Inkjet vs. Laser Printers: Key Differences, Which Is Better?

If you are going to the market to buy a printer, there are chances that you will find inkjet and laser printers. Inkjet and laser printers are common printers used for both home and office use. If you are considering buying a printer, you may be confused about which to pick for your printing needs.

In this post, you will get to know the differences between the inkjet and laser printer and this will help you select the best option for your needs.

What Are Inkjet Printers?

As the name suggests, this type of printer makes the use of ink to print a digital image on physical material. It uses computer printing technology that squirts the ink droplets on a physical surface (plastic, paper, etc). It can print full-colored images, like images, pictures, and graphics as well as text documents. This type of printer is prevalent in most homes and small offices.

Most people use inkjet printers basically for personal use, school assignments, and projects. Inkjet printers are better at printing pictures than the laser model and some of the upgraded and advanced inkjet printers can create high-quality photos at an excellent color range. It can be connected to a PC or computer system using a cable, you can also print wireless printers from your tablets and smartphones. 

Inkjet vs. Laser Printers

An inkjet printer is great for every day in the home or office due to its easy setup and affordability. Most importantly, it is cost-efficient and easy to maintain an inkjet printer. If you intend to print high-quality images, an inkjet printer will be a better choice because it prints smoother colors than the laser printer. Moreover, it can print on a plethora of surfaces, including textured paper, glossy photo paper, and some fabrics.

Nevertheless, inkjets have small paper tray that fits around 50 to 100 sheets, therefore, it is not meant for printing in large quantity. This may be inconvenient if you are planning to print lots of items. The water-based ink link means that your prints are likely to fade out of get damaged by water. Meanwhile, the link can dry up if it isn’t used regularly.

Pros
  • Easier to maintain.
  • Prints on varieties of paper.
  • Compact and lightweight.
  • Inkjets are less expensive than laser printers.
  • It doesn’t require warm-up time before printing.
  • Inkjet ink cartridges are much cheaper and affordable than toner cartridges.
  • The cartridges can be refilled and reused, thereby eliminating wastage of resources and saving you money in the long run.
  • Great for image-heavy documents.
Cons
  • The ink is expensive.
  • The ink is water-based, so the prints are susceptible to fading and water damage.
  • Ink cartridges require frequent cleaning.
  • It uses lots of ink.
  • Not ideal for bulk printing.

What are Laser Printers?

Laser printers use toner powder which is melted on the surface of the paper when in use. Both the printer and the toner cartridge are expensive during the initial purchase but it is more economical and cost-efficient in the long run as it prints more pages quicker.

Laser printers are often used in large offices and workplaces where printing jobs are done frequently. The major focus is not about producing high-quality images but printing large volumes of text-heavy documents.

One of the major differences and also the most important feature of a laser printer is that it prints faster than inkjet printers. Usually, they produce shaper & darker texts with small fonts and thin lines, therefore, it is a better choice for people who want to print more texts than images.

Laser printers are great for completing a large volume of printing jobs. However, they need to be warmed up before use and they can’t print on varieties of surfaces like the inkjets. Simple images will come out fine, but smooth and full-colored photos may not turn out as expected.

Most importantly, you should be cautious of toner leaks – this may destroy your stacks of clean paper and make them useless. Laser printers are costly upfront, they are heavy and bulkier to set up.

Pros
  • They are made to handle high volume print jobs.
  • They print faster and quicker than inkjet printers.
  • They produce sharp black text.
  • Great for people with text-based jobs.
  • Unlike inkjet cartridges, laser toner cartridges print more sheets and are less wasteful.
Cons
  • Although the toner is cheaper to get, the upfront costs for laser printing could be more in the long run.
  • They take time to warm up.
  • Heavy and bulky.
  • It cannot handle smooth photos like the inkjets.
  • Toner leaks can be disastrous.

READ MORE: How To Maintain Your Printer for Optimum Performance

Key Differences Between Inkjet And Laser Printers

The following are some of the major differences between inkjet and laser printers.

  • Inkjet printers are compact, they occupy less space than laser printers.
  • Inkjet printers are better at printing images & photos.
  • Laser printers are great for printing text files and documents.
  • Inkjet printers are costly to operate, however, they are cheaper upfront.
  • Inkjet printers will be an affordable option for anyone with less printing work to do.

Printer Size

One of the factors most people consider before buying a printer is the size. Obviously, printers vary in features, design, and size. But overall, laser multifunction printers are heavier and larger than the inkjet model. If you have limited room on your table or desk, an inkjet printer will be able to fit into that space.

Inkjets are miniature, which makes them portable. A good example of the inkjet printer is the HP Tango X which is small and portable, it weighs just 7.5 pounds and measures 9.7 x 15 x 3.5 inches.

On the flip side, laser printers come with a large pain drum, thermal element, and laser module which makes them bulky to accommodate. When you add other features such as copying and scanning, the laser all-in-one printers will be very bulky.

Bottom Line: If you are short of space, its better you go for an inkjet printer.

