The basic laser printer and the basic ink jet printer cost about the same (the prices for laser printers have come way down over the last few years). However, at the basic level, only the ink jet printer can print color. Laser printers can be purchased for around $130. You can buy an inkjet for as little as $60 or $70.
Keep in mind that all of these printers come with startup print cartridges which means you will have to buy full-sized cartridges in short order. The inkjet takes four or more small cartridges (one for each printer-primary color plus black). The laser printer uses a single black cartridge. You can buy laser printers that print color, but the costs are much higher. The image quality of the color laser may not match that of the ink jet color images that are formulated for detailed photographic printing.
The cost of a laser toner cartridge is usually much higher than the cost of a set of ink jet cartridges. Laser cartridges usually last much longer. With low volume use, a set of ink jet cartridges might last two months. The laser cartridge will last at least a year.
Ink jet printers are made to make ink cartridge replacement easy. Replacing ink jet cartridges is just a part of day-to-day operation. Replacing cartridges in laser printers is usually a little trickier because the replacement of a cartridge is considered relatively rare.
Ink jet printers usually have a cost per page of around 20 cents, including both black and white and color printing, Some ink jets can be converted to use only black and white cartridge. Others require all the colors to be used, even for black and white text or images. If you can use only black ink, the cost per page will be between 7 and 8 cents a page. Startup laser printers usually have a cost per page to print of around 6 cents a page. More expensive laser printers have a lower cost per page.
Print speed and text print quality:
The reason why laser printers are more the norm in office printing is that they print much faster than ink jets. The laser printer which can typically grind out 20 pages per minute. Ink jets pump away at their ink tubs and print around 6 pages per minute. Some ink jet printers designed for business keep their ink heated in the cartridge and therefore can produce print speeds in the range of 17 sheets per minute, continuously running at 75,000 sheets a day in black and white. Color prints are much slower. Hi-res color prints can take several minutes each.
The ability of ink jet printers to faithfully print a wide range of fonts has vastly improved over the last several years. Most people could not distinguish them. Images are excellent. However, the consensus is that the appearance of text printed with laser printers is usually more "like type." The laser uses the same operating principle as many offset printers, using static charges to stick ink to a drum, and produces very faithful print.
A recent alternative to the single laser to compose images, is the LED printer that uses a page-wide array of led lights to create the static charge pattern on the plate. There are fewer moving parts in the led printer so the printing speeds may be slightly faster than the laser. LED printers also have a somewhat longer life because they have fewer moving parts, namely the moving laser. LED technology is new and many say the print quality of the LED printer is not as good as lasers.
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