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Duke Kimball, PrintSmart Specialist

Inkjet vs Laser: what type of printer is best for your office?


The humble printer is the unseen hero of your office. Always there when you need it, out of sight and out of mind until you do. In fact, the only times you really think about your printer are when you’re buying it or when you need to replenish the ink. Or toner.

Which actually brings us to one of the most common questions I get as a managed print professional: what’s the difference between ink and toner? And, perhaps more importantly, what’s better – inkjet or laser printers?

The answer, of course, is “that it depends! We wanted to break down the pros and cons of the inkjet vs laser debate so that it’s easy to make an educated decision about which printer is right for your office.


What are the differences between inkjet and laser printers, anyway?

Both put pigment down on paper, right? So what’s the difference?

Inkjet printers, as their name implies, use cartridges filled with liquid ink. They use tiny nozzles to spray droplets of pigment across the page in controlled bursts. The ink is water-based, with dye and other additives which vary between manufacturers.

Laser printers do not use liquid ink. Instead, they use cartridges of toner. Toner is a dry product, made primarily of ground plastic. The polyester compounds within the toner cartridge hold a static charge, and that toner is imprinted on a rotating metal drum. Paper passes through a laser printer and is also charged, so that when the paper passes over the drum the toner sticks to the paper in the exact patterns designated by the printer. From there, a fuser applies heat to melt the toner into place on the paper.

Two separate processes: the same result. So why choose one over the other?

Well, it depends on how you plan to use it.

When to buy an inkjet printer

Here’s the thing about inkjet printers: they usually come with a low sticker price. When you scout big box stores looking for those doorbuster deals on printers and you find an all-in-one model for less than $100? More than likely you’re looking at an inkjet.

Inkjet printers are great for home use, or for an office capacity where there is extremely low print volume. But printer ink cartridges have a smaller page yield than toner cartridges, which means you have to replace them more often for the same number of pages you print. That short-term savings you just picked up on the printer itself may be quickly eaten up by the higher cost of printer ink in the long-term.

Inkjet printers are known for having rich, deep color perfect for photos and detailed images. This, of course, is offset by the slow print speeds required to perform such exacting jobs.

In short, an inkjet printer may be the right call if your office:

  • Prints relatively low volumes of print jobs per month
  • Needs a printing option with low initial cost
  • Is happy with low print speed
  • Needs the occasional photo quality print job


When To Buy A Laser Printer

Laser printers, in contrast to inkjets, are usually a little more of an initial cost investment. Because the mechanisms for using toner are slightly more complex than a simple ink delivery system, the hardware costs for laser printers are a bit more to budget for. So why pay more for a laser printer?

Because of the long-term cost of ownership. Because toner cartridges have a higher page yield, you don’t have to replace them nearly as often, which means that laser printers are much more efficient than inkjets devices. Which means that the more pages you print, the more money you save with using toner rather than liquid ink.

This means laser devices are ideal for offices with:

  • Medium to high volume paper output
  • A need for faster print speeds
  • Mostly black and white print environments
  • An eye on long-term cost savings


How To Determine Your Printer Needs

In order to make an informed decision about which type of printer you should buy, there are a few things you need to consider.=

First, you need to know your budget & your parameters for the hardware itself. How much do you have to spend as an initial investment? What type of functions do you need your printer to fulfill? Do you need scanning and copying? How about fax? These factors all influence the functionality of your print solution, as well as impact the bottom line.

Second, you need to know how much your organization tends to print. If you produce 50 prints per month, your best solution is going to me much different than an office that produces 10,000 pages worth of print jobs every month.

Third, come to terms with your actual need for color vs. black and white prints. Color ink/toner is expensive. Do you have criteria set around how many color pages your organization should produce over a given month?

The difficulty in answering these questions? Most organizations do not keep track of this data. They don’t monitor their current usage, or consider the most efficient way to organize their print environment to make the most of their printer budget.

Consider A Managed Option

Relying on a professional to manage your printers may help you maximize your overall efficiency.

At Applied Innovation, we take the time to conduct a thorough print study of our client’s entire range of printers. Not only can this information help you select the most efficient printers for any given application, a managed print program can help you continually manage your devices to extend their life and give you the best overall bang for your buck.

If you’re considering making some sweeping changes to your print fleet, reach out! We’d be happy to guide you through your print assessment, free of charge, to see if you would be a good fit for our PrintSmart program.


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