Which Printer Should I Buy? Inkjet, Laser or LED?
There’s such a wide choice of printers on the market today that it’s difficult to know which is best. Some offer faster print speeds, while others offer better print quality. It doesn’t help that many manufacturers claim to have the best and fastest.
How can you cut through the confusions and choose the right printer for your needs? To help you make up make the right choice, here’s managed print service specialist Lloyd Wells’ overview of the most common printer technologies.
Inkjet printers are greener and have a smaller carbon footprint when compared to LED and Laser printers. Although a little slower than Laser printers, they’re highly versatile and can produce great photographic prints. In addition, they’re able to print on cards, banner-sized media, and even iron-on transfer papers. However, the printer ink is expensive and some models produce slightly grainy graphics and fuzzy text.
- Good colour reproduction
- Good for photo prints
- Can handle various print media
- Higher cost per page than Laser
- Requires more maintenance
- Lower and slower paper handling compared to Laser
- Text and graphics can be fuzzy
The most common printers found in offices are Laser and LED printers – Inkjets tend to be more popular for home use. Laser printers have a good speed and text quality, which is important for business documents.
Laser and LED printers use bright lights to imprint an image onto a rotating photosensitive belt or drum. The printer then scans line by line across the page in sequence. There are 4 categories of Laser printer – monochrome (black and white), single-pass colour, four-pass colour (very rare nowadays), and solid ink.
The most common Laser printer used in offices is the monochrome printer. This produces clear black text that cannot be matched by most Inkjet printers. Although the photo print quality of colour Lasers is good, it’s not as good as the top-of-the-range photo Inkjet printers.
Single-pass colour Laser printers have four Lasers that imprint images on a page for all four colours at the same time, and this means a page only passes through once. The paper of a four-pass colour Laser passes through the printer four times and therefore it takes four times as long as a monochrome printer. A single-pass colour Laser printer prints at the same speed for black and white as well as colour, but can be more difficult to maintain as they have four separate toner colours and four separate drums.
- Produces excellent text
- Lower cost per page than Inkjets
- Handles high-volume printing
- Colour reproduction not as good as with Inkjet
- Limited choice of print media
- Has some maintenance issues
LED printers are very similar to Laser printers in that they utilise toner and a rotating photosensitive drum to print. But while Laser printers have a Laser beam that sweeps across each line of the page, LED printers imprint the image one line at a time by flashing LED lights. An LED printer has tiny LED lights that flash at different times to create the image. They’re smaller and lighter and more reliable than Laser printers but should be used in smaller offices. The pros and cons of an LED printer are the same as those of a Laser printer.
If you work from home, or in a small office, and print basic documents like spreadsheets, emails, web pages and Word documents, then an Inkjet printer is probably your best option. Apart from plain printing functions, they can also come with scanners, photocopiers, and document feeders.
If you’re printing professional quality materials for external use or producing your own marketing materials, then Laser printers are the better choice. They have the edge when it comes to clean, crisp black text and colour graphics and they’re also quicker. Laser printers are built to handle heavy workloads, with volumes of anywhere between 2,000 and 20,000 pages, depending on the model. Even the toughest Inkjet printer can’t match that.
Yes, Lasers are more expensive than Inkjets but they’re cheaper to run. Inkjets cost more in the long term because of toner usage. One Laser toner cartridge will easily cope with thousands of prints, whereas an Inkjet printer will need its cartridges replacing far more frequently.