How does the cost of Inkjet printing differ from a laser printer?

Dhaval P October 3, 2013

I want to know the difference between printing costs between printing with an Inkjet and a laser printer.

Please also suggest the better option for color and black and white printing. Also, of the two, which printer prints faster and how much faster?

  1. Susendeep D
    October 31, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Also,have a look at below article to know why one must invest in a good printer so as to save on cartridge costs and get a good quality prints -

  2. Dhaval P
    October 30, 2013 at 6:38 am

    thank you all for you great answer i would like to know more about duplexing. which is the wise paying for printer with auto duplexing or do the manual duplex...?
    Thank you in advance.....

    • Oron J
      October 30, 2013 at 9:08 am

      You'll need to do the calculation yourself, but the basic fact is that it nearly halves your use of paper. On the plus side:
      + it's environmentally sound
      + reduces clutter
      + cuts cost of paper by (nearly) 50%.

      On the down side, paper costs are fairly low compared to other running costs (in the UK, a sheet of paper costs 0.5-1p), so it takes a fair amount of printing to recoup the price of the duplex unit (at least on laser printers, on inkjets, this seems to add very little to the price). To figure out how much you need to print before you recoup the price of the duplexer,
      divide the additional cost of duplexer by 0.5 the cost of a single piece of paper.

      That's your breakeven point. After that, you're saving money. You need to have an idea how much you print per month and how long you will use the printer for. It's OK to make an educated guess, but in that case, make allowances for the fact that you are guessing, and don't try to convince yourself that it will pay for itself if it doesn't. On the other hand, consider the convenience and environmental factors as well!

  3. Oron J
    October 3, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    There are many answers to this, but here's a brief description.
    Laser printers are page printers. This means that they "paint" the page in light on a drum, which then attracts toner (a dry powder) which is subsequently transfered onto the paper and fused onto it with a hot metal roller. In practical terms this means a very even result across the page, and the toner adheres very well to the paper, making it quite resilient. Toner is also relatively cheap, although prices vary vastly between makes and models.
    Laser printers tend to be bigger and heavier than inkjets, and last for much longer (I usually think in terms of 7 years, after which it's usually time to replace either because the printer died or because the technology has moved on substantially). The printers themselves are more expensive than inkjets, but the difference has narrowed down significantly, so unless you needs are very modest, this is less of a consideration.

    Inkjets are similar to older printers (dot matrix, daisy wheel and even typewriters) in that they print a line of dots, the roller then advances the paper a little and they print the next line and so on. There are actually two main types of inkjets - bubblejets (most makes) and piezo-electric inkjets (Epson). Both work by "spitting out" droplets of ink onto paper through microscopic nozzles in the print head. The ink needs to dry very quickly on the paper in order not to soak through. Bubblejets work by heating up the ink to boiling point, so that a bubble is created and forces the ink through the nozzle. The Epson system uses a membrane which is controlled electrically to push the ink. The difference is that the Epson ink does not need to boil and cool down as quickly as in bubblejets, making it easier to formulate inks, but Epson heads are more susceptible to getting clogged with ink...
    Quality wise, Inkjets can produce excellent results, particularly for photos. When it comes to text, results vary. However, the inks are (usually) not durable, the "run" in water, and some inks fade rather quickly (the most modern inks are more fade-proof). For most people, the quality is more than good enough, but for publishers etc, you really need to look at the individual model.

    Another possible issue with inkjets is "banding", which is where the paper is fed slightly unevenly so there's a little gap between "lines" of printing (or there can be overlap). This tends to happen on printers which have been overworked, and this brings us to the next point. Most inkjets are very lightweight and designed for light duty work and for a relatively short lifetime. They often also take only a few pages in their input tray. It's not unusual to see an inkjet used for a couple of years and then discarded, although with careful use they can last much longer.

    The ink cartridges on inkjets are tiny and the ink on is generally very expensive, but again, there are vast differences in price depending on the model (by and large, the cheaper the printer the more expensive the ink). You can buy third party continuous ink systems (CIS) from third parties and they use large ink bottles which are stored externally and connect to cartridges with silicone tubes. The ink on those is incredibly cheap - cheaper than laser toner. Some printer manufacturers are beginning to include similar systems in their models (e.g. the Epson L550), but they are few and far between at the moment.

    What else... most inkjets nowadays have four or five inks (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, and possibly a separate "text black"), but some printers have additional colours for better photographic results, or a varnish for glossy print etc. The best inkjet photo printers produce better full colour images than lasers, but then again, there are some excellent colour laser printers...

    To the extent that a short recommendation can go, I'd say this: ignoring the printer's size and electrical consumption, lasers are better for text, and give a more predicatable result in both B/W and colour printing. Inkjets are better if you want a smaller/lighter printer and/or print very little (say, up to 50 pages a month). The more you print, the more significant running costs are in the equation so have an honest conversation with yourself, decide what your needs are, and then look at your options.

    • Alexis C
      October 6, 2013 at 9:01 pm

      best answer ever!

    • Michael F
      October 6, 2013 at 9:54 pm

      Great response and detail! A few things I might add:

      - If you print very infrequently, an ink jet printer may wind up costing you a LOT more, as the cartridges have the potential to dry out from sitting. Laser, on the other hand, can sit for months and generally be good-to-go. Some Ink Jets, especially Epson, will go into a self-cleaning routine after an extended period of disuse which will consume ink as well.

      - Color lasers have come a long way in photo printing, but there's no way around it: unless you're splurging on really high end equipment most ink jets will do better with photographs. Though, you always have the option of getting your photos printed at a photo shop (the same places you used to go to get film developed - remember film???)

      - Don't let the sticker shock of a laser toner cartridge scare you off - they're more expensive for the cartridge but a lower cost *per page* (generally speaking)

      - Print time varies wildly depending on what you're printing and the model printer. These days I don't think either has much of an edge over the other.

      - Finally, no matter what you're looking at, don't get the cheapest one out there. It pays to step up just a little to the mid-range of printers. They're generally less expensive to run, will have a few more features you'll appreciate, and are built better.

    • Oron J
      October 7, 2013 at 9:53 am

      Michael, thanks for adding your excellent points, which reminded me of a couple more issues...

      - Many modern printers use "chipped" cartridges to prevent you from using non-original consumables. or refilled ones. There are ways of getting around this, but they are fiddly, and usually not for the faint hearted!
      - HP, and possibly other manufacturers, also use the chip to check the AGE of the cartridge, so you may find yourself unable to use your inkjet printer if your colour ink has been in it for more than six months (yes, even if you haven't used it and only want to print in b/w). For toner, the "expiry age" is set to two years. Understandably, this "feature" is particularly annoying for those who print very little.
      - For comparative purposes, you can check out, who have figures on running costs for most printers.

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