Since the lockdowns, millions of people find themselves setting up home offices, sales of both laser and inkjet printers have skyrocketed. But which is the wiser purchase? Well, that depends.
Home printers aren’t, in the scheme of things, particularly high-cost pieces of technology. But one thing to keep in mind is that a printer is far more than a one-off payment: you’re also committing to spending more on cartridges or toner to replenish its ink supply. With that in mind, choosing a printer is something that should be an informed decision.
In this article, we dive into the differences between inkjet and laser printers, their respective pros and cons, and how they compare in terms of price, speed, space and print quality.
Once you’ve read this article, we suggest you take a look at our pick of the top printer deals this month, and our best printer and best budget printer guides. Then, head to where to buy printer ink online.
What is a laser printer?
A laser printer works by using a powdered substance known as toner, rather than liquid ink, to produce its prints. The laser creates an electrostatic charge that transfers the toner to the paper, which is then fixed in place on the paper’s surface with an application of heat.
- Fast speeds. A laser printer will produce reams of documents
- Toner doesn’t bleed, so you won’t smudge your documents
- Toner is relatively inexpensive. You’ll need to replace your toner cartridges far less frequently than those of inkjet printers.
- Laser printers are much larger than inkjet printers, and if you're not planning to print regularly, you may find it takes up more space than you're happy with.
- They might be fast and productive, but laser printers are quite noisy with it. What drones away unnoticed in the background at work might be far more of a nuisance at home.
- The upfront cost of a laser printer is higher. While inkjet printers from reputable brands like Canon, Epson and HP start at around £50, with laser printers, it’s more likely £80 to £100.
Read our laser printer reviews:
- Brother MFC-L3710CW review - we awarded it 'best printer for a small office' in our best printers guide
What is an inkjet printer?
Inkjet printers work with liquid ink, dispensed onto the page via a series of micro-nozzles in the print head. You can get both monochrome and colour inkjet printers, although since inkjets are so often bought for photo printing, you'll find very few of the former on the market, and being honest, are hard to justify purchasing.
- Upfront cost. You can pick up a perfectly reliable inkjet printer for as little as £50 – and you can find older models on sale for half of that (at the end of this article, you'll find a few budget-end printers that are on sale right now).
- Inkjet printers are much more popular as home printers because of their compact size. Wireless options are particularly convenient much they're much easier to unbox and stow away. Inkjet printers have grown particular mini in the last few years – the HP Tango X is a great example of a compact inkjet.
- For photo printing, inkjet printers produce superior results to laser printers, whose efforts tend to be over-glossy (on standard paper) and less vibrant. If you like to add to your photo albums regularly, you'll find an inkjet will produce the best results. That is until those tell-tale tracklines appear...
- … And you realise that your printer’s ink cartridges need replacing. Here’s where inkjet printers usually prove most bothersome: they get through ink much more quickly. Inkjet cartridges can be notoriously expensive, though third-party options from companies like Cartridge People and Internet Ink are good value for money.
- While they’re ideally suited for photo printing, inkjet printers are too slow for office-scale printing. If you need to print lots of text-based documents regularly, you’ll quickly become frustrated with an inkjet printer.
Read our inkjet printer reviews:
- HP Envy Pro 6420 review - we awarded it 'best printer for speed' in our best printers guide
- Canon Pixma TS205 review - we awarded it 'best value colour printer'
- Canon Pixma TS7450 review - we awarded it 'best quality all-in-one printer'
- Epson XP-7100 review - we awarded it 'best family all-in-one printer'
- Epson EcoTank ET-2750 review - we awarded it 'best all-in-one printer that uses the least ink'
- HP DeskJet Plus 4120 review - we awarded it 'best value all-in-one printer'
Inkjet vs laser printers: which is better?
This is a tough question to answer definitively, so we’ll address it following a few different criteria.
This is nice and simple: for documents and texts, laser printers are best; for photos, inkjets printers are best. Yes, there are colour laser printers on the market that are more adept at quality photo printing, but they’re also usually very expensive, costing anywhere between £200 and £400.
Laser printers are the faster of the two printers – and by some way. They’re typically able to produce hundreds of printouts in a matter of minutes, which makes them suited for office tasks and paper admin.
As we’ve laid out, inkjet printers are noticeably cheaper than laser printers in terms of upfront cost – but they will likely cost more in the long run. Inkjet printers get through their ink far more speedily, and annoyingly, need to use it up during cleaning cycles.
Laser printers are much bigger than inkjets, and out of necessity, are made with metal parts that are plastic in inkjets. Because of this, they’re not just bulky but heavy, and although you’ll find compact options out there like the Brother LT-6500 and Lexmark Imprimante Laser B2236dw, they’re much harder to stow away than inkjets and will take up more space on your desk.
The below widgets will show some of the cheapest prices for printers we've tried and tested. We've listed the RRP so you can see if they are currently on sale.