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Chapter One

The Budget choice: Laser vs Ink Jet

For the budget consumer, there is always the choice between going for an Ink Jet printer or an affordable laser printer. We look at some consideration for choosing between the two in this post.
A dot-matrix printer -- we didn't even think of considering these ones. 😀
Colour experience
At budget price points, you can only reach a black and white laser printer. This is more suited to people working with office documents, lecture notes, and other text based content. At the same price point a colour ink jet printer can be obtained which gives you a full color experience producing photos, graphics and coloured flyers. These are ideal for basic home use and if you need color print once in a while.

Durability and workload
Durability is also a factor when comparing laser and ink jet printers, laser printers are usually more durable and can manage larger workloads to the tune of about a 2000 pages per month. Unfortunately at the sub-$200 level, these are understandably lower at about 750 pages per month, which comes up-to about 180 pages per week. Ink Jet printers used to print over 750 pages per month generally break down in less than 2 years due to their mechanical nature of the printing function, as well as the cheap builds that come with it. You could go for an ink jet if you are at about 100 pages per week.

Speed, Noise, Form Factor
Speed and noise are generally not big factors for the budget user, and are things they generally don't mind sacrificing. Laser printers are generally faster and less noisier than their highly mechanical counterparts. Most laser printers are bulkier and would ask the user for decent desk space; ink jets are generally smaller and can be squeezed into a smaller area.

Output Quality
Output quality is generally measured in the number of dots printed per inch, with 600 being high quality and 300 being normal quality. Most laser printers do 600dpi well but look out for budgets ones that max out at 300dpi, especially ones that print fast. Ink jets are usually lower, especially colour ones and they are able to print at about 300 in general which is good for daily use.

Print stationary
Ink Jets print on a wide variety of stationary such as photo paper while laser ones are typically limited to the standard laser printer or copier paper. So home users who would want to occasionally print photos might consider a colour ink jet.

Other fancy stuff
Ink jets can also come as an all-in-one, featuring a scanner and a copier -- which most users don't have at home.

Average cost of printing a page
This is a factor that varies widely from printer to printer. Ink Jets almost always require expensive ink, especially when printing colour; lasers have expensive toners too but you change them less often. On the other hand, the average cost of an inkjet printer is several times cheaper than a regular laser printer, so you could buy one every two years rather than have a laser printer for five years. This is because the cost of an ink jet printer is subsidised and sold at a loss and companies make the money back selling expensive ink.

Here is a summary of deciding between an ink jet and a laser:
  • Durability, workload - Laser is slightly more durable and does better at heavy lifting.
  • Colour - Laser colour printers are not affordable, so ink jet is the only option.
  • Speed and noise - Laser is faster and less noisier; but they take up space.
  • Print Stationary - Ink Jet prints on photo paper too.
  • Scanner and Copier - Included with some ink jets.
  • Cost per page - Laser has a higher initial cost but lower cost per page.
Kategat recommends going for a laser printer, it suits a budget-conscious user in the long term. If you ever want to print colour occasionally, you can always go order prints online.

Image by Blake Patterson on Flickr, published under the CC license.


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