Although laser printers are far more affordable than they once were (there was a time in the not too distant past where a decent laser printer would set you back about the same as a new car), the market for ink based printers in larger than ever. Why is this? You might ask yourself. Well it can’t be denied that cost is still a significant contributing factor but it’s more complicated than that. Inkjet printers might not be able to compete with the definition and clarity of their laser based counterparts when it comes to plain black text, but in the world of colour printing, ink still reigns supreme.
Colour me In
No matter how much you spend on a laser printer, you will never achieve the kind of realistic, textured results you’ll get with a decent colour inkjet printer. For printing photographs there really isn’t any comparison. Colour laser printers have come a long way in the last 10 years granted, but there’s a depth to inkjet printing that just can’t be replicated by laser.
Money Money Money
To put into perspective just how much more expensive laser ‘toner’ cartridges are than standard ink cartridges; it will take an average of £300 to fund an entire colour print cycle of a laser printer and around £70 to fund a print cycle with a colour inkjet printer. Granted the page yields offered by laser printers are far superior but you’re only saving money if you print a lot and on a regular basis. For those who use their printer on only a semi-regular basis, there is really no need to spend the extra money. The printer itself will also be far more affordable, with a range of budget ink printers from reputable manufacturers such as Brother and Lexmark that should cost half as much as laser printers of comparable quality.
Inkjet printers are incredibly versatile and can quite comfortably print on a variety of media including craft paper, printable CD’s and even T-Shirt transfers. Laser printers on the other hand can print only onto standard paper or specifically engineered ‘printer paper’. Certain inkjet printers are also capable of printing to larger formats whereas the majority of laser printers (even expensive models) are restricted to A4 sized paper and smaller.
Ease of Use
A laser printer is a complicated machine with thousands of intricate components, any number of which could go wrong at a moments notice and cause your printer to fail completely. A laser printer will also require a ‘warm-up’ period before it becomes operational and might be prone to overheating (especially if it’s a cheaper model). With an inkjet printer you’re looking at a far more straightforward device that will be ready to use as soon as you boot it up and will be far more convenient to refill. The majority of inkjet printers built in the last 5 years will accept combination ‘CMYK’ cartridges too, whereas laser printers will require 4 separate toner cartridges in order to print in full colour.
Playing Devils Advocate
The major argument FOR laser printers really all comes down to how much and how often you plan on printing. It can be argued that in most office based situations where speed and quantity is more important than quality, laser printers are far better suited to the job. However this isn’t necessarily the case in all commercial situations. In professional print shops for example where quality colour is as vital a component of their day-to-day business as readable text, inkjet printers are still common, though for larger runs (over 100), laser is (admittedly) the superior option.
The choice is really up to you. However, if you genuinely care about your colours, then the choice should at least have been made a lot easier for you. Inkjet printers have been around in the commercial marketplace since the 1970’s and manufacturers have used that experience to make sure their inkjet products are more efficient than ever. With toner cartridges still beyond the price range of most home users and inkjet printers and cartridges getting more affordable by the day, it would appear that (for the time being at least) ink is here to stay.
Jann Webb is a freelance copywriter who has been using the same inkjet printer for almost a decade and it has yet to let him down. She gets all of her supplies from the wonderful people over at http://www.inkcartridges.co.nz