How to Differentiate Between Laser Printers & Inkjet Printers

You require a new printer but you do not know whether to buy an inkjet or a laser printer, as you are not aware of the differences between the two. Each user or organisation is faced with the dilemma while buying a new printer. Most customers operate under strict budgetary constraints and it is only normal to consider initial purchase costs and space limitations. However, it is prudent to take into consideration the long-term operating costs associated with the particular printer.

The choice of printer will, largely, depend on your requirements. Inkjet printers are usually ideal for home users who have limited text and photo printing needs. Laser printers are better suited to larger office environments with high-volume and high-quality printing requirements.

The differences between a laser and an inkjet printer are generally categorised into a few broad segments, namely, cost (initial and maintenance), speed, quality, space and networking facilities. It is also essential to understand the technology behind the manufacturing of the laser toners and ink cartridges as this is a major contributing factor towards the cost.

Difference in Technology & Networking Facilities between Inkjet and Laser Printers

The technology used for inkjet cartridges is simpler and the parts are less expensive than the laser toners. The black inkjet cartridge has only black ink. The color inkjet printer contains two main ink cartridges, for black and other primary colors respectively. The primary colors are then divided into three compartments for cyan, magenta and yellow ink. The primary colors are consequently mixed to produce all other colors. The cartridge contains a reservoir which has compartments with metal plates and a number of tiny nozzles on the print head of the cartridge. The number of holes or nozzles depends on the resolution of the printer. It is usually 21 – 128 nozzles per color. The ink gets heated, when the current starts flowing through the metal plates, after the print command is given. The heat causes vapor bubbles to form inside the cartridge and make the ink swell up. The ink then flows out in droplets from the nozzles onto the paper in a few milliseconds. A vacuum is created (once the ink droplet flows out) which draws more ink into the nozzles ensuring a steady supply of droplets as required. This common technique is called Thermal Inkjet and the coinage of the name ‘BubbleJets’ by Canon has been due to the bubbling vapors.

The Laser toners use a more elaborate and complex technology. A powder called Toner is used by laser printers, fax machines and photocopiers to print text and images on laser and photo paper. Initially carbon powder was used but now manufacturers use disposable cartridges which can sometimes be refilled. For the laser toners, individual carbon particles are mixed in a polymer which melt in heat. This binds to the fibers in the paper. The laser printers consist of the printer toner and the drum. The positively charged toner gets attracted to the negatively charged drum. The toner is transferred to the paper by the drum. The toner contains special wax that melts and dries in milliseconds. When the toner is transferred, the fuser applies heat and pressure to make a durable image. The fuser system is made up of the hot-roll and the back-up roller.

The high-end laser printers generally come with networking facilities for you to connect to your computer network directly. This cuts down additional costs associated with networking, as is the case with ink printers. The ink printers cannot be linked to a network directly. Networking has to be via a computer, therefore more expensive.

The laser printers are larger in size than the inkjet printers. The latter is, therefore, space saving and ideal for the home and small office users.

Difference of Quality & Color between Laser and Inkjet Printers

Since Inkjet Printers spill out tiny droplets of ink to print, the resolution is lower than the laser printers. Laser Printers printer better quality text, as their resolution is higher. High resolution also helps the laser printers create precise fonts without fuzzy edges. However, the cost-effective inkjet printers are usually recommended for inexpensive color printing. These can print high quality text, large photo prints, graphics, banners and greeting cards at less than half the price of a color laser printer. Nevertheless, it should also be seen if the cost of ink and paper suits your maintenance budget. Laser printers are capable of producing good quality prints on all kinds of printing paper but the inkjet printers will require inkjet paper to produce good quality prints without any fuzzy edge brought about by ‘bleeding’.

Difference in Speed between Ink and Laser Printers

If laser printers lose out to their inkjet counterparts on account of price, they are way ahead when it comes to speed of printing. Users who need large volumes of printing also prefer the laser printers. Laser printers are more suited to general office use than the inkjets. The least expensive laser printer can print around 10 to 15 pages per minute. The inkjets are usually rated on the speed of draft or quick printing mode, which is suitable only for proofreading purposes. The HP Deskjet 5650, which is a fast color inkjet printer, prints at a speed of 21 ppm Black, 15 ppm Color in the draft mode. However, the speed drops considerably when high quality black text is printed and it also takes longer to print a letter-sized quality photo.

Difference in Cost between Ink and Laser Printers

The most important factor governing the choice of a printer is – cost. The cost can have two sub-categories – initial cost and operating cost- – which finally becomes the deciding factors in a purchase of a consumer item. The inkjet printers have a low initial cost but a higher maintenance cost when compared to the high initial purchase cost and low operating cost of a laser printer. The price of a monochrome laser printer can range from $ 130 (e.g. Brother HL2040) to over $ 3,000 (e.g. HP Q3721A Laserjet 9050) and the price range of color laser printers can be from $ 350 (e.g. Samsung CLP 510) to over $ 6,000 (e.g. HP Q3717A Laserjet 5550hdn). Conversely, the cost of color inkjet printers can range from approximately $ 35 (e.g. HP 9067A Deskjet 3930) to $ 2,000 (e.g. HP C7791D Designjet 130NR). However, laser printers are a better option for long-term office use. They are designed to handle high volumes and have a higher capacity of ink or toner. The ink cartridges require to be replaced often if you print a considerable amount regularly. The toner cartridges, though more expensive than the ink cartridges, hardly need to be replaced. This lowers the total cost per page. The out put of laser printers is good even on cheap paper whereas inkjet printers require special inkjet paper for quality output and this also depends on the grade and type of paper being used.

Cheap recycled or third party ink or toner cartridges are readily available in the market, the use of which reduces the maintenance cost to a great extent. However, you have to be careful while buying these when producing high quality photos and also be sure that the use of these does not cancel your warranty. Since ink cartridges of some new inkjet printers contain computer chips, you may not be able to use recycled or third party cartridges for that particular printer.

Keeping the above factors in mind, it is advisable to calculate the total cost of ownership before purchasing a printer. The initial purchase cost of an inkjet printer may be low but the cost as consumables like paper and ink may exceed your budget. The slow speed and variable print quality of the inkjets are also deterrents. Laser printers are definitely a better buy when the requirements are that of high print quality, speed, high volume and low operating cost over a long period of use.

Laser Printer: The Better Printing Option

Laser printer is a very common term that many of us get to hear today. Almost all offices have switched to laser printers from the traditional ink jet ones. The laser printers have many benefits over the regular ink jet printers which makes them a better printing option in most cases.

Before looking at the laser printer let us first look at the history of printers that we have had till date. The very first printer of sorts would have been the simple type writer. It functions very similar to the printer with the only different being there is no computing interface between the typist and the printing device.

The evolution of the typewriter was the dot matrix printer. This was based on the same concept as a typewriter in that the contents where printers on the paper by impressions hitting a ribbon of ink. Depending on the kind of patterns that hit the ribbon, the corresponding images or text got transferred onto the paper.

The next jump in the printing domain was the ink jet printer. This printer uses a spray of ink to create images on the paper. The first printers of this kind were black and white printers and they could produce a much better and neater looking printouts as compared to the dot matrix printers.

With time, the technology evolved and coloured inks made way into printing. Now it is not difficult to get colour printouts as well as black and white printouts from the printer. So much so that most printers have the option to load multiple cartridges and support both printing options.

The next evolution in the printing technology was the laser printers. This solution was quite different from the traditional printing options that were available. All the previous versions used some form of ink to create images on the paper. The laser printer changed that approach and introduced the option of using electrostatic charges to print and create images on the paper.

Given the accuracy of the laser beams, the print outs from these printers where crisper and of much superior quality as compared to the other forms of printing. The ink jet printers too created great images, but there is always some lag time between getting the print out and the ink drying out. The modern solutions do address this problem and we have some really quick drying inks available. The quality of laser printouts is still superior to other printouts.

The only limitation of the laser printer for a long time was the lack colour printing option. As a result, it was a norm to use ink jet printers for colour printouts while sticking to laser ones for purely black and white needs. However, this is changing now with the advent of color laser printing. Now one can get laser quality printouts for not just banal text but also for vibrant colourful pictures and photos too. While the color laser printers remain premium product today, pretty soon they will become mainstream and general public can enjoy the high quality printing solutions.

Advantages of A Laser Printer

Does a laser printer have enough advantages that it is worth a splurge or should you spend your hard earned money on a cheaper inkjet printer instead? Before you make your decision it might be worth your while to look at some of the advantages offered by laser printers.

First of all laser printers are known for their speed. A laser can move very quickly so it can transfer information incredibly quickly to the paper. Rather than just print a section of a page as an inkjet printer does, a laser printer allows you to print an entire page at a time. This makes it much easier to print graphics mixed with text that are designed with a computer program.

Another benefit of using a laser printer is that it is more precise then other types of printers, but especially inkjet and impact style printers. This is because the laser beam transfers the image to be replicated very precisely on to the paper, which saves the spilling of any extra ink.

Another benefit of laser printers is that many of them are very modern and energy efficient. It doesn’t cost as much to keep the machine running. In terms of cost, the use of toner in a laser printer is much cheaper than the ink cartridges that are used in inkjet printers over the long run. This is because expensive ink cartridges can be used up very quickly, especially if you are printing in color.

Yet another convenience when it comes to using laser printers is that they are less messy to deal with this. You can easily refill or replace the toner cartridges that are filled with a fine powder. This fine powder is much easier to clean up then ink that can be spilled everywhere as you attempt to fill the cartridge from an ink jet printer.

In general laser printers can often hold more ink and can go longer without needing any kind of toner cartridge change or paper filling. This means that it is a lot freer and that it can practically serve more people at one time if they are all working together in a small office.

Color laser printers also offer their users more potential for creativity and design then a simple black and white printer. Suddenly it is possible to brand every piece of stationary you have with your own logo or colorful promotional designs. Formerly expensive printing jobs such as the printing of posters, postcards, business cards or invitations can now be simply done in the office instead of being farmed out.

Laser printers also give designers and artist a lot more control over their final product before it is submitted to a printer as the pages that are spewed out of a color laser printer can closely approximate the finished product. This makes the reading, correcting and approval of any final proofs a much simpler and easier job!

Another perk to owning a laser printer is that you can buy them as part of an all-in-one type machine that also includes a copier and fax in one unit. This is a great innovation as it allows you to streamline a couple of major appliances into one appliance. As this one machine now uses the same paper and cartridge for many different uses and functions you also find yourself saving on computer ink and paper as you do not have to buy as many different brands or types of supplies for it as you would for three or four machines. Thankfully these types of laser printers are dropping in price so that they are now not that much more expensive then a quality inkjet printer.