PC Tip of the Month

Try a Laser Printer

October 2016 – by Per Christensson

For a long time, laser printers were only for businesses and large organizations. They cost thousands of dollars and were large bulky devices. Today, a good laser printer costs almost the same price as an inkjet one. And while they're still one of the bulkier computer peripherals you'll find, they are small enough to put on your desk.

HP Color Laser Multifunction Printer So why go laser? Because laser printers have several advantages over inkjets. While inkjet printers may have a cheaper initial cost, laser printer toner cartridges last much longer than most ink tanks, meaning you have to replace the toner less frequently. For example, an inkjet cartridge might give you 200 pages, while a laser printer might give you 2,000. Even though a large toner cartridge may cost over $100, it will probably give you a lower cost per page than multiple inkjet cartridges.

Historically, laser printers have been faster than inkjets. But modern inkjet printers can churn out pages so fast, the difference is negligible. However, color printing is still typically quite a bit faster on laser printers. Going back to price, you can get a good color laser printer for less than $200, which is pretty amazing since only a few years ago they cost close to $1,000.

But the biggest advantage of a laser printer is… less maintenance.

Every inkjet printer I have ever owned starts to show smudges and lines after printing only a few dozen pages. Most of them have completely stopped working within three years. I constantly need to run the cleaning utility to clean the print heads and even recalibrate the printer on a regular basis. I bought my first laser printer a few years ago and haven't had to run maintenance utility once. The prints are more consistent and I don't have to check each page for strange lines or smudged ink.

If you decide to go the laser route, you should be aware that the print quality will be different. A laser print, which is transferred to the paper by and electric charge, appears more shiny than an inkjet print. Some people like the shiny look, while others prefer the matte ink appearance. I'm not partial, but I do think laser prints look more professional.

Laser printers do have one disadvantage compared to inkjet printers — they don't print color images as well. Unless you invest in a color laser printer in the $1,000+ range, your colors won't be as vibrant as those in a similar inkjet print. Some cheap laser printers might also display banding, or noticeable lines in gradients since they don't mix colors as well. While you can buy glossy laser paper, the output is still not the same quality a color inkjet printer will produce.

If you plant to print lots of photos, stick with the old inkjet printer. Otherwise, I encourage you to try a laser printer and experience for yourself what hassle-free printing can be like.

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