.
The Difference Between Inkjets and Laser Printers
Inkjet printers are best suited for small, image-heavy documents, like photos and school projects. But if you are looking for a printer that can handle heavy volumes of text-based documents, a laser printer is the only way to go.
Laser printers are powerful, sophisticated machines that produce premium print quality and fast print speeds via an intricate laser printing process.
Laser Printing Process
Here is how the laser printing process usually looks:
The process is more elaborate than the inkjet printing process and results in higher efficiency, better print quality, and faster print speeds.
A laser printer can pump out up to 100 pages per minute, while an inkjet reaches max speed at only 16 pages per minute. Laser printers beat inkjets in terms of both print speed and the overall number of pages they can produce on a monthly basis.
Laser Printers Pros & Cons
Higher print quality
Faster print speeds
Lower print costs
More expensive machine
More expensive toner cartridges
Inkjet printers work via a simpler, less advanced printing process that involves liquid ink being sprayed onto the paper in a series of tiny dots.
Whereas laser printers see the images they print as a geometric shape, inkjet printers see the images they print as a series of dots.
Inkjet Printers Pros & Cons
Less expensive machine
Cheaper ink cartridges
Smaller in size
Great for photos
Lower print quality
Low page output
Less efficient ink usage
Ink vs. Toner: The True Cost
Inkjet printers used to cost much less than laser printers, but advances in technology have levelled the playing field. Now both laser printers and inkjets cost about the same price upfront.
The true cost to own is revealed once you purchase replacement inks or toners for your printer. Because of the high price of replacement ink, the cost per page of operating a laser printer is usually significantly less. High-capacity toner cartridges can bring that cost-per-page down to just a few cents.
Toner cartridges — both black and colour cartridges — may seem more expensive than ink at first, but they’ll last longer, won’t dry out, and deliver an overall better value.
Laser printers use toner cartridges. Inkjet printers use ink cartridges.
Toner cartridges are containers for the toner powder particles used within the laser printing process. Some toner cartridges include drum units and some do not.
For example, HP toner cartridges include drum units and Brother toner cartridges do not, with the toner and drum unit being sold as separate components.
Ink cartridges contain liquid ink which is sprayed through microscopic nuzzles onto the paper.
The Mysteries Of Ink
Ink is a liquid that is tinted with dyes or pigments. Like toner, inkjet printers typically require four separate ink cartridges to print: black, cyan, magenta, and yellow, and each one can be replaced when the supply of ink in that cartridge is depleted.
Tales Of Toner
Toner is not a liquid, but a very fine powdery substance.
The actual composition and ingredients does vary from one manufacturer to the next, but typically toner is made up mostly of finely ground plastic. The toner powder has chemical properties that enable it to hold a static charge that grabs onto anything with an opposite charge, so when printing with toner, it is actually a heat transfer and the pressure from the fuser that adheres the toner to the paper.
Inkjet vs Laser: Print Quality
Laser printers produce higher overall print quality when taking into account both text and images. However, inkjet printers specialize in colour image printing and produce high-quality colour photos.
When it comes to crisp, clean black and white text and colour images, laser printers are unmatched.
Looking to print small text and images with heavy detail?
A laser printer is most suitable. The laser printing process features advanced fusing technology which enables laser printers to produce small text and images that maintain clarity and detail.
The one area where inkjet printers thrive is colour photo printing. Inkjet printers, specifically inkjet photo printers, are able to create high-quality colour photo imaging and delicate colour gradation. Inkjet photo printers produce high-quality photo prints with rich colouring and minimal pixilation because they are specifically designed to print photos.
Laser Printer vs Inkjet Printer: Print Speed
When it comes to print speed, laser printers are faster than inkjet printers. Even lower-end basic document monochrome laser printers typically print at least 20 pages per minute, whereas basic document inkjet printers typically print about 5 pages per minute.
Higher-end laser printers reach speeds of 75 pages per minute, which is unmatched by inkjet printers which max out at speeds of 40 pages per minute. If you need a printer for high volume printing, laser printers are noticeably faster.
Another aspect of print speed where laser printers prevail is first page print speed. The fastest inkjet printers take up to 10 seconds to wake from sleep or standby mode and print the first page, whereas the fastest laser printers can wake from sleep or standby mode and print in under 6 seconds.
Inkjet printers are unable to handle high-volume printing, whereas laser printers are built for high-volume printing.
Laser printers typically have monthly print outputs of anywhere between 2,000 and 20,000 pages.
Inkjet printers typically have far smaller monthly print outputs- coming in at anywhere between 1,500 and 5,000 pages.
Inkjet printers typically have low-capacity trays of about 50-100 sheets of paper, and output trays are almost existent. If you are planning on printing a lot, this is a major issue and it is why inkjet printers are not suited for heavy-usage.
Laser printers are more efficient than inkjet printers. Laser printers are able to handle high-volume printing and produce lower costs per page.
Inkjet printers are less efficient- unable to handle high-volume printing and with higher costs per page.
Being the more powerful, advanced printer, laser printers are generally larger than inkjet printers. However, there are many laser printers comparable in size and price to inkjet printers. The difference in size between a laser and inkjet printer depends heavily on the specific model of the printer, but the largest printers by a wide margin are multi-function/all-in-one laser printers.
If you need a small printer to fit in a small household space, an inkjet printer would probably be the best option.
All things being equal, a laser printer is a far more reliable and cost-effective piece of equipment than an inkjet.
But inkjet printers cannot be beat for photo printing, and they accept photo stock paper, as well as card stock, fabric, image transfer paper, and more. At the meanwhile, inkjet printer can print with bright colour.
In summary, there is no better or worse. You are a decision maker based on your purpose and your printing way.