The Differences between Inkjet and Laser Printers

Be it for work or home use, if you are in search of a new printer, particularly for the first time, there are always a lot of factors to put into consideration. From printer style to printer types, features, connectivity options, display/control options (touchscreen or non-touch) etc, buying a printer could be confusing. That said, one of the most crucial decisions to be made is the type of printer to buy: Inkjet or Laser printers?

If you have a printer sitting in your home or workplace, you most likely have had to make this decision too. For the printer rookies and newbies, however, the type of printer you choose to purchase is an important conundrum that must be made so as to avoid regrets and printer problems later on. But basically, whether (or not) to go for a laser printer or the inkjet counterpart usually depends on:

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  • Your printing requirement: will you be printing images? Texts? Or both?
  • Printing volume: how often or how much stuff will you be printing daily or monthly?
  • Printing budget: how long do you intend keeping your printer? How much do you intend spending on repair cost or replacement parts?

Inkjet vs Laser: Printing Material and Mechanism

One of the biggest differences between laser and inkjet printers is the material which they use to print on paper. While laser printers use toners (dry powder), inkjet printers utilize (wet) ink to transfer texts and images to paper. From a cost and usage standpoint, both printers have their individual upsides and disadvantages.

Compared to laser printers that use (dry) toners, inkjet printers cartridges are made of ink that -wait for it- dries up easily, even when the printer is left unused. To add, the toners in laser printer usually last longer and can be used to print more pages of documents compared to an Inkjet printer.

Mechanism of action

How both printers get text and images on paper is another noteworthy — though unimportant — difference.
Inkjet vs Laser
As illustrated in the picture above, Inkjet printers use ‘microscopic nozzles’ to spray the liquid inks onto the paper (substrate) in the form of droplets. Laserjet printers, on the other hand, are designed to utilize their dry toners and a heated fuser to transfer texts and images to paper (as pictured below).
Inkjet vs Laser
Drying up aside, ink can clog up the printer’s printhead and cartridge nozzle. There is also the common problem of ‘smudging’. Also known as ‘smearing’, smudging in inkjet printer occurs when the ink from the paper stains the paper in unwanted regions or is altered when touched immediately after it’s been ejected from the printers. Smudging, sometimes, isn’t entirely the printer’s fault as the type of printing paper used could also be a causative factor. Inkjet printers use pigment-based inks which some papers don’s absorb easily.

Printing purpose

What you intend to print, and how often you print them is also crucial decider for picking an inkjet or laser printer.
Inkjet vs Laser

Laser Printer | HP LaserJet Pro

Generally, laser printers are fantastic for printing monochrome (black and white) documents i.e texts and pretty much anything that doesn’t involve colours. Inkjet printers, on the other hand, are great for printing high-quality photos with brilliant color reproduction and amazing tonal depth. And while there are laser printers that can print coloured documents, the photo quality is not anywhere near that of inkjet printers.
Laser printers are best suited for use in an office or a workplace setting while inkjet printer is most commonly used in the home by perhaps, photographers, creatives who deal with lots of colours, or to print family vacation photos.

Print speed and frequency

If what you seek is a printer that allows you print a large volume of monochrome or medium-quality coloured text-focused documents in minutes without needing to frequently replace cartridges and paper, your best bet is a laserjet printer. This is because it (laser printer) usually has a bigger paper tray and higher print frequency.
Inkjet printers are engineered to print an average of 16 pages per minute (ppm) while laser printers can handle up to 100 pages in a minute.

Paper Sizes

Inkjet vs laser

Inkjet Printer | Canon Pixma iP7220

Unlike laser printers, inkjet supports a wide variety of paper types and sizes. With inkjet printers, photographers and creatives (or anyone) can print high-quality images on almost all types of material; paper (textured or glossy art papers, photo papers etc.) and fabrics, too.

Price and Cost-per-Page differences

Generally, inkjet printers are cheaper than laser printers. However, there’s a catch — which a lot of buyers usually do not take into consideration before making a buying decision. And that’s the cost of cartridges. If you print equal volume of pages on both laser and inkjet printers, it would cost you more money to refill the ink of the inkjet printer than replacing the toner of the laser printer.

Also, the overall cost-per-page of inkjet printers is higher than the laser counterpart. Cost-per-page is basically how much pages a cartridge is able to print before it runs out. Toner cartridges are generally more expensive but would take longer time to replace as they can print thousands of pages before exhaustion. Ink cartridges, on the other hand, are less expensive but can only print hundreds of pages.

Conclusively, while the one-off upfront cost of a laser printer is on the high side, you would spend more on ink replacement costs for an inkjet printer. Also, it is believed that inkjet printers are cheaper because they have a minimum life span of 3 years while laser printers can be used for at least 5 years.

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If you aren’t a photographer, an artist, or your job doesn’t involve printing a lot of high-quality and complex images, then you are better off with a laser printer. But before you pick up that laser printer, you should check out this printer buying guide.


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