Whether you run a small home business or a multi-national corporation, your printer has become an essential piece of office equipment. The question, however, is which one is best? The war between inkjet and laser printers has been going on since the mid-70s, when IBM produced the first commercially available laser printer (IBM Model 3800). Laser printers were better at quickly printing off large runs of text-based documents while inkjet printers excelled at producing good quality colour images.
However, in the last decade, this gap has been bridged. Inkjet printers are now capable of printing at speeds near those of laser printers, such as the Epson Workforce WF 3010 DW ink printer, and laser printers have entered the wonderful world of colour printing, such as the HP Color LaserJet CM 1015 MFP toner printer. Laser printers are also now no longer the massive space-wasting behemoths of the past and some can easily fit on the average office desk.
So which one should you choose? While there is no right or wrong answer, we’ve devised some pros and cons to help you make a decision.
While some inkjet printers will cost you relatively little to buy, the ink cartridges could cost you more than twice the original cost of the printer to buy on a yearly basis. This is not to say that there are not alternatives to expensive original ink cartridges. Laser printers, on the other hand, can be quite pricey to start with, but their toner cartridges do last a little longer and you can get more pages printed per toner cartridge than with a normal ink cartridge.
The best thing to do would be to work out the cost per page of each type of printer before you make a decision based purely on the price of consumables and the printer. To do this for a monochrome (black and white) printer, take the price of the cartridge and divide it by the given page yield. For example, our compatible HP 940XL black ink cartridge costs R259.95 and gives a page yield of 2200. This equates to a cost per page of 8.4 cents.
For colour, you’ll need to work out the cost per page for each colour (cyan, magenta and yellow) and add them together. Add that total to the cost per page for the black cartridge to get the final cost per page for a colour page.
Laser printers have always been known for their printing speed, with some high end printers printing up to 100 pages per minute (ppm) and the average hovering around 20-30 ppm. Inkjet printers, meanwhile, were always slower when it came to printing large volumes of documents. The differences between the printing speeds has been largely reduced. Most modern multi-function inkjet printers can print an average of 13-15 ppm.
When it came to quality, it all depended on what you wanted to do. Did you want clear, crisp text? Then the laser printer was the best for you. Professional quality, high resolution images? Use an inkjet. These days, however, the distinction is a bit harder to see. While laser printers remain the best choice for text printing, inkjet technology has come a long way towards printing better words. And while laser printers still have some difficulty mixing colours properly beyond the ordinary pie-chart, the higher end laser printers do a fairly decent job of it.
The best rule of thumb, though, is if you want to print graphics-heavy documents with a touch of professional polish, then get an inkjet. If your primary goal is to print many text-based documents, then use a laser printer.
Inkjets are famous for being able to print on many paper types and mediums, from glossy photo paper to iron-on transfers while laser printers cannot print on anything heat sensitive. What you buy again depends entirely on what it is you want the printer to do.
Over and above what you can print on, is whether your printer can be accessed remotely. Most inkjet and laser printer models are available with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or network connectivity, which will allow more than one user to access the printer. Laser printers, due to their higher printing speeds, are generally accepted as the better option as a multi-user printer.
Then there is always the question of whether or not you want your printer to be more than just a printer. With the wide range of multi-function printers (MFP) available, the days when you needed a separate printer, scanner, copier and fax machine are long gone.
Ultimately, it all depends on what you want your printer to do and how much you’re willing to spend on both the printer and the printer cartridges. Once you’ve worked that out, the rest should be relatively simple. Our advice is to shop around for which printer suits your budget and find out if you can get high quality compatible printer cartridges for your printer.