Inkjet vs Laser Printer: Which Is Best?

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You're in the market for a new printer, but struggling to decide between Inkjet vs Laser Printer. And that's understandable.

The answer will almost always depend on what your specific needs are, so sometimes browsing the best inkjet printers or best laser printers isn't always the best starting point. In fact, both offer up very different advantages that make them brilliant for specific types of usage.

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Without further ado, we're here to help clear up the confusion, and explain what the key elements are between these two popular printer types. You'll then be much better placed to decide which one is going to meet your needs. Let's get into it.

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Inkjet vs Laser Printer: Which Is Best?

Historically, laser printers were regarded as the superior product. But because they tended to be much more expensive, they were usually restricted to office environments, while we had to schlep around with our inferior inkjet-based printing at home.

But the game has changed in more recent times. Nowadays, inkjet printers can offer an output of equal or sometimes superior quality to what a laser printer can produce. So the question of which is best is probably the wrong question to ask.

Instead, you need to weigh up a few different considerations, such as how much printing you do, what kind of printing you do, and how much you're willing to spend.

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Inkjet vs Laser Printer: Price

Let's start with price, as that's usually a major factor. As a rule of thumb, inkjet printers tend to be cheaper than laser printers to buy. Entry-level inkjet models can cost as little as $50, while a laser printer will normally start at around $150 or more. This is because of the technology each uses in order to print. But that isn't quite the end of the story.

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Because typically, while your upfront cost might be lower, the cost of new ink cartridges tends to be higher on an inkjet. Cartridges can sometimes cost more than the upfront cost of the printer. Laser printer cartridges usually go much further before they need replacing. As a rule of thumb, inkjet pages cost between 5-10 cents for black and white pages, and 15-25 cents for colour. Laser printers are closer to 5 cents for black and white, and around 15 cents for colour. This isn't set in stone, but it is a helpful guideline.

inkjet vs laser printer
Credit: Canon

Laser toner cartridges don't tend to dry out, which can happen with inkjet cartridges, especially if they aren't being used regularly. In theory, a laser toner cartridge could last you for years without needing replacing.

This often means that laser printers have a lower cost per page. You'd need to think about how much printing you are likely to be doing, to decide whether or not the difference in upfront cost will then be compensated for by the cheaper cost per page. These economies are more apparent the more printing you are going to do.

Nowadays, there are ink cartridge subscription services such as HP's Instant Ink which can also help to reduce the cost of replacing those cartridges. This can be tailored to fit the amount of printing you are going to do, with subscriptions starting from as little as $0.99 a month, for up to 15 pages. $12 bucks a year to automatically replace your printer cartridges when needed, really isn't bad value.

There are also trends toward inkjet printers that come with refillable tanks, and bottles of ink, instead of costlier cartridges. This has the added benefit of reducing your plastic consumption as well. And can significantly reduce your cost per page.

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Inkjet vs Laser Printer: Speed

Another point worth considering is the speed of output. This will matter more if you tend to produce high volumes of printing. If you're a light user, who maybe only prints a couple of pages at a time, then even the slowest inkjet printers are likely to be fast enough for you. But if you crank out lots of documents, then, generally speaking, a laser printer will be faster.

As always, there are exceptions to this rule. It's less a rule, more a guideline. Because some high-end inkjets can spew out pages just as quickly as many laser printers.

So while speed may be a factor, you probably also want to think carefully about the type of documents you are going to be printing. We'll look at that next.

inkjet vs laser printer

Inkjet vs Laser Printer: Print Quality

When it comes to quality, it's important to consider what you are going to be printing, before deciding which type of printer might suit you best.

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Laser printers are ideal for printing high volumes of black-and-white documents. On text, laser printers tend to be sharper and clearer, while the ink from an inkjet can bleed slightly, reducing sharpness. It isn't usually an issue to the naked eye, but it;'s something to bear in mind.

Additionally, inkjet documents won't be completely dry when they come out of the printer. So there is a risk that a misplaced thumb could cause smearing on a freshly printed page. This is not a concern on a laser-printed document.

Inkjets meanwhile, will offer the edge when it comes to printing images, especially in colour. This is because laser printers are often sold as mono, although colour options are available as well. Inkjet printers are more adept at mixing ink to produce the right shades on an image, while laser printers struggle a bit more with the subtleties of colour.

To summarise: If you print lots of images, especially in colour, then inkjet may suit you better. But if you churn out text documents, then a laser printer may be more suitable.

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Inkjet vs Laser Printer: Pros and Cons

Let's try to summarise this for you, as there is plenty to digest.

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Inkjet Pros:

  • Cheaper to buy
  • Better for colour images and photo printing
  • Tend to be smaller, and often quieter

Inkjet Cons:

  • Ink tends to be more expensive
  • The cost per page is usually higher
  • They usually print more slowly

Laser Pros:

  • Great for printing text in black and white
  • Fast printing speeds
  • Toner lasts a lot longer, making the cost per page cheaper

Laser Cons:

  • Tend to be more expensive to buy
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  • Also, tend to be bigger and noisier
  • Not as good at printing colour and photos
inkjet vs laser printer
Credit: Brother

Inkjet vs Laser Printer: Which Is Best?

Hopefully, by this stage, you have a much clearer idea of which printer type may suit you better. But if you're still struggling to decide, here's our take on things. Remember though, as always, the choice is entirely personal, and depends primarily on how you're going to be using your printer.

Inkjets will probably suit people who aren't going to be printing large quantities of documents. The lower upfront cost of the printer will be a factor. And while the per-page cost is usually higher, new refill options have made this more competitive. Plus, laser toner tends to be much more expensive to buy.

An inkjet printer will also be more suitable for small spaces, as laser printers are normally much bulkier. Inkjets are often quieter as well. And finally, if you are going to be printing photos or colour images, an inkjet will provide better results.

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Laser printers, though, will suit you best if you are going to be printing out large volumes of text. It will print these pages faster, and at a lower cost per page. You'll be replacing your toner much less frequently as well. And the text will be sharper and clearer.

Ultimately, inkjets probably have the edge as an all-rounder, for families or for relatively light home use. While laser printers will be great in high-volume office situations.