Which printer uses less ink – Which is the right one for me…Inkjet, Laser or Both?
Deciding which printer uses less ink in order to know what to buy can be a tricky process because there are so so many factors needed to be considered. Its really only the user that will know the type and extent of printing they do. So its important to understand exactly what your printing needs are so you can then accurately determine what type of printer uses less ink that will actually be able to get the job done. Unfortunately it can be a daunting process for many nowadays. With over 20 different manufacturers and upwards of a 100 different models to choose from, it’s not surprising that consumers feel somewhat bemused by all the latest offerings. And now with some laser printers just as affordable as inkjet printers, the choice is even more bewildering.
Inkjet printer? .. Laser printer.. I am confused, what’s the difference?
Before deciding which printer uses less ink that is right for you, it’s really handy to know the basics about how they work and their key differences.
An inkjet printer makes an image by spraying tiny jets of ink onto the paper through very small nozzles built into a mechanism known as the print head. It does this by rapidly turning on and off tiny heating elements that make the ink expand out from the cartridge and onto the paper. Some printers have ink cartridges that come with this print head built into the ink cartridge, while others have the print head built into the printer and the cartridge is just a simple plastic tank of ink. Many Lexmark, Dell and HP Inkjet Printers typically have cartridges with the print head attached, while others like Canon, Epson and Brother have the print head located and fixed inside the printer. The ink cartridges that come with the print head attached are usually significantly more expensive than those that only require just an ink tank. Inkjet printers are relatively inexpensive and produce high quality text and graphics in both black and white and colour.
A laser printer utilises a combination of laser technology and static electricity to create an image on the imaging unit inside the printer, known as a drum. The drum has an electrostatic charge applied to it so that it can attract the toner from the toner cartridge. The laser beam then is turned on and directed onto the drum to discharge the charge in the white areas, leaving only image areas charged to attract the toner. Once this has occurred, the paper moves under the drum and an opposite charge is applied to the paper to pull the toner from the dum onto the paper. The paper is then transported to a heat press section, where the loose toner is melted into the fibres of the paper. Some printers combine the drum and toner together, while others have separate toner and drum units. Those with the toner/drum combination cartridge are significantly more than those that have these components separated. Like other types of printers, running cost vary based on the density and coverage of the image.
So which type of printer uses less ink?
The cost to run inkjet printers vary depending on how much of the page is covered by ink. Typically though, manufacturers quote the amount of pages based on 5% coverage and at this rate, costs vary from between 7 and 12 cents per page. In reality though, many who purchase inkjet printers do so because they want to print photos or lots of colour which cover a lot more than 5% of the page. So one would have to extrapolate out these costs based on their actual coverage. I.e. if coverage is 20%, then costs would be 4 times that of 5%. However this cost can usually be halved by using quality generic ink cartridges.
For Laser printers, manufacturers also quote the amount of pages based on 5% coverage and at this rate, costs vary from between 3 and 5 cents per page. For text only documents 5% coverage is pretty accurate, but as with inkjet printers, costs can increase dramatically if doing lots of colour and black coverage on a page. As with generic ink cartridges, the use of generic toners can significantly decrease operating costs by as much as 50-60%.
Okay, but what about print quality?
The quality of print or resolution is always expressed as dots per inch, which essentially means that for 1200 dpi, you would get 1200 ink dots spread over 1 inch of the paper. Most inkjet printers offer 1200 dpi resolution, however high end ones can produce up to 4800 dpi. Lasers however typically produce 600 dpi, although high end ones can produce 1200 dpi.
So which printer type will last the longest?
Generally, laser printers are more durable than inkjet printers and therefore should last longer, given regular maintenance and servicing is conducted. There are however the top end inkjet printers available that can be just as durable as their laser printer cousins.
Okay, I am starting to understand the differences, but how do really know which printer uses less ink that will be the right one for me?
The key to determining which one to buy should be based on your actual printing needs. Although purchases are often dictated by the available budget, many times this becomes a false economy. Down the track, operating costs can become too prohibitive to be cost effective. The sweet taste of getting a cheap printer can soon turn bitter, when one finds themselves running down to the local office supply shop every week to get more ink or toner. Plus having to shell out continually for repairs every month or so, because it can’t keep up with the load. Often, consumers make the mistake of buying the cheapest printer, only to find out later, that the replacement ink and toner cartridges cost more than the actual printer. Furthermore they find that they are doing significantly more prints than they thought they would and because of this, they then to have to replace the cartridges at ridiculously short intervals. Once again costing them far more than they ever anticipated. There is a reason you can buy a printer for $29.00… so that manufacturers can secure their future ink sales, this is where they really make their money! For the consumer who does 50 – 100 pages a month, this printer would be more than appropriate, but in my experience, once a printer is purchased, volumes generally increase. I implore everyone to really consider their actual needs, the volume of printing, the desired speed as well as the nature and quality of the printing. I always advise my clients after they have done needs assessment and have settled on a particular make and model of printer, to seriously consider purchasing the next duty model up. It may cost a little more initially, but in the medium to long term, the true cost will be will be significantly lower. Furthermore, it will last longer, have less downtime and be able to handle additional loads as the workload increases.
Okay, I hear what you’re saying…how do I conduct this needs assessment?
Fortunately, there are several key questions consumers can ask themselves to identify exactly what their needs are before venturing into this maze. Like researching any other product, by answering such questions beforehand, consumers are able to quickly develop a workable shortlist of suitable hardware printing solutions that will fit their budget and needs. By following the table below, potential consumers can quickly gauge what would be their best option:
Printer Guide – Needs Assessment – PPM = Pages per month
Okay I have identified my printing needs, now how do I find out which printer uses less ink that will do the trick?
Go to all the manufacturers’ websites to get detailed specifications of printers that match with your needs.
Where can I find out all this specific information?
Hewlett Packard: www.hp.com
- After conducting the above needs assessment, check out manufacturer websites to finalise your shortlist.
- Be sure to calculate the cost per page accurately by getting prices on ink cartridges, toners and drums and divide such costs by the pages expected to be done, keeping in mind how much page coverage is anticipated.
- Be wary of printers bundled with new PC’s, they are usually the budget type and cost a fortune to run.
- Also be wary of cash back offers on printers as these too can be costly to run, just do your homework.Please don’t forget to also check pricing on our website by clicking below on image to directly compare the prices of different printer cartridges in order to determine which printer uses less ink per dollar.