Laser printers and LED printers are often grouped together when speaking in broad categories, and for good reason. In fact, there is very little difference between the two when it comes to the basic science of how the two types work. They both use static electricity applied to a drum, which helps to apply toner and heat to create an image. The main difference comes in how the static charge is applied.
A laser printer printer uses a laser beam, which bounces off a moving mirrored surface. When the laser reaches the rotating imaging drum, it creates a static charge that attracts toner to it, which is then transferred to the page. The laser scans across the page in sequence, emitting thousands of light bursts per second.
An LED printer, on the other hand, uses an array of tiny LED lights that light up at different times to create the static charge. Since the lights span the entire width of the drum, an LED printer requires fewer moving parts.
Here are some of the factors to consider when choosing between a laser or LED printer:
Because there are fewer moving parts, it would seem to follow that LED printers would be faster than laser models, but they tend to be fairly comparable. LED speeds will likely improve at a more rapid rate than laser models over time, however, as the technology matures.
LED models are generally less expensive to manufacture than their laser counterparts, which often translates to a lower purchase price. With fewer moving parts, they are also generally easier to maintain, though parts like the fuser and drum will have a similar life to those of a laser model. Both use toner cartridges for printing, so prices for these supplies are usually similar.
Durability is one aspect where LED printers have a decided edge. By eliminating many of the moving parts of a comparable laser model, LED printers usually have a much longer useful life, and require fewer repairs.
When LED printing technology was still fairly new, they often did not match the output quality of laser models. This is generally no longer the case, and both offer the same resolutions at around the same price points.
So which should you choose? When comparing two models that are similar in quality, speed, and other aspects, the greater durability of LED models does give them an edge. However, either technology will provide great results, and differences in rated speed, quality, and other aspects will have more of an impact on a user’s overall experience than the technology under the hood.