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laser vs inkjet for SHO

1)is laser better for business communications? in other words, it is always better quality?  (i am assuming is inkjet is lower quality in precision and hence more suited to home?)

2)is the ink for laser always more costly than inkjet?
8 Solutions
Brian PiercePhotographerCommented:
Laser printers are generally faster and of course the 'ink' will not run, smudge or come off on your hands if the paper becomes damp or wet. On the other hand inkjet has the ability to produce full colour photographic quality images cheaply.

There is not much difference in quality, though with cheap papers and ink, inkjet can 'bleed; into the paper so looks less sharp.

laser toner is quite expensive - but generally lasts longer (more pages), ink is not cheap either.
Provided that you stay with inkjet paper for the inkjet or laser paper for the laser, as well as the manufacturer's recommended ink or toner, you are unlikely to be able to tell the difference in print quality with the naked eye. In order to have good results, you absolutely must use inkjet paper with an inkjet printer. Inkjet paper is coated with chemicals that let the ink behave the way you want it to.

Like everything else, everything is a trade-off. Below are the basics.

Speed: The laser printer will generally be faster, but total speed is only an advantage if you actually wind up printing large numbers of copies or large documents.

Quality: You will not generally be able to tell the difference between the two printing methods with your naked eye, provided that you have used manufacturer recommended supplies.

Duty Cycle: Duty Cycle refers to the number of pages printed in a specific time frame. Generally, it is referring to pages/month. In the past, laser printers usually won this category hands-down. This is no longer the case. Currently available printers appropriate for entry-level business purchases will generally have a duty cycle of 20,000 to 30,000 pages per month. In my experience, businesses rarely print that many pages.

Cost: This is the big one. The winner here is the inkjet. Inkjet printers are significantly less expensive to buy than laser printers. Further, the ongoing actual cost for each printed page will normally be significantly lower for inkjets. It doesn't seem like much, especially when the difference is only a penny or so per page, but when you multiply that one cent by the duty cycle for a single month, it comes out to a difference of $200-$300. Over the lifetime of the printer, the cost differential really adds up.

Value: in my opinion, if you can meet your realistic speed and duty cycle requirements, the inkjet again wins hands down. What I generally suggest for small business purchases is to find the best laser printer you can afford and then spend that much money buying an inkjet printer. The reasoning for this is simple. Business purchases are investments, not just overhead. You are more likely to get important optional features with the inkjet. Specifically, you can get the automatic document feeder function for the scanner, as well as a page by page flatbed scanner functionality. Considering that this device is likely to also be the office copier, an an automatic document feeder saves a lot of time and hassle. Also, you can get fully automatic duplexing which would allow you to copy or print on both sides of each sheet of paper. In addition to the savings of time and hassle, you can also reduce your overhead cost by always printing two-sided draft documents, as you will use fewer sheets of paper.

Really, unless you know that you will regularly need the speed of the laser printer, the inkjet printer is always the way to go.

Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
I don't think Caltain has done the math properly.

Inkjet ink is always more expensive than laser toner on a PER PAGE basis.

Inkjet ink typically yields 150-300 pages.

Laser toner typically yields 2000-5000 pages.

(all numbers will vary depending on the printer you get and the type of ink and toner used) but if ink is $15 per cartridge and toner is $90, then for the cost of one toner, you get only 6 ink cartridges... 6x300 (max pages) = 1800 pages.  Even if the laser toner only yields 2000 pages, it's still 10% MORE than the ink does for the same cost).
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I agree with leew: inkjets are more expensive.

Inkjets are also slow. A 20 ppm laser will be significantly faster than a 30 ppm inkjet. This is because inkjet speeds are always quoted in their fasted "draft quality" mode. In practice you'll find that you need to use a better quality (and slower) mode. Lasers on the other hand give perfectly acceptable quality in their default mode - and many don't even have a slower/better mode.

The printing quality of a laser on plain paper is always better than an inkjet. Where inkjets win is when you use special (expensive) paper and their high quality/photo printing mode. In their best mode, inkjets will always produce better photos than any laser. Of course, the cost of those photos will far exceed that of photos printed by your nearest photo shop, but you can get them now instead of tomorrow...

