Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines

 
 
By M. David Stone  |  Posted 2008-01-17
 
 
 

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines

 

Print Speed
Advantage: Laser

Rated speeds suggest otherwise, but lasers generally have a tremendous speed advantage over inkjets. The simple truth is that the ratings for the two technologies are not comparable.  You can count on a 30 ppm (page-per-minute) laser to print text pages at close to 30 ppm at the printer-

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Print Speed:Overlap'

 

Despite the speed advantage for lasers in general, you can find a few inkjets that are faster than the slowest lasers. Hewlett-Packard, in particular, sells some standard business inkjets that are actually faster than its least-expensive color lasers for real-world throughput. In addition to the standard inkjets that blur the line between inkjet and laser speeds, there are a few inkjet printers that threaten to erase the line entirely. HP-

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Print Speed:Overlap'

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - ' Text Quality -- Advantage: Laser'

 

Inkjet manufacturers like to claim laser-quality text based on high resolutions. But ink tends to bleed into the paper, turning edges ragged, filling in loops (as in a lower case "e") and generally losing the sharp edges that make text from lasers easier to read and gives it a more professional look.

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - ' Text Quality -- Advantage: Laser'

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Text Quality: Overlap'

 

A few inkjets--most often models that are designed primarily for high-quality photos--can match a typical laser for text quality. To get the high-quality text, however, they almost always have to print in their highest-quality modes, which slows the printers down to a speed you wouldn-

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Text Quality: Overlap'

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Text Quality: Special-Purpose Paper'

 

There-

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Text Quality: Special-Purpose Paper'

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Line Graphics Quality -- Advantage: Laser'

 

Line graphics--meaning graphics consisting primarily of lines--have all the same requirements for quality as text, with crisp, clean edges determining the level of quality. That gives lasers the same advantage as they have for text on plain paper, with inkjets offering the same overlap in their highest-quality modes and on special paper.

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Line Graphics Quality -- Advantage: Laser'

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Graphics Quality on Plain Paper: Advantage: Color Laser'

 

Most people are surprised to find that graphics quality in general is better for a laser than for an inkjet printer. More precisely, most color lasers offer better-looking graphics output than inkjets on plain paper, but almost any inkjet will beat almost any monochrome laser.

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Graphics Quality on Plain Paper: Advantage: Color Laser'

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Graphics Quality on Special-Purpose Paper: Advantage: Inkjet'

 

Just as with text, the rule about color lasers-

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Graphics Quality on Special-Purpose Paper: Advantage: Inkjet'

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'True Photo Quality: Advantage: Inkjet'

 

For true photo-quality output, indistinguishable from traditional silver-halide prints, inkjets have it all over lasers. Not only do the images look good, but the paper feels like a traditional photo, usually complete with a choice of matte or glossy paper.

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'True Photo Quality: Advantage: Inkjet'

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Photo Quality on Plain Paper: Advantage: Color Laser'

 

For printing on plain paper--for a client or company newsletter, say, or even just a Web page--color lasers generally do a better job than inkjets. As with graphics, however, inkjets generally do a better job than monochrome lasers.

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Photo Quality on Plain Paper: Advantage: Color Laser'

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Water Resistance for Output: Advantage: Laser'

 

Inkjets have made remarkable strides in adding water resistance for photos on photo paper, but plain paper is a different story. Some inks do better than others, but, in general, if you handle inkjet output with moist hands, rest a wet glass or cup on a page, or use a highlighter, there-

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Water Resistance for Output: Advantage: Laser'

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Paper Curl with Plain Paper: Advantage: Laser'

 

Some printers have a tendency to add a curl to plain paper, making it difficult to shuffle through a stack of pages. Only a few lasers have this problem, and, even then, the curl is relatively mild. With inkjets, however, the problem is fairly common when printing full-page or nearly full-page graphics or photos on plain paper, often turning pages into virtual cylinders.

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Paper Curl with Plain Paper: Advantage: Laser'

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Size and Weight: Advantage: Inkjet'

 

For a personal printer in a small office, an executive desktop or anyplace else where space is at a premium, inkjets generally have a clear advantage in size and weight over lasers. The one exception is for low-cost personal monochrome lasers, which are often smaller than most inkjets.

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Size and Weight: Advantage: Inkjet'

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Paper Handling: General -- Advantage: Laser'

 

A growing number of inkjets offer advanced paper-handling features--such as duplexing, multiple input trays and a larger input capacity--than you-

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Paper Handling: General -- Advantage: Laser'

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Paper Handling: Tabloid Size -- Advantage: Inkjet'

 

The one clear paper-handling advantage for inkjets--or, more precisely, the one cost advantage for paper handling--is for printing on tabloid (11-by-17-inch) and super-tabloid (up to 13-by-19-inch) paper. Most tabloid-size lasers cost well into the four figures. Inkjet tabloid-size printers sell for as little as $300 or less.

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Paper Handling: Tabloid Size -- Advantage: Inkjet'

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Saving on Outsourcing -- Advantage: Color Laser'

 

For things like one-page handouts, mailers and trifold brochures, you can probably save money by printing them yourself. But if you want something that looks professional and doesn-

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Saving on Outsourcing -- Advantage: Color Laser'

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Cost Per Page: General -- Advantage: Laser'

 

Most toner cartridges cost a lot more than most ink cartridges, but, with yields measured in thousands instead of hundreds of pages, toner cartridges generally offer a much lower cost per page.

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Cost Per Page: General -- Advantage: Laser'

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Cost Per Page: Overlap'

 

Despite the cost-per-page advantage for lasers in general, there are exceptions. The cost per page for some less-expensive lasers is actually higher than for some more-expensive inkjets. So don-

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Cost Per Page: Overlap'

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Total Cost of Ownership -- Advantage: It Depends'

 

Whether an inkjet printer will have a total cost of ownership higher or lower than a laser will often depend on how much you print. An inkjet printer that costs $300 less than a laser, but costs 2 cents more per page to run, will have a lower TCO than the laser only if you print fewer than 15,000 pages over the printer-

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - 'Total Cost of Ownership -- Advantage: It Depends'

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - See More Slideshows Like This One

Laser vs. Inkjet Printers: The Blurring Lines - See More Slideshows Like This One

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