When shopping for a new printer, you face plenty of options. Many different brands offer a wide range of products with their unique features and qualities. However, every printer falls into one of two basic configurations: inkjet or laser.
The debate of inkjet vs laser printers is always a topic that comes up when shopping for a new printer. Some people have their preference while others have no idea what is right for them and their business.
Without proper guidance, it’s easy to become overwhelmed when comparing the options. The truth is that shopping for the right printer can be simplified with a few fundamental questions that you should ask yourself before diving into the range of options.
Taking a few minutes to consider your needs and the needs of your business can save a lot of time (and money) spent shopping for the right option.
Inkjet vs Laser Printers: What is the Difference?
First, it’s important to understand the difference between an inkjet printer and a laser printer. Ultimately, both printers are tasked with getting the image or document on your computer display printed onto a sheet of paper. While the primary task may be the same, both types of printers do the job a little bit differently.
An inkjet printer, as the name suggests, uses water-based ink to recreate an image on paper. The printer uses small droplets of ink applied directly to the paper to get the job done. A laser printer uses a laser (and heat) to create an image on a page. The laser charges (and heats) the paper which then attracts and applies the powdered toner.
Early laser printers were prohibitively expensive and very large when compared with inkjet printers. However, the gap in both size and price has closed in recent years.
Sitting in your office, these two pieces of technology may look similar. The truth is that they have just as many differences as they do similarities. So, which one is right for the needs of your business?
Choosing an Inkjet Printer: Pros and Cons
There are several reasons someone would want to consider an inkjet printer over a laser printer. One of the main reasons inkjet is the right choice for some businesses is the type of printing they are doing.
Liquid ink is far better at printing high-quality images. If your office creates bright, colourful presentations with pictures and infographics to provide to clients then an inkjet printer is going to give the best results.
Inkjet printers are also more versatile regarding the printing medium they can use. There are many different styles and types of paper that an inkjet printer can print onto. For example, glossy stock, textured art paper or even fabrics can be used by inkjet printers (if your printer specializes in non-paper media, like these).
The most common reason businesses buy inkjet printers, however, is the lower upfront cost to buy the device. Inkjet printers are less complex than laser printers so they are also less expensive to manufacture and priced accordingly. Another reason why inkjet printers are less expensive to buy is that since the companies manufacturing inkjet printers are the same companies manufacturing ink cartridges, they are motivated to ensure that as many of their devices are in homes and offices (and consuming ink cartridges) as possible.
However, inkjet printers are not without their downsides. In general, inkjet ink cartridges are far more expensive when compared with toner cartridges so if you do much printing, the total cost of ownership for an inkjet device is higher over the lifetime of the device. If you need to do high volume printing that doesn’t require vibrant colour or detailed images then, despite the lower initial cost, an inkjet printer will prove to be very expensive over time and you would be better off buying a laser printer.
Choosing a Laser Printer: Pros and Cons
Unlike an inkjet printer, a laser printer is not ideal for printing colourful, detailed images. Instead, laser printers perform best in an environment where most printing consists of text documents. The fine detail on laser printers creates crisp, clean text but will lack the vibrant colours an inkjet printer is capable of.
The upfront cost of a laser printer is also much more expensive than that of an inkjet printer and they are more likely to require regular maintenance. However, as we previously mentioned, laser printer consumables (toner cartridges) are substantially more cost-effective than inkjet consumables. This means that the lifetime cost of a properly maintained laser printer will be less than that of an inkjet printer.
Another restriction of laser printers is that it can print on fewer mediums than an inkjet printer. Because laser printers use heat to adhere the toner to the page, they cannot be used to print onto heat-sensitive paper. They also cannot print on bulky or uneven mediums such as fabrics or denim, unlike some specialty inkjet printers.
Which Printer is Right for You?
While there is no one correct answer to the question of whether to buy a laser or inkjet printer, there are a few general rules you can take away from this article.
If you find that most of the printing done in your office are spreadsheets and documents, or you do a large amount of printing each month, then a laser printer will be the best option for your business. Whereas if you need to print on specialty stocks, print high-quality images, or you simply need an inexpensive convenience printer for your home office, an inkjet printer is for you.
Ultimately, it all boils down to what you are going to print, and how much printing you expect to do. If you can answer those two questions, then you can make your purchase with full confidence!
Not sure how much you should budget to purchase your printer? Read our article on How Much Does a Desktop Printer Cost? It breaks down can impact the cost of your next home or commercial printer purchase and breaks out an estimated price table.
Director of Marketing & Inbound Business Development