- Articles & News
- For IT Pros
- Your Opinion
Comparisons between laser and inkjet technologies invariably mention advantages in terms of speed and cost per page with laser and higher quality with inkjet. But the reality is quite different, so it's important to take a closer look in order to distinguish the specific characteristics of each technology - and dispel some common myths.
When it comes to printing complex color documents like photos or graphs with a high rate of coverage, lasers printers are significantly faster. That's because the complexity of the document makes little difference in calculating printing time - the work done by the laser beam inside the printer is about the same. With inkjets, on the other hand, performance depends a lot on the rate of coverage of the page to be printed. Speed can vary from 20 ppm for text in draft quality - faster than most entry-level and midrange lasers - to several minutes for one page when printing a photo. Color laser printers have the advantage of more or less constant performance. The figures we measured were closer to the manufacturers' claims than is the case for inkjet models.
This is another preconception that's hard to kill. Though it was still quite true a few years ago, the development of inkjets with separate tanks, by Canon, Epson, and HP among others, brought printing costs down significantly. A page of text printed on an inkjet costs between one and five cents depending on the model, which is equivalent to what a laser offers. That's because even though the capacity of laser toner cartridges is much larger, their cost is a lot higher as well. More or less the same is also true for color printing, and ultimately there's not a lot of difference in cost per page between the two technologies, even if it varies greatly from one model to the next.
It's true that inkjet printers boast better quality when printing photographs, but this is because they use ink that's better suited to photos, and especially because they can use coated paper, which produces "photo quality" results. Laser models have made progress, though, and can now put out text and color graphics that are almost identical to the quality of inkjets - at least on plain paper.
Even though laser printers have more moving parts, and therefore can be more prone to breakdowns, inkjet models wear out more quickly - especially the printing heads - and the quality of their output can decrease over time. On a laser, it's much simpler (though much more expensive) to replace certain parts, such as the drum or fuser, and restore the printer to its original performance.
It's no contest in this department. Despite some progress on certain models that really have slimmed down, the lightest laser printers still weigh around 40 pounds, compared to less than 11 pounds for some inkjets.
We focused our tests on performance and quality: