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What are the differences between inkjet and laserjet printers? A total comparison.

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Ahhhh, printers. Often overlooked but incredibly important, printers are the unsung hero of the office. They are always relied upon, but seldom fully appreciated. They are like a catcher on a baseball team, always there to catch any print job that you throw at it. Like a catcher throwing a baseball back to a pitcher, a printer “throws” you back your print job in the form of a printed document, hot off the presses. Its ink or toner is somehow already dry, and just like that, your printer is already ready to once again fulfill all of your document needs. 

Now let’s get down to business.

We consulted Matt Lane for answers to your most pressing questions in the great inkjet vs. laserjet debate. 

Inkjet printers

“An inkjet printer,” Lane said, “is a printer that uses ink instead of toner to produce an image on a document.” 

Inkjet printers are usually smaller and cheaper than laserjet printers. As such, they tend to be made for use in home office and light-use commercial environments. 

However, the ink in inkjet printers can get pricey. What’s more, smearing and smudging on printed documents are more common with inkjet printers than laserjet printers.   

Laserjet printers

According to Lexico’s Dictionary & Thesaurus, a laserjet printer is:

“a printer linked to a computer producing good-quality printed material by using a laser to form a pattern of electrostatically charged dots on a light-sensitive drum, which attract toner (or dry ink powder). The toner is transferred to a piece of paper and fixed by a heating process.”

Which kind of printer should I get for my business?

Like with a lot of things in life, it depends.

It depends on exactly what you need it for.

Generally speaking, smaller businesses would be better off with a lower-volume printer, while medium-sized and larger businesses would be better off with a higher-volume printer.

Advantages of laserjet printers

As you’re learning, laserjet printers are good for business(es), because they generally have a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) than inkjet printers.

“The total cost of ownership,” Lane said, “consists of not just how much they bought the printer for, but also how much the toner, ink, parts and other supplies cost.”

You should also consider the soft costs associated with a printer. Soft costs include the printer’s reliability, and how long it takes to troubleshoot it, which translates to lost time and productivity. 

The TCO includes both hard and soft costs. Laserjet printers generally have a lower TCO because you don’t have to spend as much on toner for them. Although they are initially more expensive to acquire than inkjet printers, laserjets are less expensive to service and easier to manage over time.

Both inkjet and laserjet printers are built-in solutions. That is, they have (over the years) become fully-networkable devices with some models having solution-enabled operating systems built in them. 

Designed for working environments, laser printers can print more than 100 pages per minute (ppm), while inkjet printers usually print at slower speeds.    

Another key advantage of laser printers is their reliability for high-volume printing. For example, some laser printers can print as many as 30,000 pages a month. Inkjet printers, on the other hand, are not normally recommended for as many pages.    

Disadvantages of inkjet printers

In a business environment, inkjet printers have their fair share of disadvantages.

First, there’s the unexpected expense of ink. Organizations may be a little too focused on the inkjet printer’s cheaper initial hardware price, to the detriment of considering how much the printer’s ink will cost over time. Simply put, inkjet printer use is 5 to 6 cents more expensive per page than laserjet printer use.

Inkjet printers can also be less reliable than their laserjet counterparts. In higher-volume print environments, inkjets can suffer more breakdowns, along with decreased image quality and consistency.

Advantages of inkjet printers

All that being said, inkjet printers are not without their advantages, as I will more fully explain in an upcoming article.

Inkjet printers themselves are cheap to initially buy. Also, in specialty industry and print environments, companies use inkjet printers for wide-format color printing. These devices print on specialty media, vinyl and other kinds of media. In general, a key advantage of inkjet printers is that they’re more versatile in their application.

The future of printing

As is the case with other technology, Lane predicts that in the future, printers will be able to do more and cost less.

“We’ll be able to do more things, naturally, as technology evolves,” he said. “For example, right now inkjet has an advantage with these certain media applications, but I see that changing more over time to where laserjet can apply to other media as well.”

Laserjet multi-function printers will likely have more embedded solutions, process- and industry-specific solutions, as well as new technologies in different media to produce an image. Even as they do more, they will weigh less as the materials change. More specifically, materials making up circuit boards, microchips and hard drives will cost less, Lane said.

Nearing the end of the interview, Lane paused to reflect on his vision of the future of printing.

“I see everybody having their own personal printing device with them one day,” he remarked.

Final thoughts

Until that day, your business will still have to choose between an inkjet printer, laserjet printer or an alternative document solution.

Everyone loves to hate printers. That kind of sounds like the name of an office-oriented spinoff of a popular sitcom, doesn’t it? Printers are taken for granted and generally ignored – except, of course, when they give you trouble. So, why not choose wisely and buy a printer that runs reliably with a low total cost of ownership? Now you can, with this handy inkjet vs. laserjet printer buyer’s guide. Happy printing! 

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