Inkjet vs. Laser: Which Printer Is Right for You? (2023)

Submitted by Joel Metzler on Fri, 03/17/2023 - 16:00
An epson inkjet printer next to a Xerox laser printer

What is the difference between an inkjet and a laser printer, and which one would be right for you? 

Those are the two major questions we will answer in this blog. Because to get the right printer in place for your printing needs, you first need to educate yourself about your options. 

There are clear, significant, differences between inkjet and laser printers, and it’s crucial that you know about them before purchasing so you’re not stuck with a machine that is ill-equipped for your situation. 

We’ve been a local print vendor for over 35 years and have received plenty of inquiries over this very question we will answer today. 

That expertise is what we will lean on to formulate a blog of all the information you need to know about laser and inkjet printers, so by the time you’re ready to purchase, you know exactly which type of machine you need. 

Let’s begin with the basics: What is an inkjet printer? 

What Is an Inkjet Printer? 

Inkjet printers are small, usually cheaper machines that spray liquid ink onto paper and dry naturally. Inkjet printer ink is usually made up of a mix of carbon pigments and drying agents, as well as other components that help the ink bind to printer paper.  

This is the opposite of how laser printers work; laser printers use heat to melt toner powder on paper to create a print.   

Inkjet printers are primarily built as a personal printing solution and can be thought of as your typical home printer. 

There are different types of inkjet printers, but besides the traditional style of printer, photo inkjet printers are a common choice among consumers that need to print high-quality images, since photo inkjet printers are typically proficient at printing photos or images.  

Inkjet printers come with their share of pros and cons, and it’s important that you learn some of them in detail before we move on to laser printers: 

2 Pros of Inkjet Printers 

Here are two primary pros to inkjet printers: 

  1. More Affordable Short-Term Cost 

The clear advantage that inkjet printers have over laser printers is they are a much more affordable upfront option for consumers.  

This is precisely why they are an attractive option for people who need a basic printer. Examples of inkjet printers and their prices include:  

Inkjet printers can be commonly found at large retail stores like Staples, Walmart or Best Buy and are more readily available than laser printers. 

The HP DeskJet 3755 inkjet printer, courtesy of HP: 

HP Deskjet 3755 Wireless All-in-One Printer - HP Store Canada

  1. Easy to Move  

Another advantage to being cheap and small is inkjet printers have a size versatility that laser printers do not have. 

That means inkjet printers can more adequately fit into compacted workspaces, which aligns with their purpose of serving as a home or personal printer. 

For example, the HP DeskJet 3755 listed in the example above has base model dimensions of 15.86” x 6.97” x 5.55” and weighs only five pounds.  

2 Cons of Inkjet Printers 

Now that you’ve seen the good, let’s go over the bad when it comes to inkjet printers: 

  1. Can Be Costly to Maintain 

The price of an inkjet printer is its greatest positive and simultaneously its biggest downfall. 

While inkjet printers don’t cost much upfront, the cost to maintain an inkjet printer can quickly add up for a few reasons: 

  • One, inkjet printers typically have a high cost-per-page, which is how much you pay per print/copy based on how many pages your toner (or ink) cartridge produces before running out and depends on how much ink is put on the page (more on this later). 

  • Secondly, an inkjet printer usually runs out of ink quicker than a laser printer runs out of toner. Ink for inkjet printers can cost anywhere from $20 to $120, depending on the brand of ink and how much ink is contained in the package. This is cheaper on average than toner cartridges, which range in price from $60 to $400. Although it’s cheaper to buy ink than toner, some ink cartridges only last 400 pages before they run out, while one toner cartridge can last up to 7,000 pages or more. So, while toner is more expensive than ink upfront, buying ink cartridges will likely cost you more in the long run if you regularly use your printer because you will have to buy new supplies more frequently. 

  • Third, if your inkjet printer needs service and you’re not under a maintenance contract, you would have to outsource service work for the machine, which can be difficult to find because many technicians don’t work on inkjet printers. You will likely have to replace the machine altogether if your printer has any kind of service issue.   

These three reasons are primarily why inkjet printers are usually recommended as an option only for personal use or for printing high-quality photos. The cost to maintain an inkjet printer can add up quickly if you use it on a daily basis. 

  1. Shorter Lifespan 

Another notable downside to inkjet printers is they typically won’t last more than three years if they are used at a normal volume. 

Inkjet printers are not built to last as long as laser printers are, which means they are built for the short term and shouldn’t be relied on as a permanent printing solution for an office setting. 

Is an Inkjet Printer Right for You? 

If you’re in the market for a personal printer to use on an as-needed basis or need to print high-quality color photographs, then you are an ideal candidate for an inkjet printer. 

