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Inkjet vs Laser: How to choose

Although businesses are working towards the paperless office, the idea is still sometime off, making printers an important business tool. HEINRICH PRETORIUS offers some guidelines to consider when choosing a new printer.

Printers are common in both the workplace and home. Although many businesses are working towards a paperless environment with the increase in ‚Äògreen’ awareness, printers are still an essential office tool. A common question asked when purchasing a printer for the home or office is whether to purchase and inkjet or laser printer. Each printer is unique to various environments and have their own pro’s and con’s, however, the needs of the user will ultimately decide on the printer of choice – inkjet or laser.

Purchasing a printer for the home or office is no simple task and various considerations need to be taking into account before this purchase is made. The key question to ask oneself is whether a laser or inkjet printer suits your needs, and which device will benefit you in the long run. User can generally distinguish the main differences between inkjet and laser, however, it can be difficult to establish which one is right for you.

In the past, the Cost Per Page (CPP) with an inkjet printer far outweighed the CPP of a laser. According to, the “CPP can be determined by calculating the cost of a printer cartridge divided by its yield”. However, with the emergence of new and improved inkjet technology, one can increasingly see inkjet printers competing with, and sometimes beating, laser printers on this issue. Understanding the differences and target markets for each printer will offer users more insight as to which printer would suit their environment best.

Laser printers make use of toner cartridges that contain ink powder. Through an electro photographic printing process, laser beams scan the surface of photo-sensitive drums to form a latent image. The toner is then affixed to non-charged areas of the drums, developing the latent image and finally transferring to the sheet of paper. Inkjet, on the other hand, works by making use of heat. Simply put, an ultra-fine nozzle is connected to a reservoir of ink, with a small heating element at the front of the nozzle. When the printer is switched on, a bubble forms inside the nozzle and a tiny drop of ink is expelled at a high speed. The heating element is switched on and off in response to the data from the computer, which processes the image from the file.

Laser printers are designed for large office environments or departments requiring high print volumes. Initial investments in laser printers may be higher than inkjet printers, however, the CPP was far less when compared to inkjet printers, especially if the print volumes are high. On the other hand, inkjet technology traditionally lent itself to the smaller office, home office and consumers. This is mainly due to its small form factor, saving these environments space. Furthermore, the initial investment of inkjet is far lower than that of the laser, however, the liquid ink used in these printers are more costly than toner and cater for low print volumes. Therefore, the laser printer offered organisations with a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) than that of the inkjet printer.

However, the emergence of new and improved inkjet printers, along with Multifunctional Printers (MFPs) are blurring these lines when choosing a printer. Due to new technology, inkjet printers are now providing a significantly lower CPP. This technology is further leading to the use of these printers within the larger office environment, and not solely for the home user and consumer. Furthermore, with the emergence of connectivity, inkjet printers are now also providing users with the ability to print from anywhere by making use of a smartphone, tablet or other mobile device. This is further changing the game within the printing arena.

In conclusion, there are a number of printers available on the market. Choosing between an inkjet or laser printer will depend on your needs. Inkjet printers are still ideal for the small office, home office or consumer market due to the small form factor and the ability to cater for low print volumes. Laser, on the other hand, still lends itself to larger organisations where large print volumes are required. However, with the latest technology in inkjet, these printers are entering the large print volume market, lowering the CPP and aligning with the CPP of lasers. It is essential to understand your printing requirements and budget before purchasing a printer for your organisation. Understanding these devices and what they offer will ensure the correct printer is selected for your daily printing needs.

* Heinrich Pretorius, Canon and OKI Product Specialist at DCC

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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