You need to invest in a new printer for your home office, and you are stuck at a crossroads: Should you buy an inkjet printer or a laser printer? While both have their merits and drawbacks, each is more suitable for certain applications than others. Determining which one best meets your home office needs can be difficult simply because there are so many factors to take into consideration.
Should you go laser or inkjet? Let’s learn more about what sets these devices apart from one another and examine the positives and negatives of each. By the end of this article, you’ll be armed with the information you need to make an informed decision.
Inkjet vs. Laser Printers
The primary difference between an inkjet printer and a laser printer is that an inkjet model prints using ink cartridges, while a laser printer uses toner. Inkjet is best suited to lower-volume printing, making it ideal for many home users. Laser printers are ideal for high-volume printing, and they are most often used in office settings.
Inkjet printers work by spraying ink onto paper (or another medium) in tiny dots. These dots are so small that you are unable to see them. Different types of inkjet printers spray the dots in different manners, but the end results are similar. If you use low-quality paper, it may absorb too much of the ink, and it can also cause the ink to feather out and create a blurry appearance.
Laser printers print using an electronically charged powder called toner. The toner fuses to paper fibers during the printing process. Getting the toner on the paper, however, is a bit more complicated than spraying ink.
The printer drum looks like a large rolling pin. Using an electric charge, a laser draws an image on this drum, which is then coated in toner. The toner only sticks to the charged, drawn-on image. When the paper passes under the drum, the image is transferred to it.
Finally, the paper goes through heated rollers known as “fusers.” These rollers fuse the toner to the paper fibers. Unlike ink, the toner needs no time to dry, and there is no risk of smudging or blurriness.
Depending on how you use your home office, either one could be right for you. Countless people find that inkjet printers are perfectly suited to their needs, while others prefer using laser models. Determining which one is right for you means assessing the pros and cons of each and deciding which features are most important to you.
Inkjet Printer Pros
Since inkjet printers are the most common option for home use, let’s start by taking a closer look at what makes them a good choice. Their low start-up cost makes them appealing to make home users. There are several decent inkjet printers priced at least than $100.
Whether you need a basic printer for printing out documents or you want one to scan, print photos or perform a number of other tasks, you can easily find one that will suit your needs without breaking your budget. Inkjet cartridges are also considerably more affordable than toner cartridges.
Ink cartridges are quick and easy to change. Replacing one takes just a few seconds, allowing you to quickly get back to work. Original brand cartridges and affordable remanufactured cartridges are widely available from countless online and brick-and-mortar retailers.
Inkjet printers provide a great deal of versatility. In addition to coming in models to suit virtually any need, they can be used to print on various mediums. In addition to regular paper, you can use glossy photo paper, sticker paper, textured stationery, iron-on decals, certain fabrics and more. They require very minimal warm-up time, so they are a fast way to get to work printing whatever you need.
If you need to print photos or a lot of image-heavy documents, an inkjet printer will provide you with the smooth, accurate colors you need. Unlike laser printers, virtually all inkjet models are capable of printing in color (more on that later).
Though they come in a wide range of styles, the average inkjet printer is smaller, weighs less, and is easier to maintain than an inkjet printer. They are easy to set up and most modern models have features that make operation simple even for inexperienced users.
Inkjet Printer Cons
Inkjet printers do have a few drawbacks as well. The ink used in inkjet cartridges consists mostly of water. While this often is not a problem, it does mean that prints are susceptible to fading and water damage.
The inkjet cartridges need to be cleaned frequently to ensure proper function. Most printers perform this basic maintenance task automatically, or they have an option that allows you to easily do it yourself. Unfortunately, the process wastes a considerable amount of ink. Even with regular cleaning, some inkjet printers output fuzzy, gray text when printing on plain office paper. If you are printing out important documents, this could be a serious problem.
While inkjet printers are getting faster, they are slow when compared to laser printers. Even top-of-the-line inkjet models simply can’t keep up, which makes high-volume printing a problem. Adding to the issue, inkjet printers intended for home office use have paper trays that only hold about 50 to 100 sheets of paper. Their output trays are also extremely small, so if you do a lot of printing, be prepared to experience some frustration.
