Inkjet or laser printing: which is more cost-effective?
With the standard inkjet cartridge now producing a measly 200 pages, its important to look at whether laser printers represent a cost-effective alternative for the home consumer.
As home printing took off many years ago, it was cheap inkjet models – which simply hammered tiny dots of ink on to paper – that would end up in most people's homes. The bulky laser version was a business-only product.
However, the last few years have seen the size and price of laser printers drop dramatically. Some models can now comfortably fit on a desktop, HP, Brother, Samsung and Canon offer small foot-print mono and colour laser printers.
Basic monochrome (black only) models can be bought for less than £80, although more sophisticated colour versions – with features such as Wi-Fi and duplex printing – can sell for over £250 and more. This compares with the £50 and less that inkjet printers sell for. So a laser will only make sense if the savings on ink outweigh the extra cost of the machine.
Standard laser cartridges – coloured toner (powder ink), typically cyan, magenta, yellow, and black – contain a lot of intricate components, print anything from 1,000-3,500 pages but can set you back a hefty £60-£120 each. Still, that compares well with the measly 200 pages you are likely to get from the standard inkjet cartridge costing around £15.
So do laser printers now represent a cost-effective alternative for the home consumer? Generally this depends on how many pages you print. Laser printers can be better value over the longer term, but the initial outlay can be a lot more. Another advantage of laser printers is that they do not dry up if left unattended for several weeks or months. We recommend these printers over inkjet printers as they tend to clog up if not used on a regular basis.
Hewlett Packard manufactures more than half of the printers sold in the UK. Its bestselling HP Deskjet 3050A inkjet retails for about £60. The cartridges sell for £10-£15 and have a standard page yield of 190 (black) and 165 (colour).
The company's top-selling HP CP2025 colour LaserJet sells for about £300. Cartridges retail for about £110 and have a page yield of 2,800 (colour) and 3,500 (black).
Cursory number-crunching indicates that if you print only, say, 1,000 pages a year – based on ISO standard 5% paper coverage – then the inkjet, at about 5p per page, is better value
But for anyone who prints more than 2,000 pages a year, a laser printer, at about 3p per page, is cheaper. The savings increase the more you print. A small office, for instance, that prints 10,000 pages, stands to save hundreds of pounds by switching.
But inkjet does have its advantages. At the domestic end of the market the print quality is higher and the colour definition better. If you print mostly photos then you probably want to stick with an inkjet printer or a small compact dye sublimation printer.
If you're buying a laser printer it's important to work out what you're going to use it for before deciding on a model. As a rule of thumb, the cheaper the printer, the smaller the cartridge, and the lower the page yield.
Samsung's ML2160 monochrome laser printer, for example, costs about £50. But the cartridges also cost £50 – and print a comparatively modest 1,500 pages.
For all type of printers do not buy a printer on price alone. its advisable to always look at the cost of the replacement cartridges and their print yield.
One way to save money on these is to buy refilled cartridges, which can be 30-50% cheaper than the original price, according to the European Toner & Inkjet Remanufacturers Association. Think about investing in a laser that supports duplex printing – printing on both sides of the paper – which cuts down on energy and paper consumption.
It may also be worth buying a printer that is Wi-Fi compatible so that one click of a button will allow you to print, whether from laptop or smartphone.
Generally, if you think how little ink is in the average inkjet cartridge compared to the average laser cartridge the economics are in favour of laser. Sometimes the cartridge prices aren't that different. But those for the laser can last an awful lot longer. There are some inkjet manufacturers that market themselves against laser printers, Epson and HP offer business inkjet printers like the Epson Workforce Pro and HP Officejet Pro, these cartridges have a high page yield and are more comparable to laser consumption and cost per page than other standard inkjet printers.