If you don’t meet the above criteria, then you will likely not be a fit for an inkjet printer and would need to look at a laser printing option. 

What exactly is a laser printer, though? And what are their pros and cons? 

The pros and cons of inkjet and laser printers, courtesy of LD Products

What Is a Laser Printer? 

Laser printers are the bigger, more durable machines that you can think of as the “traditional office printer.” 

LaserJet printers use electrical currents to attract toner “dust” to a piece of paper and then fuse that toner to the paper with heat. When it comes to the supplies each machine takes, you can think of laser and inkjet printers like this: 

 Laser printers = Toner 

 Inkjet printers = Ink. 

Because laser printers are manufactured to serve office settings, they typically print at a higher volume and faster speeds than inkjet printers. 

So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of buying a laser printer? Let’s break those down in more detail: 

2 Pros of Laser Printers  

Let’s first take a look at the main pros of purchasing a laser printer: 

  1. Built as a Permanent Printing Solution 

The chief advantage to purchasing a laser printer is they are machines that can serve your office for the long haul, usually five or more years depending on your volume and the type of printer you purchased.  

It’s why they are the option of choice for companies that need to print or copy documents as a part of their daily operations; they will last a long time as long as you follow your machine’s recommended monthly print volume. 

Read our blog on the importance of recommended monthly print volume to learn more.   

  1. Faster and Higher Quality Prints 

Another major advantage of laser printers is they print much faster and produce higher-quality prints than inkjet printers do.  

For example, the Xerox VersaLink B405, a laser printer, prints at speeds of up to 47 pages per minute (ppm), while the HP DeskJet 3755, an inkjet printer, only prints up to 8 ppm. 

And while inkjet printers are the better option for printing photographs, any type of print with text included in it will almost always be better quality on a laser printer.  

Furthermore, inkjet printers can sometimes smear ink on a print and ink generally takes longer to dry than a print from a laser printer because a laser printer doesn't require any drying time. 

And if you don’t use the ink cartridges you bought regularly, they could end up drying out, which means they couldn’t be used anymore and you would have to go buy new ink.  

2 Cons of Laser Printers 

Now that we’ve gone over the pros, let’s now dive into the main cons of laser printers:  

  1. More Expensive Short-Term Cost 

Because of their capacity for a higher volume and their ability to print at faster speeds, laser printers can be significantly more expensive upfront than inkjet printers will be. Examples of laser printers with their prices include: 

While laser printers are more expensive up front, they typically cost less to maintain in the long run because they are built for a higher volume and don’t require as many new supplies as inkjet printers do. 

Because laser printers can run upwards of $1,000, many businesses opt to lease their machine rather than purchase it outright to offset some of the short-term cost of buying a new printer.  

Read our blog on leasing vs. purchasing a printer to learn more about the two options.  

Xerox VersaLink B405, courtesy of Xerox: 

The Ricoh IM C3000 laser printer, courtesy of Ricoh: 

IM C3000 Color Laser Multifunction Printer | Ricoh USA

  1. They Are Large Machines 

Another downside to laser printers is they can be much bigger than inkjet printers and require you to have the requisite space necessary to accommodate the machine.  

This is not always the case, as laser printers can also be smaller, desktop machines, like the Xerox VersaLink C405 pictured above.  

But more advanced all-in-one printers, like the Xerox AltaLink C8170, which has base dimensions of 24.4” x 31.2” x 46” and weighs 352 pounds, can be more difficult to fit into crowded office areas. 

A printer’s space and electrical requirements are essential factors to consider before purchasing a machine to ensure that you don’t purchase one that cannot reasonably fit into your workspace. 

Inkjet Printer vs. Laser: Is a Laser Printer Right for You? 

So, If you’re a company that needs an office printer to efficiently print/copy documents for the long run, then a laser printer would be the right fit for you.  

While this won’t always be the case, think of inkjet and laser printers like this:  

Inkjet = Personal printers 

Laser = Office printers. 

Which Printer Brand Should You Buy From? 

Inkjet and laser printers make up the two most common types of printers you will find on the market. 

Inkjet printers are primarily for personal use or printing photo-quality prints and laser printers are fit for an office setting and should be the type of machine you go with if you print or copy documents regularly. 

Now that you’ve considered laser printers vs. inkjet printers, and you've learned the differences between the two, you have likely figured out which type of machine you should go with. But which brand of printer should you buy? 

There are many options available and choosing the printer you want and who to purchase it from is key to getting the right machine in place for your company.   

Read our blog on the top five printer brands to get a sense of what brand you might want when you’re ready to buy a new machine.