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Inkjet Printers vs Laser Printers: What's the Difference?

Overview

Learn the major differences between an inkjet printer and a laser printer. Ultimately, both printers can accomplish similar end results, however there are a few key differences that set the two apart. 

An inkjet printer uses water-based ink to display data on paper through the process of applying small droplets of ink directly to the paper. A laser printer uses a laser (and heat) to create an image on a page and powdered toner is then applied to the paper once the laser charges and applies heat.

Laser printers started out relatively bulky in size and very expensive when compared to inkjet printers. However, in recent years the bulky size and price of laser printers has been reduced.

Printer Comparison

What is an inkjet printer?

Inkjet printers are machines that spray microscopic droplets of ink onto paper. Inkjet printers are generally cheaper, smaller, and can be used to print both text documents and high quality colored images, especially photos. BUT be wary of cheap inkjet printers as those will end up costing you a fortune later on.

What is a laser printer?

Laser printers are machines that melt toner powder onto paper to create a print. Laser printers are more expensive than inkjet printers upfront and uses pricier toner cartridges but is still a more economical option in the long run with its overall lower cost per page, faster print speeds.

Let’s take a closer look at the strengths and weaknesses of laser and inkjet printers so you can make your next purchase with confidence.

What is a monochrome printer?

A monochrome printer is a printer that prints in only black and white. Monochrome printers only requires a black printer cartridge to print.

What is a photo inkjet printer?

If you need to produce vivid and detailed photos using true colors and deep blacks a photo inkjet printer is recommended. Photo inkjet printers commonly use pigment-based ink which are fade-resistant however some printers use dye-based instead. A variety of paper can be used with photo inkjet printers.

Which printer is best for printing colors?

A color laser printer and a photo inkjet printer will both provide similar results, however an inkjet printer carries more detail into its prints. If you are looking for professional quality printing, use a photo inkjet printer. If your images don't require precise color range and depth, a color laser printer can be used and will be able to provide average color quality. Keep in mind, the photo inkjet cartridge will dry out overtime as it uses ink, while the color laser printer toner cartridge will last longer because it uses powder. Laser toner cartridges also print more pages than inkjet cartridges.

What Will You Use The Printer For?

Finding a printer that suits your needs is going to primarily depend on how often you print and how much you print at a given time. Home users are typically advised to use an inkjet printer when printer usage is moderate to light. However the biggest disadvantage to using an inkjet printer is the ink will dry up if not used often and the ink cartridge will need to be replaced. 

A laser printer uses powder is instead of ink, which will not dry out. Laser printers are known to be more durable and can print large quantities of monochrome and colored documents frequently. Laser printers were originally built for office use, though they are now growing in popularity as a home printer as the printing costs are slightly cheaper for those printing in large volumes. While laser printers generally have higher startup costs, the printer supplies are generally cheaper than inkjet printers. Laser printers can typically print a page for roughly 3-6 cents cheaper than an inkjet printer.

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