Color Inket vs Color Laser running costs.

Color Inket vs Color Laser running costs.


I am looking at getting a multi-function device that prints colour. I am trying to decide between laser colour and inkjet. What interests
me is the running cost. The initial purchase price does not bother me as much.

So I am interested to see what the current thinking as costs go.

Is inkjet really cheaper? I have heard that they can waste a lot of ink in cleaning and can dry up and have problems when not used for a little while. Which would tip the scales in favour of laser?

So I am interested if others have re-searched this and what the current thinking is. The brand btw I am favouring at the moment is HP.


Who is Participating?
Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software EngineerCommented:
You will get many different opinions on this.

An excellent quality color inkjet costs less than a moderate quality color laser.

The color rendition of color laser printers is nowhere near as good as color inkjets.  Color lasers use only four colors (CMYK). The best color inkjets use 8 (C,LC,M,LM,Y,LY,K,LK) and color rendition is near photographic.

No matter how good the color laser is there are vertical artifacts making it obvious the print came from a laser printer.  I have not seen a color laser I would call even moderate photo quality.  Good color requires inkjet (inexpensive) or dye sublimation (expensive).

Excluding HP (see below), ink for color inkjets is less expensive than cartridges for color lasers.  Epson lost a court case over refillable cartridges and third party ink for Epsons is readily available and inexpensive.

All inkjets have a hidden drawback -- waste ink tanks in the bottom and a waste ink counter.  When the waste ink counter reaches the limit it will shut off and demand service.  Service is messy and usually costs more than the printer.  Some inkjets are easy to deal with waste ink and some are not; Epsons in particular can be user-modified to have external waste ink tanks which eliminates the problem.

HP has expiration dates on inkjet cartridges and cartridges can expire in the printer while in use.  They also actively discourage the use of third party ink and every two years or so come out with another "feature" to eliminate third party ink.  I would personally recommend against HP.

Where good quality is not required or the environment is dry, and high printing speed is required - laser would be the choice.  In all other situations I would suggest inkjet.

As always, YMMV.
The running costs of lasers are less than that of ink printers. Inkjets have clean the printheads every so often to prevent the ink inside them drying up. That is done by pumping fresh Ink through them, and that wastes ink from the already small Ink cartridges.

Toners on the other hand are generally much larger and contain plenty of toner, so you can expect it to last a lot longer. What you have to make sure of though is that you buy a laser printer that doesn't stop printing when a certain number of pages have been, because it tells you the toner is empty. Very often there is still plenty of toner left in the cartridge. So make sure that if do get such a "rip-off" printer that you can out-smart it via some hack. Also make sure you can use 3rd party Toner cartridges which usually are much less expensive than the originals, and usually also contain more toner, or that you can refill the cartridge. That reduces the working costs by a lot.

If something else in the printer needs servicing, like the drum or fuser or transfer belt because the print quality is reduced, don't bother and rather get a new printer. Laser printers today are in the same price range as inkjets, so repairing a printer would just be too expensive.
In nearly all cases, laser printing costs will be lower than inkjets.

What puts people off sometimes is the fact that a laser cartridge can be much more expensive as an inkjet cartridge. However, the laser cartridge will print for more pages, with the result that the cost per page is still significantly lower. An inkjet cartridge may only print a couple of hundred pages; with lasers we are talking thousands. High-powered lasers will have more expensive cartridges than lower performance ones. However, those cartridges will last far longer, making the expensive printer cheaper to run than the low cost printer. As a general rule, the more expensive the laser, the lower the cost per page.

Inkjets also waste lots of ink. They will clean the heads every time you switch them on, and regularly in between prints. If you leave them unused for too long, the printheads will dry out, so that more cleaning is required - or even new cartridges/printheads.

Lasers do have other consumables besides cartridges. There are things like drums or transfer belts/rollers which vary from printer to printer. All lasers have a fuser, and all these components need regular replacement. However, most of them will last tens of thousands of pages or more. A typical fuser may be good for 100,000 pages. In many cases the printer will be old enough to replace by the time the fuser needs replacement. And, of course, a $200 fuser every 100,000 pages only adds 0.2 cents per page.

Third-party toners are available for many lasers. I use them for my personal printer (a Fuji Xerox CM305DF). They seem to be every bit as good as the originals, and they cost me AUD100 for a set of 4, which will last 3000 pages. These are standard pages with 5% coverage per colour, total 20% coverage. As a result, a colour page costs me 3 cents, a black-only letter less than 1 cent. Imaging Unit and fuser add less than 2 cents per page to that - except I've not had to replace them yet.

Lasers also print better quality than inkjets - on plain paper. On (expensive) inkjet paper, especially photo paper, the print quality of a good inkjet leaves any laser in the dust. In general, use a laser for general printing, and an inkjet for best quality photos (or get them printed at the nearest photo lab for far less money).
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Your specific question, "... running costs .." ==> is easy.   Lasers are significantly less expensive than inkjets on a cost/page basic -- inkjets cost 2 to 3 times as much per page as lasers do.

I find print quality very good on my lasers -- I agree a photo printed on photo paper will look notably better on an inkjet IF it has the photographic ink cartridge installed; but with all the excellent photo printing sites (and even local stores) these days it's far less expensive to simply upload photos and either have them mailed to you or just pick them up at your local Walgreens, Walmart, Target, Costco, etc.

I still have a couple high-end inkjets that I simply haven't thrown away yet; but our primary printers are both lasers -- a monochrome unit that and a color laserjet.    Both of these are SUPERB units ... and very inexpensive to run.   They both support automatic duplex printing, and get over 3000 pages from each toner cartridge.   I print a LOT on my monochome unit, and have only replaced the cartridge one time in the 3 years I've owned it.    Our color laser is now a year old, and is still on the "starter" cartridges that came with it (which are only expected to get 1500-2000 pages instead of the 3000+ from the normal cartridges).

If you don't want to spend a lot of money on your printer, I recommend this laser:

or this all-in-one version of the same printer:
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