Inkjet vs. Laser for Photo Printing: Which One To Choose?

Laser vs Inkjet

One of the most common discussions in the printing world is about the inkjet vs. laser printer photo printing capacity. And it happens because they offer different results – but both are still worth considering.

If you’re looking for a new printer for photography, then you may want to know which one of these two works best.

For that, we’ll have to go deep into each one and explain how they exactly differ so you can have a better idea of what to go for.

Below we’ll explain all that and more. So read on!

What Is Inkjet Printer?

An inkjet printer is the most common and popular type you’ll find. In fact, this is the technical name of the house printer you probably have at home. As you should know, these printers use cartridges. These cartridges connect directly to little jets that spray ink into the paper. And that’s how they function.

This process is efficient, but also of high quality. Yet, inkjet is somewhat slow and may not work neatly for all purposes.

Advantages of Inkjet Printer

  • Produces quality photos and paper prints
  • Combines inks and colors effectively for vibrant prints
  • Starts printing without warm-up time
  • Works with a wide array of papers types & sizes
  • Small and light design fits almost anywhere

Disadvantages of Inkjet Printer

  • Ink and cartridges are expensive
  • Work at a very slow pace
  • Don’t hold much paper
  • Can’t handle high volumes

What Is Laser Printer?

While inkjet printers refer to the typical household machine, a laser printer refers to the typical business/office one. This kind of printer uses electricity in the form of a laser to melt toner (powder ink). This is a highly efficient and practical way to print stuff.

But at the same time, it limits the color and quality of the print. Luckily, it is the fastest and cheapest way to print – so a laser printer is totally worth it.

Advantages of Laser Printer

  • Prints truly fast and efficiently
  • Can print in high volumes with no issue
  • Provides sharp and clear text
  • Toner (powder ink) is super affordable
  • Boast large trays that hold tons of paper

Disadvantages of Laser Printer

  • Not the best at printing complex graphics
  • Most laser printers are huge & bulky
  • Usually work with only one or two types & sizes of paper
  • Tend to have high upfront costs

Laser vs. Inkjet for Photo Printing: Differences to Consider

Laser vs. Inkjet for Photo Printing

So now that you have a basic idea of what each one offers – it is time to go deep into how they differ. Here, we’re going to talk about their printing/photo quality, the volume & speed, ink capacity, overall size, initial price, and usage costs.

Photo Quality

This is probably the most important part to consider when comparing the photo-printing performance. And you’ll be happy to know that the quality of the print in each model differs a lot.

To give you a fast and clear idea, inkjet printers are much better than laser ones. This happens because they use liquid ink with small jets that usually deliver more precise and vibrant imagery. And when it comes to printing photos – this helps to deliver the best overall quality. We do a deep dive into color laser printers in our article to print beautiful photos.

But laser printers don’t stay too far behind. While they won’t provide the crispness and sharpness that an inkjet printer offers, they can still look neat. In fact, most laser printers nowadays are equipped with decent features and unique technologies that achieve excellent photo quality still.

Overall, however, inkjet printers will away achieve the greatest depth and tone quality. So, it is safe to say that for anyone who wants quality photo printing – then an inkjet model should be their way to go. For medium to low-quality photo printing, a laser one will be enough.

Printing Speed

If inkjet printers are better at photo quality, how they perform in speed. Well, as we explained in our small description, they’re super slow. For speed, a laser printer will always have the advantage. They use more efficient components that can print more pages in less time – so they’re a lot faster.

The usual inkjet printer, for example, can print about 10 to 20 pages per minute. But a laser printer can print anywhere from 15 to 100 pages. While photo printing rarely focuses on speed over quality, it is still worth knowing that laser printers are faster.

Printing Volume

You may already have an idea of what inkjet and laser printers offer in speed and quality. So what about their quantity and volume? Well, you can guess that being faster at printing also makes laser models capable of handling more volume. But this is not only about their speed, but also about their overall printing process.

A laser print, being more efficient, is capable of printing lots of pages without causing much strain on the machine. In contrast, inkjet printers are less efficient, so their parts tend to heat up, wear off, and strain more.

What would be the printing volume of each then? Well, it depends – but a regular laser printer can offer anywhere from 500 to 3,000 (or more) prints a month. An inkjet printer may probably have a max printing volume of 500 a month (and that’s putting a lot of strain on the machine).

Sure enough, it is the laser printer that offers the most volume – but that comes at the expense of quality. 

