Inkjet vs. laser printer

Updated: 02/01/2021 by Computer Hope

For the general consumer, when buying a printer, the basic choice is whether to get an inkjet printer or a laser printer. Both printers have their pros and cons, which need to be weighed based on the features and functionality needed by the consumer.

Inkjet printer

Canon printer

There are several types of inkjet printers available:

  • Basic document printer.
  • Photo printer.
  • Copier, scanner, and printer (All-in-One).

If you need a printer to print documents, with or without color, like a Microsoft Word document, Excel spreadsheet, or an e-mail, a document printer is adequate. The inkjet printer is the least expensive of the three types, often priced under $100.

If you're interested in printing photos up to 8 x 10 in size and need the photos to be high quality, the photo printer is the best option. Most photo printers can print relatively high-resolution photos and can look as good as a photo developed by a professional photo printing business.

If you need to make copies of documents, scan documents or photos, and print documents, the All-in-One printer is the best choice. Some All-in-One printers may also even have fax capabilities and document feeders built-in, allowing the user to copy a multi-page document.

Inkjet pros & cons

With inkjet printers, there are pros & cons to owning and using one.

The pros include

  • Smaller Size - Most inkjet printers are relatively small and can fit in tight spaces. All-in-One inkjet printers are a bit larger but are still smaller than a laser printer and much smaller than a standard office copy machine.
  • Low Cost - Inkjet printers, overall, have lower sticker prices than laser printers. When the time comes, they are also cheaper to replace. In fact, it's often easier and cheaper to buy a new printer if it breaks down.
  • Cheaper Ink cartridges - Ink cartridges for inkjet printers have become cheaper in the last few years. Often ink is half the price of a laser toner cartridge.
  • Easier to replace cartridges - Replacing ink cartridges in an inkjet printer is quick and easy to do.
  • Excellent photo quality - Inkjet printers geared towards photo printing can produce amazing results, printing pictures with vivid colors, high contrasts, and virtually no pixelation. There is almost no need to go to a professional photo printer to have your photos printed.

The cons include

  • Less efficient ink use - inkjet printers have a higher cost per page when printing due to their rather inefficient ink usage. When compared to inkjet printers, laser printers are much more efficient with their toner.
  • Slower printing of large documents - Printing a document with multiple pages takes a bit longer on an inkjet printer than a laser printer.
  • Messy to clean - Cleaning an inkjet printer is no easy task, nor is it a clean one. Inkjet cartridges can sometimes leak, and the ink can stain almost anything it comes in contact with, including clothes and hands.

Overall, the inkjet printer is the most common choice for consumers. When visiting an electronics store, it is common to see a larger selection of inkjet printers than laser printers. Nowadays, consumers look for good quality printing at the lowest initial cost, and inkjet printers fit that criteria. Hewlett Packard, Canon, and Epson have proven to be reliable brands with models that fit most consumers' needs.

Laser printer

Laser printer

There are two types of laser printers available:

  • Basic document printer.
  • Copier, scanner, and printer (All-in-One).

If you only need to print documents, like a Word document, Excel spreadsheet, or a web page, the basic laser printer is a good option. Laser printers at the lower end of the price scale are only black & white. There are color laser printers as well, but they have a higher price tag, often several times higher.

If you need to make copies of documents, scan a document to a computer, and print documents, the All-in-One laser printer is a good choice. As with the basic laser printer, the majority of All-in-One versions are black & white. Laser color printers are available but are higher priced.

Laser printer pros & cons

With laser printers, there are pros & cons to owning and using one.

The pros include

  • More efficient use of toner - A laser printer is efficient on toner use, compared to inkjet printer usage of ink. A laser printer's cost per page can be considerably less, which means a total lower cost of ownership over the printer's life.
  • Faster print speeds - A laser printer can print more pages per minute (ppm) than an inkjet printer.
  • Less mess to clean up - Toner does not stain like ink, and cleaning a laser printer is not as messy as an inkjet printer.
  • Excellent print quality - A laser printer can produce excellent print quality, both black & white, and color. Printed documents, with or without color, look very sharp, usually more than the same documents printed on an inkjet printer.

The cons include

  • Higher toner cartridge cost - Toner cartridges do cost more than inkjet cartridges, sometimes twice as much. However, they last much longer than inkjet cartridges.
  • Larger physical size - While laser printers have gotten smaller in size over the years, they are still often a bit bulkier than an inkjet printer and don't fit into the tight spaces as easily, if at all
  • Noisy - Laser printers can be loud when in use, which can be disruptive.
  • High cost for color - Laser printers are not common choices for consumers who want to print photos or even color in general. They are pricier, and while they can print excellent quality color, most consumers opt for an inkjet printer due to the lower price.

Overall, laser printers are excellent for document printing and copying and scanning. With the long-term cost of ownership, they have the inkjet printers beat. For basic home use, they may not be the favorite, but for a home office or setting or even a business setting, they are a better choice.

Conclusion

When deciding between an inkjet printer and a laser printer, the consumer needs to weigh the pros and cons of both printer types. Ultimately, it may come down to initial cost as the deciding factor, and the inkjet printer usually wins that battle. However, if the long-term cost of ownership is important, the laser printer should be a consideration.

If photo printing is a high priority, the inkjet printer is a logical choice. While ink usage is not as efficient as the toner in a laser printer, inkjet printers are cheaper.

In terms of the ability to copy and scan, it's a toss-up in this category. If the printing & copying is only black and white, it may be worthwhile to go with a laser All-in-One printer. If color is necessary, the inkjet All-in-One printer is probably a better option.

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