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Ink Jet printers vs. Colour Laser printers

In our eight round head to head we will compare inkjets with colour lasers to help you decide which will be your next printer. We will cover the cost of the device, cost per print, print speed, OS compatibility, networkability, photo print quality, text print quality and ease of use. To make a fair comparison we selected two printers with a street value of around 0 Australian dollars the Fuji Xerox DocuPrint C525A colour laser and the Epson R800.

Round One - Capital cost – winner Ink Jet.
Although colour laser printers are now much cheaper inkjets still generally cost less. If you consider our two reference printers, the 0 buys you an entry level colour laser while for the same price you get the current top of the line A4 inkjet from Epson. If your initial budget is limited to under 0 then an inkjet is still your only choice.

Round Two – Cost per print – winner Colour Laser.
It is no secrete that inkjets cost a lot to run and here we will do a few calculations to prove it. Printing b/w text on the C525a costs 5.5 cents/page while on the R800 it costs 7.1 cents/page. The cost of printing images is 22c per page and 37.5c on the laser and inkjet respectively. These figures assume 5% coverage per colour and are based on the manufactures estimates. The inkjet figures are best case scenarios in draft or economy mode. In high quality mode inkjet’s cost per page skyrocket. If running costs are important to you then the laser is the only way to go.

Round Three – Print Speed – winner colour laser
According to the manufacture’s specifications, both types of printers would appear to be similar speeds. The specs of the R800 quote 17ppm and 8ppm for mono and colour respectively while the Xerox C525 boasts a speed of 17.5ppm for mono and 5ppm for colour. If you turn off draft mode on the inkjet the performance starts to crawl. Real world tests of high quality test reveal a disappointing 2.1 pages per minute. Print speed is defiantly not an inkjet’s strength.

Round Four – Os Compatibility - winner Inkjet
A drawback of some entry level laser printers (colour and mono) is lack of compatibility with operating systems other than Windows. Printer makers use GDI print emulation to offload most of the printer’s work to the users PC. This means that printers need less processing power making them cheaper but unfortunately completely incompatible with either anything other than Windows.

While almost all inkjets are Macintosh compatible, entry level GDI colour lasers such as Canon LBP-5000 or Konica Minolta 2500w are not. Luckily two very popular colour lasers, the Xerox C525a and Acuculaser C1100 from Epson, are Mac and Linux compatible. If you don’t use Windows you can still get a great colour laser but you will have too shop around. Mac support is so common in the inkjet world that a Mac user barely needs to check before buying. This is another victory to the inkjets.

Round Five – Networkability – winner laser
As laser printing technology was originally aimed at office users a network port a common, even in entry level models. A quick survey of all the inkjets from Canon and Epson reveals that only one offers network support out of the box (Canon Pixma iP5200R). If you need to network your inkjet you will need to consider buying a separate print server. This one goes to the colour laser.

Round Six – Photo Print Quality – winner inkjet
Although colour laser printers are now much better at printing photos they still do not match the incredible results from high-end inkjets. For the best results you will need to invest in the high quality consumables and allow time for output. This is a no-brainer, inkjets take the crown here.

Round Seven – Text Print Quality – winner laser
Colour printers share most of their design and features with their monochrome ancestors. Just like mono lasers colour lasers produce sharp, dark and consistent characters. Text printed on an inkjet on the other hand often bleeds, exhibits white lines or is more grey than black. A laser is the only option for professional looking documents.

Round Eight – Ease of use - tie
In an inkjet the paper path is much simpler. This makes paper jams less common and easier to fix. On the other hand inkjets require ongoing print head maintenance which is not necessary on a laser. This one would have to be a tie.

With three rounds going to the inkjet and four to the colour laser it was a fair fight but the colour laser won in the end. As for selecting your next printer, it all depends on how you prioritise each round. Clearly identify your needs and select the type of printer that is right for you.

About the Author: For more resources on Ink Jet printers or getting a deal on a Colour Laser printer, please visit

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