Inkjet vs laser printer

Inkjet or laser? What's best?

Inkjet or laser printer?

The first dilemma anyone faces when deciding on the printer type to buy is “Should I go for an inkjet or laser printer“? This question however does not have a clear answer, unless you put it in a context! In other words – it is important to know your printing needs and preferences.

So, before making the decision on whether you should buy an inkjet or a laser printer, try answering the following question:

  • Do I mainly print black & white text documents or I also print illustrated materials with color pictures?
  • Is printing speed important to me?
  • Do I intend to refill my cartridges at home?
  • Do I use my printer regularly (on a daily basis) or do I print just once a moth or less?

As you will see below, the answer to any of these questions will give you more clarity on whether you should go for an inkjet or laser printer.

Inkjet printers

Inkjet printers are generally slightly cheaper and lighter that laser printers and have the ability to print both text-based documents and high quality images, especially photos. While color laser printers are also available, printing photos with them rarely gives good results and could be expensive. Therefore, if you plan to print color copies or photos, inkjet printers may definitely be your better option.

The frequency of use may be however an issue for inkjet printers. A common problem with inkjet printers is that the ink has the tendency to dry out if you don’t use them often enough. With inkjets it is strongly recommended to print at least one color page per week, otherwise your print heads may dry out. So, if your “printing habits” are to print just rarely and mainly text documents, an affordably priced laser printer may be your better option. The laser printers never dry out.

Alternatively, if you plan to print small volumes of documents with color images regularly, inkjet printers will get your job done perfectly.

Furthermore, if you plan to refill your cartridges, inkjets would also be your better option. Most inkjet cartridges are refillable with tools as simple as a syringe and this could be easily done at home. On the other hand, while most laser printers are still refillable, refilling a laser printer cartridge at home may be a real challenge for non-professionals.

Besides the tendency to dry out, some other downsides of the inkjet printers are that they are still very slow compared to laser printers. High volumes are also a challenge with inkjets, as inkjets for home use have low-capacity paper trays and printing large documents may take considerably more time than with laser printers.

Laser Printers

The first advantage of laser printers is that they can print considerably faster than inkjet printers and they never dry out. Speed won’t make any difference if you print a few pages at a time, but for high volumes the difference is huge.

Laser printers never dry out, therefore, even if you use your laser printer as rarely as twice a year, this won’t be a problem.

If you plan to get a color laser printer for home use however, be aware that this could be a maintenance cost nightmare. Just one (out of the four) color cartridge for a color laser printer may cost more than a complete inkjet printer. Furthermore, laser printer cartridges are not easily refillable at home and generally, home refilling of laser cartridges may not be an applicable option.

As a conclusion:

  • If you are planning to use your printer for low volume color printing at home and intend to refill your cartridges, go for an inkjet printer.
  • If you are planning to use your printer for high volume black & white printing, you consider printing speed as an issue and do not plan to refill your cartridges, go for a monochrome laser printer.
  • Go for a color laser printer if you intend to print fast high volumes of color printouts, you do not seek photo quality and you do not plan to refill your cartridges at home.