Ink Storage

As we mentioned before, inkjet printers use liquid ink cartridges, while laser printers use toners (powder ink cartridge). What’s the difference here? Well, inkjets use ink cartridges only. A laser printer, on the other hand, uses toner cartridges as well as a drum unit.

It is important to know that ink cartridges empty out faster and are more fragile – so they may need a lot more maintenance to keep working. A toner cartridge lasts at least thrice as much, and a drum unit can last up to five times as much as a normal ink cartridge.

What does this mean? You’ll have to change ink cartridges more commonly, and treat them with more care. However, you’ll have to change both toner cartridges and drum units on laser printers but less frequently.

So, which one has the most practical ink storage?

We can safely say a laser printer has more practical and durable ink storage. Yet, you will need to replace two things (toner & drum unit) instead of only the cartridge. It is slightly better, but not that much.

Printer Size

Even though you’re looking at one of these to print photos, you may still want to have something that fits inside an office or bedroom. In that case, you’ll want something decently large that prints easily, but also small enough, so it fits anywhere you want to place it.

Here, you will find that inkjet printers are the smallest of the two. Some of these machines have jets/print heads directly onto the cartridges, which saves a lot of space in their design. So you may find super-small inkjet printers that don’t need more than 15 or 20 inches of total footprint in a desk.

Laser printers are not super large, though. You may still find a few small models at about a similar size than a large inkjet printer. But overall, they are larger and bulkier.

Because they have to accommodate the toner and the drum unit, they are usually twice as large as an inkjet model. If you care about space, then go for an inkjet model. But if you don’t, then a laser printer will do the job.

Common Issues

What are the most common problems you’ll face with these two types of printers?

Well, inkjet printers tend to have tons of cartridge problems. Sometimes, these issues go so far as to make the user buy a new printer instead of fixing the broken one.

At the same time, cartridges tend to dry up if they’re not used consistently (at least once a month). And that can make them unusable later.

Lastly, you’ll find laser printers to be less problematic. But still, they tend to get jammed with paper and usually demand more cleaning. While these problems are easy to fix most of the time, they happen more often than inkjet printer issues.

Initial Price

Another super important factor you don’t want to dismiss is the cost of the printer at first. If you’re looking to print photos, you need to be aware that this could end up being a huge investment.

So the amount you spend should follow your purpose over all else. For example, if you’re looking to set up a printing business – then you need a durable and capable machine.

In this case, an inkjet printer that can handle a decent number of prints a month can cost anywhere from $150 to $400. For a laser printer with this capacity, you may find prices going from $200 to $500. Sometimes it can be even more than that depending on the size.

But if you just need a cheap model to use occasionally, then you may be looking at an investment of about $50 for a small inkjet printer. And for a laser printer, you may go up to $200 tops.

High-end models for inkjet and laser printers can easily meet the $1,000 range. But sure enough, these are mostly for industrial or high-volume businesses.

Overall, it is safe to say that laser printers are the more expensive of the two. If you prefer cheapness at first, then you may find inkjet printers better.

Operating Costs

So inkjet printers are cheaper at first, right? Well, this may change over time. While you may spend a lot more money on a laser printer when buying it, you may end up saving a lot over time.

This happens because the value per page printed between the two models differs exponentially. A printed page for an inkjet printer can go anywhere from 2.5 to 3 cents. This means you’ll spend at least $25 for 100 pages.

In contrast, a laser printer costs go from 1 to 2 cents max. That means you can print 100 pages for a low fee of $20 tops. At the same time, it is safe to say that toner cartridges last longer. While a laser printer may print about 5,000 pages per toner, an inkjet printer can only deliver between 200 and 1,000 pages per cartridge.

Of course, you’ll have to change the ink cartridge more consistently than a toner. Yet, toner cartridges are more expensive because they last longer, but the price per page is still lower.

Read More: Does 3D Printing Use a Lot of Electricity? Not as much as you may think! We explore energy consumption and how to conserve energy while 3D printing.

Inkjet vs. Laser for Photo Printing: What to Choose?

After reading this comparison, you should be more than sure of what printer is the ideal one for you. But if you aren’t – don’t worry. We can safely say that if you prefer quality over quantity or volume, then inkjet is your best bet.

While they can be more expensive over time and slightly less practical, they’re also cheaper at first, which makes them ideal if you don’t want to invest much money.

A laser printer will be the perfect choice if you care more about quantity and speed than photo quality. But they can be highly expensive at first, despite being cheaper and more practical over time.

It is up to you then to pick the best one between laser vs. Inkjet printer for photo printing. But we wouldn’t hesitate to choose an inkjet printer.

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