Inkjet printing creates a digital image by dropping spots of ink onto paper; laser printers produce digital images by scanning a laser beam across photoreceptors. So which is better? It depends. We've weighed out some pros and cons of inkjet vs. laser printers below to help you figure out which is best built for use in your home.
Thanks to easy availability and low startup costs, most households today use inkjet printers for their everyday printing. But laser printers — even color models — are now becoming available at prices and sizes suitable for a home or small office. To figure out if you should make the jump to laser, you need to analyze your printer usage.
• Great for photos and image-heavy documents. Inkjet printers do a better job of blending smooth colors than laser printers.
• Inkjet printers have a low start-up cost. Printers are less expensive than laser printers and inkjet ink cartridges are cheaper than toner cartridges.
• Inkjets can print onto many types of paper, including glossy photo paper, textured stationery and even some fabrics.
• Almost no warm-up time is needed before printing.
• Inkjet cartridges can be refilled and reused, cutting down on waste and saving money.
• Inkjet printers tend to be smaller, lighter and easier to maintain than laser printers.
• Inkjet ink is more expensive than champagne.
• Inkjet ink is water-based, so prints are susceptible to water damage and fading.
• Ink cartridges need frequent cleaning. Although printers perform this maintenance automatically, it wastes lots of ink.
• Inkjet printers are getting faster, but are still very slow compared to laser printing. High volumes are a challenge with inkjets.
• Some inkjet printers will produce gray, fuzzy text if printing on plain office paper.
• Inkjet printers for home use have low-capacity paper trays of around 50-100 sheets. Output trays are nearly nonexistent. This might be a problem if you print a lot.
• Laser printers can print faster than inkjet printers. It won't matter much if you print a few pages at a time, but high volume users will notice a huge difference.
• Laser printers produce perfect sharp black text. If your print jobs are mostly text with occasional graphics, laser is the way to go. Laser printers also handle small fonts and fine lines far better than inkjet.
• Laser printers are better prepared to handle high-volume print jobs.
• Price-by-price comparisons favor laser printers over inkjet printers for documents that aren't graphically complex. Although they're more expensive, laser toner cartridges print more sheets relative to their cost than inkjet cartridges and are less wasteful.
• Although laser printers work faster, they take time to warm-up.
• Although toner is cheaper in the long run, upfront costs for laser printing are more.
• Toner leaks are a nightmare.
• Laser printers can't handle a variety of paper or printing materials like inkjets. Anything heat-sensitive cannot be run through them.
• Home laser printers can handle simple graphics, but smooth photographs are a challenge. If you want to print photos, go for inkjet.
• There are some compact laser printers on the market, but in general, laser printers are bigger and heavier than their inkjet counterparts.
Deciding on inkjet vs. laser printing comes down to what you want to print and how much of it. Small, image-heavy workloads, like family photos and school projects, are better suited to lightweight and low-cost inkjet printing. But if you handle heavy volumes of text-based documents in your home office, a laser printer is a more economical choice for the long run.
(Images: Epson Workforce 60 Inkjet Printer vs. Brother HL-4570 Color Laser Printer)