Should you buy an inkjet or a laser printer? The choice can be confusing for a small business owner, but a few simple calculations can help.

Differences in Print Processes                                      Laser Printer Compare Printers 16763413X resized 600

Inkjet printers transfer tiny droplets of ink directly to the page.  A laser printer creates an electrostatic pattern on a drum that attracts ink powder that fuses onto the paper. If you examine the same page printed on both a laser printer and an inkjet, you’ll see that the characters on the laser printer page are sharper.  Inkjet printers are getting better all the time though in terms of the sharpness of printed characters.  The big difference is in the amount each type of printer will cost over its lifetime.

Determine your printing needs

The basis of your decision depends on what you’ll be using the printer for, and how much you’ll be using it.  Printer manufacturers express the durability of a printer in terms of “duty cycle” in pages per month. For example, a typical laser printer will be capable of a duty cycle up to 7,000 pages a month while a typical entry level inkjet printer is capable of up to 500 pages per month.  Your first step then is to determine how many pages you print a month, and compare to the manufacturer’s stated pages per print cartridge.  You also need to decide how much of your printing needs to be in color, and how much can be done in black and white monochrome.  This can lower the cost of ink dramatically since color costs four to six times more than black & white.

Weighing Your Options

In general, inkjet printers are far less expensive than laser printers, so inkjet can be the way to go if your color printing needs are minimal.  Inkjet printers have a lower initial purchase cost but here’s the catch – they cost more to run because the ink is more expensive when measured on a per page basis.  And ink cartridges need to be replaced fairly often if you print a lot, especially if you’re printing pictures or photos.  In general, due to their low price, inkjet printers can be thought of as “throw away” printers, meaning that you should plan on replacing an inkjet printer if it breaks down since the cost to repair it will likely be more than the cost to buy a new one.

Although laser printers can be far more expensive than inkjet printers, the low running cost over time makes them more attractive if your business has a higher demand for print. They also have a better print quality because (in general) they have a higher resolution (expressed in dots per inch – dpi), making them a better choice for the needs of smaller businesses with higher volume and a greater need for high quality.

Managed Print Services

Toner cartridges for laser printers have a higher unit price than inkjet cartridges, but have a higher capacity so that the cost per page is lower for lasers and, with proper maintenance, they can serve your business well for years.  Cost can be reduced even further by using a Managed Print Service provider, who will provide routine maintenance, manage and replace toner cartridges as needed, and provide automated supply ordering and trouble notification, taking printer problems off  your IT Department’s “To Do” list.    Typically, managed print providers can save a business 10 to 30% on overall printing costs.

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