Jan
30

Inkjet vs Laser

Inkjet vs. Laser Printers

History of Inkjet and Laser Printers:¹

The original laser printer called EARS was developed at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center beginning in 1969 and completed in November, 1971. Xerox Engineer, Gary Starkweather adapted Xerox copier technology adding a laser beam to it to come up with the laser printer. According to Xerox, “The Xerox 9700 Electronic Printing System, the first xerographic laser printer product, was released in 1977. The 9700, a direct descendent from the original PARC “EARS” printer which pioneered in laser scanning optics, character generation electronics, and page-formatting software, was the first product on the market to be enabled by PARC research.”

In 1976, the inkjet printer was invented, but it took until 1988 for the inkjet to become a home consumer item with Hewlett-Parkard’s release of the DeskJet inkjet printer, priced at a whopping $1000.

How they work:

If you’re interested in how inkjet printer technology works, you can visit: http://computer.howstuffworks.com/inkjet-printer.htm.

If you’re interested in how laser printer technology works, you can visit: http://computer.howstuffworks.com/laser-printer.htm.

Choosing between Inkjet and Laser Printers:

Ok, now time for the good stuff, how can you choose between an inkjet or a laser printer.  First, consider your budget.  As it has become evident in the collapse of the economy, living outside your means is generally a bad thing, so above all, only buy something you can afford without having to sacrifice for the necessities.  With all of that aside, a majority of your decision will come from what you actually need in a printer (for daily or weekly tasks), and features that you want.  For a quick overview of each style of printer, please refer to figure 1.

Figure 1:

Inkjet

Generally Inexpensive
Multifunction Available
B&W/Color Printing Standard
Slow to Medium Printing Speed
Wireless Options Available
Designed for lower monthly duty cycles
Good for Color Photos

Laser

Moderate to Expensive
Multifunction Available
B&W Printing Standard/Color Printing at addition cost
Fast B&W Printing Speed/Fast color printing depending on printer.
Networking Options Available
Generally designed for high volume printing
Sharp crisp text printing

In a nutshell, Inkjet printers are generally more often found in homes, college dorms, small businesses with minimal printing.  Laser printers are more often found in small business up to large corporations with medium to large printing volume, professional establishments looking for crisp sharp text prints, colleges and universities.  As you can see, their is typically some overlap between the two groups, as some users have personal preferences for one type of another.  An important issue in deciding which type of printer to buy includes how often your printing.  Many printer manufacturers try to trick customers into purchasing their low priced printer, but then charging very high prices for printer ink and toner cartridges.  Sometimes, its can be cheaper to buy a new printer that comes with ink cartridges, rather then just purchasing replacement ink or toner cartridges.  Based on this, it is really more important to look at what printer cartridges are used by the printer your interested in and find how much the supplies will cost you.  Many folks will use a printer for a long time, so imaging how many cartridges you will purchase over the life of the product.  You will find that spending an extra $50 or $100 in a printer may pay for itself after just the first few times of buying replacement printer cartridges.  You can even look into third party printer cartridge replacements like Professor Ink offers for a solution to cheaper priced replacement printer ink and toners.
Inkjet printers most recently can use two different types of cartridges, with printheads and without printheads.  HP, Lexmark, Dell, and others have been known to use print cartridges with a print head.  A print head is basically what the printer uses to tell the cartridge how much and where at to put ink drops on the paper.  A printer using cartridges without a printhead still as a printhead, but all of the cartridge individually do not, but they will fit into one printhead that is on the printer.  By having the print head on the printer already, printing supply costs can be cut dramatically because the cartridge will only consist of the plastic body mould, ink, and possible a chip to communicate ink levels.  Printer manufactueres utilizing cartridges without printheads include HP, Canon, Epson, Lexmar, and Brother to name a few.  The next topic worth mentioning is that cartridges can be sold as individual colors or as tri color packs depending on the printer manufacturer.  Individual cartridges may have 4 or more cartridge, the most basic being black, cyan, magenta, and yellow.  Photo printers will have additional cartridges to provide higher quality prints and may include photo cyan, photo magenta, green, red, gloss, photo black, and matte black.  Advantanges of individual color cartridges are that you only need to replace the color that is empty.  Take this case for example.  Say you print out many letter heads that have your logo which is mostly made up of the color blue.  In a printer with individual ink cartridges, you will only need to replace the cyan cartridge more often then the magenta or yellow.  This is not the case in a tri-color cartridge that has cyan, magenta, and yellow all in one cartridge.  If you are using a tri-color cartridge and it runs out of any one of the colors, you will need to replace the cartridge even though their is still ink of the other colors in the cartridge.  Many manufacturers are slowing going towards the individual cartridge methodology.
Laser printers on the otherhand are a little more straight forward.  The majority of laser printers sold are monochrome black, meaning they will only print black, or shades of black onto the paper.  Over the past few years, color laser printers have come down significantly in price, and now allow for reasonable priced color printing on a laser printers.  Color laser printers generally use 4 cartridges; black, cyan, magenta and yellow.  Some laser printers may also have an additional cost that you should factor in and that is a drum.  Brother for example sells a toner cartridge that will fit into a drum, which contains the components to actually get the toner powder onto the page.  Manufacturers like HP have a different style that includes the toner and “drum” all in one.  Drums will need replaced after about 20,000 pages, where toners may need replaced after 3,000 or more depending on the capacity of the toner.
When using remanufactured or compatible cartridges, your printing costs will be substantially reduced, generally by 50% or more compared to original or OEM cartridges made by the same brand as the printer was.
So now it comes down to your decision.  Our recommendation is that if your printing very little or only on occasion, an Inkjet printer will probably be the solution for you.  Inkjet printers are generally very cheap and inks are cheaper then toner cartridges are, however they do print less pages (Except for some business inkjets that can print alot of pages).  If your printing photos at home, we will still give the edge towards inkjet for similar reasons as the last statement, and also that inkjets can have very high resolutions for printing, and generally higher then that of color laser printers (measured in DPI-dots per inch).  For most business tasks, a good multifunction laser printer which will include a scanner and possible fax would be recommended.  Laser printers should allow for at least 2,000 pages or more per cartridge, and since most businesses print text documents, the text is generally more sharp and crisp then inkjet printers.  If your interested in color laserjets, you really have two options.  You could buy a color laserjet, or a black laserjet and color inkjet printer which may be cheaper.  Color toner cartridges can run $100 or more each, meaning it could cost you $400 or more just to be able to print in color.  If your printing professional documents, a color laserjet would take preference.  Also if your thinking about a color laserjet just to print flyers or promotional print items in bulk, you make consider sending your document to a printer to have it printed.  Many online sources can print documents for just a few cents per copy and have them delivered to you for free.
We hope this article as provided some useful insights into each type of printer, as well as the pro’s and con’s of each.  If you have any questions you can add a comment or email us and we would be happy to help.

Resources:

¹ http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blcomputer_printers.htm

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