Inkjet vs Laser Printers

Discover which type of printer is best for your needs

Choosing a printer that best fits your specific printing needs is an important decision, but it can be a difficult choice to make since there are so many kinds of printers to choose from. We'll be comparing Inkjet and laser printers, including what each printer type has to offer, their drawbacks, and the use cases each printer is best suited for.

Inkjet Printers
  • Smaller than laser printers, best for small rooms/offices.

  • Uses liquid ink cartridges, which are more expensive to replenish.

  • Print quality is best for graphics, photos, and color.

  • Inkjet printers are budget-friendly at first. Long-term use is expensive.

Laser Printers
  • Larger than inkjet printers and may require more storage space.

  • Uses powder-based toner as ink source, which is cheaper to replace.

  • Print quality is generally highest when printing text-heavy documents.

  • More expensive at first, but cheaper to use in the long-run.

Inkjet printers, while cheaper and capable of cranking out some high-quality image and photo prints, are also prone to having prints end up with smudged ink. Furthermore, the ink cartridges they use don't last very long and are expensive to replace.

By comparison, laser printers tend to require more storage space and can cost more, but their toner inks tend to last longer, print more, and dry quickly, which prevents smudging. Laser printers also tend to do well with text documents.

Inkjet Printers: Pros and Cons

Photo of an inkjet printer printing out colorful photo of sunflower.
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  • Printer itself is cheaper to buy.

  • Available in more compact sizes.

  • Handles colors and graphics-heavy print jobs exceptionally well.

  • Ink cartridges can be pricey and don't last as long as toner.

  • Liquid ink used in inkjets may smudge or smear after printing.

  • Print quality for text documents are less crisp and clear.

An inkjet printer is a printer that prints images and text on to paper by shooting out liquid ink droplets via a print head that passes over the paper multiple times. They tend to be very budget friendly at first, as they can cost anywhere from $40 to several hundred dollars.

However, the long-term cost of inkjet printers can be very expensive, since liquid ink cartridges are pricey and don't last very long or print as many pages as a laser printer's toner would produce. In addition, while the use of liquid ink enables inkjet printers to produce high quality prints of colorful images and photos, that same ink is also prone to smudging and smearing because it takes longer to dry. Inkjets can be used print text documents as well, but the lettering won't be as crisp.

That said, if your office or home has limited space for a printer, an inkjet printer can be a great solution because they tend to be available in more compact, space-saver sizes.

Laser Printers: Pros and Cons

Photo of a white laser printer with white copy paper sitting inside it.
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  • Handles text-heavy document print jobs well.

  • Toner is expensive, but lasts much longer and prints more.

  • Ink used dries quickly and doesn't smear.

  • Printer itself is more expensive to purchase.

  • Tends to be big and bulky, with little to no compact size options.

  • Doesn't handle color/graphics printing as well as inkjet.

A laser printer uses a combination of static electricity, heated rollers, and a powder-based toner ink to print images and text onto paper. Essentially, the heated rollers melt the plastic powdery toner ink onto paper. Laser printers tend to cost more upfront and even low-end, entry-level ones usually still cost at least $100.

Laser printers tend to do really well with printing large volumes of text documents. While the quality of their prints for images and photos isn't as great as an inkjet printer, laser printers tend to outshine inkjets when it comes to printing texts, as the lettering is often more crisp and clean with laser printers.

The use of toner ink helps offset the initial high cost of laser printers as well, since toner tends to last longer and produce more prints than liquid printer ink. Toner also dries as soon as a page is printed, so there's less risk of smudging.

Laser printers do tend to be big and bulky in size, however, and may not be the right fit for a small office, or a home with limited space.

Laser Printers vs. Inkjet Printers: Which Is the Best Fit for Your Needs?

The comparison between laser printers and inkjet printers isn't really one in which one type wins out over the other. Which one you ultimately choose to purchase for yourself is pretty dependent on your printing needs and budget.

In the end, if you know you need to print high quality pages with lots of graphics and color, and you're okay with the long-term expenses of liquid printer ink cartridges, you may want to get an inkjet printer. Inkjet printers can also be useful for people who need an affordable printer, don't print very often, and/or are low on storage space at home or at the office.

On the other hand, if you know you'll be printing quite a bit, your print jobs will largely be text documents, and you're okay with a higher upfront cost, then a laser printer might be the better option.

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