The Difference Between an Inkjet & a LaserJet

When you are in the market for a new printer, there is an important decision to make. The choice used to be easy, but it has become more difficult as technology has improved. In the past, if you needed color, you would buy an inkjet printer. If your print jobs were for business, you would buy a laser printer. The rules have changed, and what you need depends on your budget and the quality you need for your print jobs.

Close up of a printer
credit: George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Getty Images


Laser printers have always been preferred by businesses. They are known for their good print quality without having any fuzzy edges on the lettering. Inkjet printers have always had a useful place as well. Inkjets found a market with home users who wanted to print pictures and things with color. To get good quality color pictures on an inkjet printer, special inkjet paper is required so that the colors won't bleed. Some laser printers are now capable of color, and so they are finding a place in more homes. Laser printers don't require special paper to get great color detail and print at a higher resolution. Overall, laser printers product higher quality print jobs.


Inkjet printers are able to only print a row at a time. The print heads pass back and forth over the paper as it is fed in increments through the printer. This process takes time to complete, especially when many colors are involved. Laser printers print the entire page as it is fed through the printer. Only one pass is needed so the print is completed much quicker. Laser printers are the fastest of the two types.


When looking at the cost of printers, there are two factors to take into consideration. The up-front cost of an inkjet printer is much less than that of a laser printer. The cost of ink is more over time than the cost of toner. Inkjet printers use ink while laser printers use toner. Expect a higher up-front cost on laser printers, but with how long the toner lasts, the overall cost for laser printers are much less. Over the lifetime of a printer, the laser printer will cost much less.


Inkjet printers use a liquid ink, usually having two different cartridges. A black cartridge does all of the black in a picture as well as text, while the color--red, yellow and blue--cartridge uses drops of the three main colors to blend and create the color needed for the picture or text. A laser printer uses dry toner, which is melted into the paper with a laser and drum.

Which One

Even though inkjet printers are not as fast as laser printers, they are still quick at getting the job done. For home use, inkjet printers are still in high demand. If you need a printer for business, a laser printer is your better option. Make sure you get what your budget allows, sometimes a combination of one black laser printer and a color inkjet printer is best. Color laser printer are still expensive.