Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?

We look at the pros and cons of laser and inkjet printers

Credit: ID 75835344 © Sergey Tolmachyov | Dreamstime.com

Colour printing and colour print quality

If you want to print colour — whether it's a full-page colour photograph or simply a pie chart — you'll almost certainly be better off with an inkjet printer. Colour laser printers are often bulky and quite expensive and generally aren't suited to home or small office use.

Even when comparing a colour laser printer to a colour inkjet, the inkjet is likely produce better colour images. Inkjet printers are able to reproduce subtle colour gradation in images where laser printers will display banding (distinct changes in colour saturation). If you're printing photos or other images, this is going to be a detail you'll want to factor into your final decision.

Size

Size is another important consideration for some users for obvious reasons.

After all, most people want - or would at least prefer - a printer that effortlessly fits into their life rather than one that asks them to go to the trouble find a way of fitting it in.

Credit: ID 11661198 © Joachim Wendler | Dreamstime.com

If you're looking for something to fit into a small space on or underneath your desk, it's hard to go past an inkjet printer. That being said, if you don't need scanning or copying a single-function laser printer may be small enough to suit your needs.

These days, there isn't as much of a difference between the form-factor of consumer grade inkjet and laser printers but it still bears repeating that, most of the time, inkjet printers tend to be a little more portable.

Conclusion

If you're buying based on price — and most consumers are — the choice between a laser printer and an inkjet is simple.

If you can afford to pay a little more upfront and if you'll only be printing black text documents, a laser printer is a convenient solution. Inkjet printers are far more versatile, which is important for home use, but you'll pay more in ongoing running costs and will have slower print times. 

Epson WorkForce ET-4550Credit: Epson
Epson WorkForce ET-4550

While factors like size, print quality and speed are certainly important when you're trying to evaluate which printer technology is going to suit your needs, printers are a category where convenience remains king.

Ultimately, the choice between inkjet and laser printers is less a case of which technology has the edge and more a case of identifying which of those advantages or disadvantages will suit your situation.

If you're after volume, the cons of laser printers aren't going to seem like such a big deal. If you're more concerned with quality over quantity or finding the most economical setup, then inkjets are the way to go.

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This article was originally published by Campbell Simpson in July 2010. It was updated in August 2020 by Fergus Halliday.

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Campbell Simpson

Campbell Simpson

PC World
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