Laser Printer Pros
Now let’s talk about laser printers. One of their primary benefits is their speed. They work much faster than inkjet models, and if you print frequently, it could save you a lot of time.
The average inkjet printer outputs around 16 pages per minute, while a laser printer can spit out anywhere from 15 to 100 pages per minute, depending on the model you choose. If you only print a few pages at a time, though, the increased speed may not be a huge benefit.
If you need to print a lot of text and you need it to look amazing, a laser printer will provide the quality you need. They produce perfectly sharp black text, and they’re capable of printing fine lines and small fonts much better than their inkjet counterparts.
Typically intended for business use, these printing machines have larger paper trays and output trays. This makes them more convenient for high-volume printing needs. You can print several pages at once without needing to worry about adding more paper or not having enough space on the output tray. In short, they are much better for handling high-volume print jobs.
While inkjet printers are more affordable upfront, laser printers are often more cost-effective over time for people who print a lot of documents that are not graphically complex. Toner cartridges come with a higher price tag than ink cartridges, but they yield many more pages. They are also much less wasteful, meaning more of your investment makes it on to the page, rather than being wasted for cleaning.
Laser Printer Cons
Now for the drawbacks. While it’s true that laser printers work fast, they do take a while to warm up. If you need something in a hurry, you may find yourself getting frustrated if the printer isn’t already up and running.
Many consumer-grade laser printers are only capable of printing in monochrome. While even the most basic inkjet printer offers full-color printing, laser printers that are capable of printing in color are much more expensive than black-and-white-only models. If you do have a color model, don’t expect it to output the smooth photographs or graphics you can create using an inkjet printer. The technology for smooth color blending just isn’t there.
Laser printers also offer less versatility in terms of what types of paper you can print on. They do not work with anything that is heat-sensitive.
Toner leaks are an absolute nightmare. They cause messes that are extremely difficult to clean up, so that is something you should definitely consider before committing to using one in your home. You will also need to think about the amount of space you have in your home before purchasing a laser printer. While there are a few compact models on the market, most have a much larger footprint and weigh considerably more than their inkjet counterparts.
Which Printer Best Suits Your Needs?
Clearly, both inkjet and laser printers have plenty of positives and negatives. To choose the one that is best suited to your home office, you need to carefully evaluate how you plan to use your new device.
If you are looking for a home office printer that will see little usage, an inkjet printer may seem like the most logical choice. A common complaint among infrequent printer users, however, is that the ink dries up when the printer isn’t used often. If you are needing to replace your cartridges every time you need to print something, is a basic inkjet printer really an affordable option? Toner does not dry up, and if you can afford it, a basic laser printer may be an excellent choice for your infrequent printing needs.
Do you need to print a small number of documents on a regular basis? Or, do you plan on printing photos or image-heavy documents? If so, go with an inkjet printer. If, however, you need to print large quantities frequently, a laser printer is likely your best bet. Just remember that you will be limited in terms of quality if you need to print full-color images.
Final Thoughts: Inkjet or Laser?
Major brands like HP and Epson all offer high-quality inkjet and laser printers that are well-suited to home office use. Thinking about exactly how you plan to use your new device is the most important step in determining which one is best suited to your needs.
Think about how you plan to use your printer a few months from now, too. If, for example, you are just getting started on a home-based business, think about what your printing needs may be once your company is up and running. While you may only need to print a few pages here and there now, will you need to print more as your business grows? If so, you may want to go ahead and invest in a laser printer now to avoid having to upgrade soon.
Consider your budget now and over the life of your printer. If funds are limited and you need a printer that can do a lot for a little money, an inkjet printer is the way to go. Replacing inkjet cartridges will also be less of a hardship if you are working on a limited budget.
If you have a bit more money to spend, though, a laser printer could turn out to be the more affordable option in the long run. Laser printers cost more upfront, but they typically last longer than their inkjet counterparts. And while toner cartridges are expensive, they need to be replaced much less frequently than ink cartridges. They have a higher page yield, and they do not dry out or need to be cleaned regularly.
When shopping for a new printer, take some time to compare various models of both inkjet and laser printers from several brands. Shopping around will help you find the best deal on a printer that meets all of your needs.