Caltain says that inkjets are significantly cheaper to buy than lasers. He is correct in that, but, the cheaper the printer, the more expensive the ink per page. A review on ABC TV in Australia found that some $49 inkjet cartridges last less than 49 pages. Of course, the printer costs well under $100, and with some inkjets it is cheaper to replace the printer than the ink! With inkjets, as little as 50% of the ink ends up on the page; the rest is wasted in cleaning cycles.
It really depends on your printing needs as to which technology will serve you the best.  First, determine what you will be printing and go from there.  

  a.k.a. Use the best tool for the job.
Hdhondt- I must respectfully submit that your experience with inkjet printers, if not exaggerated, does not mesh either with my own research or my experience. I cannot attest to products of any kind in Australia, but 49 pages from a $49 cartridge is ludicrous. Your assertions about the testing methods and technology simply do not reflect the facts in the US.  I have purchased approximately one printer a year for the past thirty years, for my personal use. Professionally, I have evaluated, selected, purchased, installed, and supported, well over a hundred.  I've had to back my recommendations with my own money, my reputation, and my job.

Inkjet paper is not notably more expensive than laser or general purpose paper, but it does make a difference in the quality of the printed document.  That said, the relative cost of papers and toner/ink is irrelevant when you have an understanding of what the specifications mean, what the test results mean, and you are comparing apples to apples by looking at cost per printed page. Cost/page figures in the US reflect the costs of consumables and required operations such as alignment and head cleaning.

Most major manufacturers in the US will tell you what testing protocols are behind the numbers they claim in response to a request for the information, or will indicate same on marketing or packaging materials that are available to the consumer at no cost prior to the sale. As an example, Canon uses ISO/IEC 24734 and ISO/IEC 24735. The testing methods and materials are readily available to any web search.

Ultimately, as I said before, it comes down to cost and speed. If you have to have the speed, then you will always wind up with a laser printer, as the more you pay, the faster they go. Ink based solutions have a physical limitation to throughput because the ink has to dry.  While that means that they are not likely to get much faster with a larger investment or waiting for next year's model, they do approach the speeds of low end laser printers, and are more than adequate to the needs of businesses of 1 to 20 users, provided that you recognize that an entry level inkjet is not intended to support 20 users in a busy environment, and consequently will not likely meet the needs of such an environment.  Mid level inkjets can easily handle duty cycles of 500 pages a day or more, and they will generally do so at a lower cost per page, including all costs, maintenance, and materials, than a laser printer, while providing a greater set of features to boot.

As for the current dilemma, if 25112 wants to post an office size and an approximation of the throughput, I would be happy to post a set of suitable models of each technology that will bear out my conclusions.

Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
I'll apologize to caltain and say that a couple years back I did an analysis of cost per page for laser vs. ink and the price difference was substantial - laser was, if memory serves, 2-4 cents per page and ink was 11-16 cents per page.  

I just did a relatively random sampling and the prices are now cheaper for ink than laser.  It seems the ink yield has SIGNIFICANTLY increased.  I remember seeing page counts of 200-700 at the time... these days, the high-yield counts are usually more than double, even triple or more... at roughly the same price as it was a few years ago.  The result is color is MUCH cheaper in Inkjet form and black and white is ranged from 1.6 cents to 2.3 cents per page compared to 2.6 to 4.5 cents with laser.
Those numbers are in line with my recollection of recent pricing. Part of the problem here is that many people do not understand how printers were marketed for the decade plus from around '95 to about '07. During that time, printer manufacturers adopted the cell phone marketing model. Basically, that means that they were eating a significant amount of the hardware cost in order to get the consumer paying for overpriced ink and toner that ultimately traced back to the manufacturer of the hardware sold/subsidized. I would happily give someone an S class Mercedes, if I could be assured that they would buy gas only from me at a cost of $30 a gallon. The real money is in the consumables, not the hardware.

Give or take a penny or two, I think that current diligent research will bear out my conclusions.  The important choice is what speed you absolutely must have. That factor will clearly tell you whether or not an inkjet is a valid consideration. If it is, then I recommend that you look at models with automatic document feed, seperate cartridges for each color and black, and fully automatic duplexing.  Don't bother with faxing features as you can simply scan the fax and send it via an Internet fax service.  Inbound faxes can also be handled with online services.

Hope this clears away some of the fog and helps explain why there are some folks that have strong opinions in another direction. They came by their opinions honestly, but the market has changed quite dramatically in the last 5-7 years.
25112Author Commented:
learnt form this discussion- thanks.
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