Inkjet printer vs. laser printer – it’s a battle that’s taken place in my offices across the world, and one that continues today.
And the winner of the battle is….it depends.
The inkjet vs. laser printer debate hinges on many factors, including your budget, print volume, office space, documents, and more. What we’re here to do, is help you understand the differences between inkjet and laser printers so you can make an informed decision for your next office printer.
Let the battle commence.
Inkjet vs. laser printer: what are the main differences?
Before we begin, it’s good to understand the key differences between how an inkjet printer and laser printer print documents.
An inkjet printer prints by spraying microscopic droplets of ink from dozens of micro-nozzles directly onto the paper. Depending on the specific type of ink used (dye or pigment-based), the ink either changes the color of the paper or dries as a deposit on the paper.
A laser printer prints by melting toner powder onto the paper. The laser creates an electrostatic charge, attracting the toner to the paper to create an image or word. The paper then passes through hot rollers that apply heat and pressure to fuse the toner into the paper.
Inkjet vs. laser printer: upfront costs
The first thing to consider when buying an inkjet or laser printer is the device’s upfront cost. It has to fit within your budget.
Typically, inkjet printers are much less expensive than laser printers. The technology inside inkjet printers is fairly simple, making them cheaper and quicker to manufacture. In addition, many brands underprice inkjet printers and recoup the cost later, through the high markup of ink cartridges and replacement parts.
Laser printers are more expensive to buy than inkjet printers because they use slightly more complicated technology. However, this doesn’t mean laser printers are more expensive overall.
Relevant reading: A cost comparison of different printer brands
Inkjet vs. laser printer: ongoing costs
Ongoing print costs are as important as upfront printer costs because they can quickly turn a cheap printer into an expensive one and vice versa.
Printer ink is one of the most expensive liquids in the world. Not only do manufacturers slap a hefty price tag on to recompense losses on the upfront printer cost, but printer ink is also costly to manufacture, ship, and store. For an inkjet printer, you’re looking at around $0.05 – $0.10 per page for black and white documents and $0.15 – $0.25 per page for color documents.
In contrast, a laser printer uses toner powder, which is much cheaper to manufacture, ship, and store. The average cost per page drops to under $0.05 for black and white and under $0.15 for color.
But again, it’s not just the upfront cost that counts – print yield is important too.
Toner cartridges yield significantly more pages than ink cartridges – you’re looking at between 2,000 – 10,000+ pages vs. 135 – 1,000 pages, respectively. For example, the new Canon high-capacity black toner yields 10,000 pages at $0.02 per page, which is pretty impressive and very cost-effective compared to ink printing.
Tip: calculate the cost per page by dividing a cartridge’s page yield by its price.
Inkjet vs. laser printers: print quality
The types of documents and images you print and the quality required heavily influence the decision between laser vs. inkjet printers.
Inkjet printers use dye and pigments to create various colors in intricate details, which makes them great for printing images and photos.
However, advancements in printer technology mean laser printers can now produce some pretty good quality color photos, too. While you still wouldn’t use a laser printer for high-resolution professional photographs, it’s a valid option for more general images and pictures.
Inkjet vs. laser printers: print speed and volume
If your printer is sitting in the middle of a busy office, being used throughout the day, print speed could be the deciding factor.
Laser printers are designed for the workplace which means they can handle print volume and speed. They average 15 to 100 pages per minute (less than a page per second) without significant wear or tear on parts.
Inkjet printers are much slower, averaging 16 pages per minute. For example, the HP LaserJet Pro prints up to 23 ppm (pages per minute), while the HP OfficeJet All-in-one prints up to 10 ppm. Over an average working day, that’s a 6,240-page difference.
Don’t forget: inkjet printer cartridges and nozzles dry up quickly when not used regularly. Just because an inkjet printer can’t handle as many pages as a laser printer, that doesn’t mean it can sit quietly in the corner unused.
Inkjet vs. laser printers: device size
Inkjet printers are typically designed for home use. Therefore, they are usually small, light, and portable. In contrast, laser printers are designed for office use, taking up much more space and being less easy to move around than an inkjet printer.
Inkjet vs. laser printers: additional features
While both printers come with additional features, such as copying, scanning, and emailing, laser printers are more “techy”.
By this, we mean that you’re more likely to find multiple print trays, duplexing, collation, paper handling, and enhanced printer security options on a laser printer than you will an inkjet printer.
Inkjet vs. laser: life span
Finally, how long is your printer going to last?
Well, if you’re looking for a long-term companion, then you’re looking at a laser printer. The average device life for an inkjet printer is three years, compared to five years for a laser printer.
Which printer is right for your office?
While there’s no right or wrong answer to the question of buying a laser or inkjet printer for your office, there is an option that is better for your business.
If you print high-volume documents and spreadsheets, a laser printer is likely the better option. If you print low-volume high-quality images and photographs, an inkjet printer is your best bet.
Ultimately, it depends on your office printer needs, and if you don’t know what these are, you best involve a Managed Print Service to help.