Cost of Printing

Another difference is the cost of toner and ink. Liquid printer ink is costly, you will keep going back to the market when your ink runs out. The cost of inkjet printing vary in the cost-per-page, however, it is nothing short of the same general range.

Black and white text runs at 5 to 10 cents per page while color printing runs between 15 to 15 cents per page.  For instance, the Canon Pixma TS9120 costs 7.8 cents per text page (black & white printing) while color prints are 19.8 cents per page.  

An inkjet model like the Epson Workforce WF-2860 All-in-one Wireless Color Printer and a laser printer like the HP LaserJet Pro M203DW are both budget multifunction printers – that have the ability to photocopy, print, and scan images. On the other hand, toner is less expensive on a per-page basis for laser printers.

Toner comes in powder form, it is easier to ship, store, and use. While individual toner cartridges are more costly than expensive ink cartridges, they print hundreds of pages more than the number of prints offered by inkjet printers. Due to this, the cost of plain-text printing falls below the 5 cents per-page mark and the color printing stays around 15 cents.

For instance, the Brother MFC-L2750DW Monochrome laser printer prints around 3.75 cents per page, and the standard toner cartridge is estimated to last over 1,200 pages. Toner is stored better in the long run. If stored properly, ink cartridges can last for months.

But if you don’t use your printer frequently, the liquids in the ink cartridge dries up. Since toner is made in powder form, you don’t need to worry about the toner cartridges losing their liquidity.

Bottom Line: Laser printers offer affordable prints per page, but toner is more expensive upfront. But in the long run, toner can be great for long-term use as it stores better than liquid-based ink cartridges.

Upfront Costs

One of the factors that influence your decision to purchase a printer is its cost. You are looking out for multifunctional features within your budgetary reach.

Inkjet printers are less expensive to buy than laser printers. This is because inkjet printers are compact, and they cost less to produce. Besides, a lot of manufacturers sell inkjet printers at a loss, knowing they can make profits from the sales of ink cartridges.

On the flip side, laser printers are scarcely sold below $200, you will be lucky to find a budget-friendly laser printer for $150. The cost of printing is a serious consideration you must make before or when buying a printer. If you don’t print frequently, you may need to use added features of the printer for fax and scan functions.

Bottom Line:  Inkjet printers are affordable to buy, but they cost more in the long run.

Print Quality

Toner powder and liquid-like ink are suited for different types of printing. Particularly, inkjet printers with their dye and pigment-based inks perform well at handling color, specifically for photos and images – which are probable to involve subtle shades of color. The nature of the liquid-like ink means that the mixtures are easier to reproduce on an inkjet printer rather than on a laser printer.

On the other hand, laser printers are not always created to handle photo printing. It relies on halftone dots to melt certain colors on documents. Although some laser printers handle high-quality color for photo printing, they still require the specialized laser-printer-ready paper to make this possible. This makes it less convenient than using standard photo paper on an inkjet printer.

Nevertheless, laser printers are better at printing text because they offer crisp and crystal-clear letterforms that are unmatched by most inkjets. Although inkjet prints are legible, the individual letter doesn’t really look sharp in its details when closely examined.

Bottom Line: Laser printers are great for text documents, especially at printing at high volumes. But inkjets have an edge over inkjets in terms of printing photos.

Printing Technology

Both inkjet and laser printers rely on different printing methods in melting letters and images on paper.  Inkjets use liquid ink, it prints by embedding microscopic drops of ink on the paper through the print head which uses dozens of micronozzles. Depending on the type of ink, whether pigment-based or ink-based, the ink may change the paper color or dry as a deposit on the paper’s surface.

On the other hand, laser printers rely on toner, which takes a power form. The ‘laser’ in laser printing generates an electrostatic charge which transfers the toner to the paper, which is then deposited onto the surface of the page with heat.

The printing technology of both the laser and inkjet printer affects how expensive a single printer page can be. Both technology systems can be found in single-function, or in an all-in-one printer coupled with scanning and fax features. Either technology system can be great, as long as you know the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Conclusion

Choosing between an inkjet printer or laser printer depends on what you want to use the printer for. Some people print just a handful of pages a year or print a lot of images than text documents. Other people print reams of text and rarely print photos.

An inkjet printer is a better option than conventional printers. Although the ink costs more on a per-page basis, refilling the ink is far cheaper than toner powder. Inkjet printers are better suited for home offices, small spaces as laser printers are bulkier and larger.

Inkjets can handle school projects, family photos, and personal projects. It is also great for printing photos and images as the ink provides you with rich colors and fewer printing limitations. Therefore, if you are going to be printing small volumes of documents & colored photos regularly, you should get an inkjet printer.

Then again, laser printers provide the most affordable and cost-efficient way to print lots of text-heavy pages. It is faster and as well as producing smudge-free pages in a matter of seconds. That being said, if you intend to handle or do large volumes of text-based documents in your home or office, a laser printer will be a better option.

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