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The Differences Between Laser and Inkjet Printers

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012 by | Filed Under: Printing Help, Uncategorized

Anyone looking to buy a new printer for his or her home or business is faced with two main options: laser or inkjet. Although in the past, laser printers were much too costly to serve as home printers, prices have started to fall, making both inkjet and laser printers a viable option for all computer users. Before deciding between a laser and an inkjet printer, it is important to understand the differences between the two technologies and how they will affect your printing and your bottom line.

Printing Mechanism

The main difference between laser and inkjet printers is the mechanism used to get the images and text on the paper. Inkjet printers spray ink onto the paper to reproduce text and images whereas laser printers use a more complicated method. A laser printer produces a backward image of the page to be printed on a cylinder using a laser. The laser leaves behind a slight electrical charge on the cylinder or drum wherever it hits. The cylinder is then exposed to toner, which is attracted to the electrical charge. As the paper passes through the printer it receives a small charge, which attracts the toner from the cylinder. Once the toner is on the paper, the paper passes through a roller that heats the toner and melts it onto the paper.

Print Quality

Print quality is one of the major differences users will notice. Laser printers produce crisp, clear type and images, and are better at printing type and images without leaving fuzzy edges. Because inkjet printers spray tiny droplets of ink onto the paper, there is a greater chance that documents printed with an inkjet printer will have fuzzy edges. Also, if pages are touched before they are allowed to completely dry, the ink may smear. Although laser printers typically print at higher resolutions than inkjet printers, some of the higher end inkjet printers are capable of producing crisp text and images comparable to those printed with a laser printer. Another consideration when comparing the quality of printing between inkjet and laser printers is the paper used. Laser printers will produce clear images on any type of paper, while paper specifically manufactured for inkjet printers is recommended if you want clear prints without fuzzy edges using an inkjet printer.


Laser printers spit out prints much faster than inkjet printers, often producing more than 15 pages per minute depending on the brand and quality of the laser printer. Most inkjet printers offer a draft mode, which is quicker than a high quality print, but the images and type are usually faint when using draft mode. Using standard print settings requires inkjet printers to apply more ink to each line of the page, which increases the print time. While the speed of a printer may not be of much importance to home printer users, many businesses use their printers quite a bit, so print speed is an important fact.


Although it’s possible to purchase a laser printer for about the same price as some of the inkjet printers on the market, buyers should consider the total cost of purchasing and operating the printer before making a decision on which type of printer to purchase. Buyers should price out ink or toner cartridges as well as any special paper that is needed to determine which type of printer is the most cost effective. Although inkjet cartridges are usually less expensive than toner cartridges, they also contain less ink, which means you’ll have to purchase more inkjet cartridges than toner cartridges to print the same amount of pieces. If you’re looking for crisp, clear prints using an inkjet printer, you’ll also need to factor in the price difference between regular printer paper and specialty inkjet paper.

Hope this helps you figure out which printer is right for you!

~Chad Stetson



8 Responses to “The Differences Between Laser and Inkjet Printers”

  1. Bob Pritchard says:

    There are many factual errors in this article and consequently it is misleading.

    It is based on assumptions about inkjets and lasers that are a few years out of date.

    For example, this is from a report published in July 2012 by Which UK/Choice Australia – two independent consumer publications:

    Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4540 3 cents per page mono/ 23 cents per page colour = annual ink cost of $87.50

    HP LaserJet Pro CM1415fnw 5 cents per page mono / 34 cents per page colour = annual ink cost of $135.00

    (average annual small business use: 1000 mono pages/250 colour documents. if more pages are printed then the cost savings are greater).

    It is also not true that inkjets do not print well on plain paper and the ink may smudge. Epson DURABrite ink is designed for plain paper and is both water and highlighter resistant.

  2. Dan says:

    very useful article. especially for ones who don’t print pictures but only use the computer as a word processor, which is a huge number.

  3. K.Vee.Shanker. says:

    Yes, Chad has given the basic information. Thanks!

    Prints are done either in black & white or in color. So, which printer is cheaper when one’s work is mostly in black & white?

  4. B. Evans says:

    What about the color printing. You ask which is cheaper in B&W but what about general use. My inkjet smears every color I try to print. So is laser better for all around quality at a reasonable cost.

  5. Case says:

    I usually think the tips are very informative. To me, this time, there were too many generalizations for someone who doesn’t already know about printers.

  6. Bob says:

    Very informative article. However, the cost color and multifunction color laser printers should have been addressed. They’re still more expensive than inkjet printers although worth the extra costs.

  7. Kathey Murdock says:

    Very useful information, I have always preferred laser printers because they are less costly to use, once you make the initial investment. Toner cartrages are more expensive but outlast many many inkjet cartrages and are less messy to use. You can set your laser printer to print in grayscale and use less of the color toner, I only use color when printing images.

  8. laserjet cartridges from Inkjetsuperstore says:

    This post justified its title! Thanks for posting this. I’d say laser are for professionals and inkjet are for those at home and students. And in addition to that laser inks are more expensive than inkjet.

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