Inkjet Printers Suck

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers

For most consumers, purchasing a printer represents an investment in a piece of technology that should be dependable, reliable, and capable of handling their needs. There are a few different types of printer available today which incorporate a variety of technological solutions to print accurately and dependably. Two of the most widely available types of printer include laser printers and inkjet printers. While both types of printer will ultimately suit a variety of printing needs, there are several factors a consumer should consider before deciding on which type to buy.

What's Inside: Laser vs. Inkjet Technology

Laser and inkjet printers use different technologies to accomplish the same general goal: accurate, reliable printing. Inkjet printers use an extremely small nozzle to spray droplets of liquid ink directly onto a piece of paper. The printer uses either a single inkjet cartridge (for black-and-white prints) or a series of cartridges, each with a different color ink (for a color print). The printer determines the location for each cartridge to spray a specific amount of ink, which dries as the rest of the document is printed. Laser printers use an entirely different method of operation. In a laser printer, a laser is shined onto a photosensitive drum coated with powder toner. If toner on the drum is struck by the laser, it becomes heated and can be transferred onto a piece of paper. In essence, the laser “draws” each line of what is being printed onto the drum, which rotates and transfers that particular line onto a piece of paper. This process occurs rapidly, and although it may seem more complex than an inkjet printer, laser printers actually print most documents much quicker than inkjet printers.

Print Quality

Any customer who is deciding between a laser printer and inkjet printer will certainly encounter a fierce debate regarding the varied print quality between the two technologies. Generally speaking, most people believe that laser printers are better for text documents and black-and-white printing, while inkjet printers offer a better experience when printing color images. This conventional wisdom is partially rooted in truth: laser printers regularly demonstrate a strength when printing text documents, and inkjet printers reign supreme when printing photos. However, printing technology has advanced considerably, and the old-school conventional wisdom is beginning to unravel. Today’s laser printers, in addition to printing crisper, clearer text when compared to inkjet printers, are capable of producing detailed, visually appealing color images.

What About Photos?

The printing of clear, professional photos is an area where inkjet printers continue to outperform laser printers. When considering which type of printer to buy, many consumers have been swayed to purchase an inkjet printer because they would like to print photos at home on professional photo stock. For years, this strength of inkjet printers has led consumers to tolerate subpar text printing and expensive ink purchases (photos use a lot of ink). However, in recent years it has become cheaper and cheaper to have photos printed by third-party services. Online services exist where photos can be uploaded and are mailed directly to the customer. It is even possible to upload photos to a local drugstore or big-box establishment from the comfort of home and have them ready by the time you arrive at the store. This increased ease of access to professional, high quality photo printing has begun to drive the inkjet printer towards obsolescence as many customers opt to use low-hassle photo printing services rather than keeping an inkjet printer for occasional photo prints.

Reliability and Cost

It’s time to address the elephant in the room: the cost of laser printers vs. inkjet printers. Customers may balk at the relative expense of a laser printer when compared to an inkjet printer. It’s easy to see why, inkjet printers are dirt-cheap and the more budget-friendly models can be purchased easily without worrying about breaking the bank. Laser printers on the other hand, can represent a significant investment for the average consumer. Why are the costs so different? Why would someone ever choose a laser printer when inkjet printers are so cheap and readily available? The answer to these questions are the same: cost of operation and reliability. Any consumer researching which printer meets their needs would be wise to investigate the costs of ink or toner for each type of printer. This is where the long-term costs of inkjet and laser printer begin to become clear. Inkjet printer cartridges are much more expensive than laser toner cartridges. This becomes much more apparent when one considers the longevity of toner vs. inkjet cartridges. Generally speaking, toner cartridges for laser printers will be able to print a greater number of documents than an inkjet printer before the ink or toner must be refilled. For customers who purchase an inkjet printer, they may have made a very low up-front investment, but the cost of ink (and possibly photo paper) stacks up over time. Toner for laser printers is cheap, and the long-term costs of operating a laser printer are much lower than the costs of operating an inkjet printer. Another area worth examining is the reliability between inkjet and laser printers. Manufacturers of inkjet printers (the same companies that produce the ink for their printers) are incentivized to keep the cost of the printers very low, this encourages more customers to buy inkjet printers and spend more money on ink. However, to keep the costs of printers low, inkjet printers are often manufactured with cheap components that are not as reliable as what can be found in more expensive printers. In addition, despite the expense of the ink cartridges, many customers face problems such as clogging or drying if the printer is not used for a lengthy period. Laser printers, which don’t use liquid ink that dries upon contact with air, are not prone to these issues. They are also generally built with higher quality. Overall, this means that laser printers tend be more reliable, and produce consistent, high-quality prints.

Which to Choose?

There are compelling arguments for both inkjet printers and laser printers. Inkjet printers bring better color and photo printing compared to their laser counterparts, and for a lower up-front cost. Laser printers, while being more expensive to purchase initially, have lower operating costs overall, produce better text documents, and technology has advanced to the point where laser printers can hold their own when printing color images. Overall, in terms of value, laser printers are superior to inkjet printers for the average consumer. This is especially true today, as the most prominent strength of inkjet printers, photo printing, has become much less relevant in an age of low-cost and easy to access photo printing services. Customers who are deciding on which type of printer to buy should strongly consider paying the higher up-front costs of a laser printer. While the initial investment may be higher, a customer is ensured that they will receive a consistent, high-quality printer that is cheap to operate.