Inkjet and laser printers have core differences, but determining which exact machine is the best choice for you is mostly based on your specific printing needs. Typically, low volume printing, such as in a dorm room or at home, can be handled by an inkjet printer. Laser printers are designed more for frequent printing in offices, large and small.
Listed below are the primary features to look at when weighing your options:
Speed is a huge factor when it comes to printing in a work environment, and laser printers are going to be the most efficient in that respect. Even the most basic model of laser printers will be able to generate more pages per minute than some of the top-notch inkjet printers on the market, especially the units that only use black printer toner. Laser printers typically range from about 25 pages per minute up to 70 pages per minute for enterprise-level machines. Inkjet printers can be as low as 5 pages per minute and rarely exceed 30 pages per minute.
When it comes to quality, both types of printers have strengths. For graphics and standard text documents, laser printers tend to have sharper lines and more color accuracy. However, when printing photographs, an inkjet printer is going to deliver more vivid and true-to-life images, though it could take a few minutes per picture. Because inkjet printers use hundreds of nozzles on the ink cartridges that eject liquid ink, it is also imperative to let photos cool and settle before removing from the output tray.
The monthly duty cycle is more relevant in an office environment, but is something that should be noted by all consumers before making a purchase. A monthly duty cycle is defined as the maximum number of pages that should be printed in a month’s time, estimated by the manufacturer, to ensure an optimal lifespan for the machine. Printing 10,000 pages per month on a printer that has a duty cycle of 1,000 pages could cause extreme wear and tear on internal components. Laser printers can have monthly duty cycles as big as 300,000 prints whereas most inkjet printers will not exceed 5,000 pages.
Cartridge yield and cost-per-print
The page yield of cartridges is another factor. Inkjet cartridges have low yields, ranging on average from 150 to 800 pages. Laser printers use toner cartridges that are bigger in size and yield. The page yield range for toner cartridges is much vaster than ink cartridge, starting around 1,000 pages and going all the way up to 99,000 pages for industrial printers.
To generate an estimated cost per page, divide the cost of the cartridge by the yield. On average, ink cartridges costs range from $10-$40 while toner cartridges costs range from $30-$200. Obviously, toner cartridges are more expensive, but because they yield so many more pages, the cost per page is in the same ballpark as ink cartridges.
Though above are the primary differences between inkjet printers and laser printers, there are a number of features that are worth noting when deciding with type of machine is right for you. Both types of printers offer varying paper capacity, memory management, networking capabilities and functionality, such as faxing, copying and scanning.
Generally, most inkjet printers focus on quality over speed, have a compact size and low overall costs as well as unique connection options for photo printing. Laser printers offer fast printing speeds, high-capacity cartridges that equate to low costs per page, durability to handle high-volume environments and more intuitive document management capabilities.