As prices of color laser printers continue to decline, many home, home office, small and medium business users are faced with an increasingly difficult decision on what type of printer to get to meet their color printing needs.
There are a lot of misconceptions about color laser printers but overall many users, especially small and medium businesses, are beginning to realize a color laser printer is a superior - and amazingly cheaper - alternative to an inkjet printer.
To find out why you should buy a color laser printer, ask yourself the following 5 questions:
1. How many pages do I (or my company) print a month?
You may not realize just how many pages you print, because it's probably more than you think. If you print 100 pages a day for 30 days, that is 3,000 pages per month. If you or your business routinely print reports or other multiple page documents, you can be easily over 10,000 pages a month. How much you print matters is because of the cost of ink cartridges or toner for your printer. Inkjet printers, which can be bought for as little as $50, contain expensive ink cartridges that run out quickly. Inkjet manufacturers know this well and is the reason they sell inkjet printers so cheaply. In fact, they routinely take a loss on the sale of the printer because they know they will more than make it up selling you ink multiple times.
Color laser printers on the other hand use toner, not ink cartridges, and
they yield a much higher amount of pages. Therefore, a color laser printer is initially more expensive to buy than an inkjet, your but total cost of ownership (how much the printer and related costs equal for as long as you own your printer) will come out to be substantially lower.
Many color laser printers are "rated" for a certain amount of pages a month. Therefore, you can find the best value when shopping around. You don't need to pay extra for printing power you don't need.
If you don't print a lot of pages a month, and inkjet remains a great choice - especially at home - where you may have to print an occasional picture from your digital camera in addition to the documents you print.
Color Laser Printer vs. Inkjet Printer
Color Laser Printer
Total Cost of Ownership
Image Print Quality
Text Print Quality
Black and White Printing
2. Do I need to network my printer as part of a workgroup
or home network?
Many color laser printers offer ethernet networking or printer server options, while almost all mid-level to high-end models come with this option standard. This makes color laser printers a superior choice as many inkjet printers do not offer networking capabilities. Also, if you are planning to buy a printer for a workgroup or home network, usually you will be printing a lot of pages, again making color laser printers a better choice (as explained in question 1).
What are the type of documents I print?
If you are a professional photographer (or enthusiast), or design shop and your prints must be of the highest quality and resolution, inkjets are still superior to color laser printers. However, many color laser models are closing the gap in quality, making them an attractive option for individuals, small and medium businesses that want to make a great impression with color crisp graphics. If you print a lot of reports with charts, for example, a color laser will probably yield a more professional looking page, as the toner of an color laser printer is not absorbed by the paper, giving you much sharper and more solid lines compared to an inkjet. If you need to print other sizes, such as legal or tabloid, many color laser printers come with 2 or more trays (or the option to add more trays) so you don't have to swap paper as often as you would with an inkjet.
4. Even though I need a color printer, do I still print many of my documents in black and white?
If you still print lot of black and white documents, a color laser printer yields sharper text than an inkjet. In addition to this, you'll still receive more prints for your dollar with a color laser printer, making a color laser a better choice than an inkjet, or even an inkjet and monochrome laser combination. One thing to consider when looking for a color laser printer is the page per minute (PPM) speed of color pages vs. the PPM of black and white pages. Most color lasers print black and white in one pass, and color documents in four, making black and white printing up to 400% faster than color printing in some models. Some models, however, take only one pass for both color and black and white, though at an overall slower rate. If you print many color documents, having the ability to print it in one pass will greatly speed up your print time. If you still print an overwhelming amount of documents in black and white, going with a one pass black and white and a four pass color model may make more sense.
5. Does speed matter to me?
Color laser printers are routinely faster than inkjet printers, so if speed is a high priority, a color laser is the only viable choice, especially if you print many black and white documents.
If you decide a color laser is for you, make sure to read our helpful How to Select a Color Laser Printer article, which explains in more detail what kind of color laser printer is best for your needs.