07 Sep Things to Consider When Choosing a New Printer
It used to be so easy – laser printers were ‘business’ machines and inkjet printers were domestic machines.
These days, it’s more confusing with new innovations in technology making the decision a whole lot harder than was once the case.
In simple terms, the difference in the basic technology is still easy to understand:
- Inkjet printers use liquid ink which is sprayed through microscopic nozzles on to the paper.
- Laser printers use a toner cartridge (which is filled with a very fine powder) and a heated fuser.
So, with the technology being so obviously differentiated, making a choice between the two types of printer ought to be straightforward:
- Laser printers have always tended to be more expensive than inkjet, but they have typically been faster (once they have warmed up), and have a higher output per cartridge. If you needed something fast that could handle heavy office workloads, you bought a laser. Hence, they have traditionally been the choice of business.
- Meanwhile, if you wanted high-quality, affordable colour printing for the home or professional quality photo prints, you went for down the inkjet route.
So far, so simple.
But things have changed:
Colour laser printers have now started to retail at prices tempting to home users, while business inkjets have been taking strides forward in development so that they are becoming more of a credible business choice.
The last couple of years have seen the evolution of a new breed of inkjets that are faster than their ancestors, and more ecologically friendly than their toner-consuming laser cousins.
So, what’s the real story?
Both Inkjet and Laser printers still have advantages and disadvantages, although it is fair to say that improvements to the core technology are helping both types of printer to push past their limitations. There are five main things you need to consider when you are looking at choosing your next printer:
- Networking and security
1. The Fast and the Furious. Time is money; speed is important.
It has traditionally been the case that laser printers were the fastest kids on the block, but inkjets are the new boy-racers.
Not so long ago, inkjet printers topped out at around 30ppm (pages per minute) in black-and-white and only 10ppm in colour. Yep – the printer equivalent of a Granny in a Honda doing 50mph in the slow lane. Meanwhile, laser printers were routinely hitting speeds of up to 40ppm, irrespective of whether it was printing in black and white or colour. Ferrari territory.
Now, though, laser printers are hitting speeds of 60, and even 70ppm. You might think that this would be like the lasers simply upgrading from sports car to supercar; widening the performance gap between the two types of machine and leaving the inkjets in the dust.
The new generation of inkjet printers now have print heads that span the entire width of an A4 page, and they can spew out pages at a ridiculous speed; up to 75ppm, which matches and even beats some of the fastest laser printers, and turning preconceptions on their heads. Granny just overtook Vin Diesel doing 120mph in the outside lane.
2. Quality is king
In many cases a good quality laser printer will still have the edge when it comes to clean, crisp black text and colour graphics for most business documents.
However, whilst not quite stealing a march on the lasers just yet, inkjets have improved dramatically. Inkjet text reproduction is now easily good enough for all internal documents and even most external use.
Add to that, inkjets almost universally produce the best results when printing photos, and you can see that the newer generation of inkjet printers are very much a contender when it comes to selecting a credible business machine.
3. Durability – your business needs a workhorse
This is where laser printers have always smashed it out of the park. They are built to handle enormous workloads of anywhere between 2000 and 20000 pages.
Even with the new generation of inkjets, they still wimp out after a monthly workload exceeding the range of 1500 to 5000 pages (depending on model).
But, you know what? 1500 – 5000 pages is a lot.
In fact, it’s probably going to be perfectly adequate for most smaller SMEs (where an average print job is around four pages) or small departments in large businesses. So, even on the durability front, don’t count out the inkjet just yet.
4. Money, money, money. How much does it cost?
In printer lore passed down from days of yore, we know that lasers are expensive to buy but cheap to run, while inkjets are cheap upfront but cost you more in the consumables, with a laser toner cartridge churning out thousands of prints, and an inkjet cartridge running out every five minutes.
But, as with so much else in this brave new world of printing devices, this conventional wisdom is no longer reliable.
On the one hand, lasers are getting cheaper to buy up front. Budget models are coming with smaller starter cartridges that run out fairly quickly, though the standard or super-sized cartridges will still have impressive lifespans. In toner alone, expect the cost per page to come in at around 2p for a black-and-white page and 5p to 10p for a colour page.
On the other hand, business inkjets are getting their own costs per page right down, to the extent that some models can now produce prints for around 1p per page for black-and-white to 5p per page for colour. Meanwhile, extra-large cartridges have hit the market and so too have clever innovations like Epson’s Ecotank range. This means a lot of newer inkjets are able to print over 9000 pages (black) or 6500 pages (colour).
It’s only fair to note that there are other costs to consider.
Laser printers still deliver excellent results even on plain paper (although smoother paper will always produce even better results), so there’s no need to splash out on dearer paper.
Having said that, inkjet paper is no longer so much more expensive, and inkjets usually consume less power than lasers, so they are cheaper (and more ecologically friendly) to run in terms of power consumption.
Combine that with a lower purchase cost, and there’s definite scope to save your business money.
5. Networking and Security – plug in, baby
It is still true that the top-end enterprise level laser printers offer more management tools, plus support for more high-end networking (e.g. Gigabit Ethernet and IPSec).
But even in this area, inkjets are coming into their own. An increasing number of office inkjet printers have the same or similar embedded management features that laser printers have, plus document security features that you normally only get with MPS (managed print services solutions), such as secure pull-printing, where jobs are held in a queue until released at the printer with a PIN code.
Not only that, but also the new generation of inkjets come with wireless and cloud-printing features that enable the printer to work with a wider range of devices or take print jobs from remote locations.
So, a laser might offer more management and security features at the top end of the market but a business inkjet can still give you all the tools most businesses need.
What’s the bottom line?
It’s no longer a straightforward decision of ‘laser for business’ and ‘inkjet for home’. But that’s a good thing.
As technology has evolved, the range of functions and applications available across a wide range of different machines means that your business can now take advantage of the features it needs at a price that is competitive. Combine a smart printer choice with a MPS solution, and you will be optimising your efficiency in terms of your business expenditure and your operational effectiveness.
Thanks for reading, and if you think that this information will be of use to someone else you know, please don’t hesitate to share it.