With the acquisition cost of inkjet printers standing at an all time low, it is easy to understand why many organisations are tempted to ignore their high running costs. For under £100, or even £50, you can start outputting high quality colour pages instantly, but there are several important differences between the two technologies that should be considered.
Colour inkjets have a couple of key advantages, they are very cheap to acquire, technically easy to maintain (most inkjet cartridges are user replaceable, and there are no other consumables to worry about) and their print quality is unrivalled. If you need to print glossy, photographic images, a colour inkjet combined with good quality inkjet or photographic paper is really your only choice.
However, as many businesses have learned to their cost, inkjets are not suitable for day-to-day office printing. Both colour and monochrome costs per page are considerably higher than laser printers and printing speeds are generally far lower. Also, most inkjets lack the more advanced networking and finishing options that are essential to many business users.
Laser printers on the other hand are more expensive in terms of the initial purchase, although the gap is closing and we may soon see entry-level devices at similar prices to mid-range colour inkjets. The image quality offered by colour lasers is not as good as inkjets – compare a photographic image printed out on a laser to that of an inkjet and you will immediately notice a considerable difference. However, most people think that colour laser quality is good enough for general office duties – the term coined by the industry is “business colour”. This means the devices are good enough for colour office application documents, and even reasonable quality product brochures but you would not really want to print your wedding photos on a colour laser.
The key advantage of laser printers is their low cost per page. Even when you add in the price of the additional consumables required by these machines, when you calculate the cost of printing thousands of pages a year they work out to be considerably less expensive than inkjets.
Harcourt of Context explained: “The inkjet product is inherently much more expensive to print with, so if you are finding that the level of printing you are doing with an inkjet printer and the amount of ink that you are laying on the page is quite high, and if you are willing to trade off slightly on the print quality in order to save quite a bit of money, really you need to consider the trade offs between printing with ink and printing with lasers.”