Whether you’re a student or work a desk job, a printer at home is a good investment for most people who find themselves relying on documents and printouts regularly.
Prices, sizes, and availability of most kinds of printers have become easily attainable. It saves both time and money to have a printer at your own disposal.
Home printers also give you greater control over your output – especially in cases when you need to print a lot of revisions or different formats of the same thing.
However, unless you already know you want something like a photo printer for your design or photography-based needs, purchasing a home printer invokes something akin to a full-on debate: laser printer vs. inkjet.
Laser vs. Inkjet: A Primer on The Technology Involved
While it may seem like apples and oranges to some, ultimately, the inkjet vs. laser printer question is all about specific needs.
This article has been written to help you determine where those needs may fall and which way you should swing. We’ll determine the criteria for your new printer purchase based on a categorical listing of the pros and cons of both types, allowing you to decide which one is the printer for you.
Inkjets have been traditionally considered ‘household’ models, owing to the low costs associated with getting one up and running as well as their being easier to acquire than more professional models.
In the past few years, however, laser prints have risen greatly in affordability and reduced in sizes, meaning it’s a valid question to compare inkjet vs. laser for home use (potential health hazards notwithstanding, for which we’d recommend a dedicated printer room instead of keeping it in the bedroom).
Knowing how these printers work should give you an idea of what you’re getting into.
These use something known as a solid ‘toner’.
It’s a relatively futuristic-seeming and electronic process wherein the toner, a substance akin to a fine powder but with an electric charge, is shot via a laser onto a photosensitive drum that the paper rolls over. The toner particles fuse to the paper via static electricity, first being exposed, then attracted, then superimposed to the paper.
This is the reason that documents printed from a laser printer are hot to the touch – the final step is the toner particles being heated to fuse them into place. And, to put it simply, the drum unit in a laser prints uses heat to fuse the toner powder onto the paper, producing prints.
Inkjet printers, on the other hand, have a relatively simple process that’s easier to demonstrate and understand.
Many people will already be familiar with printer cartridges.
In inkjet printers, the cartridge supplies the printer with liquid ink required to ‘print’ the image (even if the ‘image’ is just simple text) via a print-head that utilizes microscopic nozzles to shoot the ink onto the page as it moves vertically, while the cartridge and head run across the paper horizontally.
Laser vs. Inkjet: An Easy Way to Determine the Difference
If your needs are straightforward, choosing between these two isn’t an arduous task.
We would recommend inkjet printers if your use is regular but low in volume. It’s the cheaper option and won’t give you any bulk in terms of features, as well as keeping you safe from the drawbacks traditionally associated with one.
Inkjet printers are also richer in color and quality if that’s your intended use. Gallery-ready photos can be produced with a photo inkjet printer, for example.
However, inkjets are more prone to smudging from touch, moisture, or liquids (including sweat or saliva).
For all else, laser printers have become impressively affordable and work out for longer periods than inkjets traditionally do, unless you’re purchasing enterprise models. The toners are also more cost-effective, giving you more prints per each ‘refill’ as such, and the toner won’t dry up like ink cartridges are notorious for doing.
However, there’s no debate on inkjet vs. laser for photo printing.
If you’re routinely printing pictures and images in high numbers, inkjets would be a worthy investment just to not have to compromise on quality – and they are still cheaper than going to the print shop.
Laser vs. Inkjet: Costs
While inkjets have lower upfront initial costs, their cost of running is almost definitely always higher.
Subscribing to cartridges to remedy their drying out can be a hassle and a money-intensive endeavor, whereas toner cartridges come with a recommended maximum amount that is literally a thousand documents.
To put it simply, inkjets might be cheaper but come at a cost in terms of routine future purchases.
Laser printers, however, are much cheaper per unit, require less frequent cash outflows from your pocket, and work more quickly and reliably.
Hence the laser printer vs. inkjet cost per page comparison comes out much favorably on the side of laser printers.
Laser printers give excellent and sharp prints for text documents and documents with diagrams or photos for personal, non-commercial use. If it’s simple non-color text or documents, consider a simple monochrome laser printer for your black-and-white prints.
Inkjet printers, on the other hand, are capable of printing photos with great tonal depth, a wide range of colors and overall high quality with little to none noticeable pixelation.
And, if print speed and volume are to be discussed, laser printers are much faster and ‘productive’ than inkjets.
The limit of an inkjet (per minute) is from where a laser printer starts. This number can be averaged at around 15 or 16, which means an inkjet can give 16 prints per minute whereas laser printers can crank out anywhere from 15 to 100 prints in a single minute.
This translates to volume as well. Inkjets have paper trays that can barely hold 100 sheets at a time. And, as previously mentioned, laser toners have better ‘lives’ than print cartridges (and their expensiveness can be undercut by purchasing toner alternatives such as compatible but unofficial toners without big brand names attached).
Pound for pound, go for a laser printer, unless you’re specifically looking to print high-quality images, rich in details, so much that you’d be willing to show patience, spend more money, and keep maintaining your rig and its associated components.