I’ll admit it: even after testing and writing about printers for many years, I still don’t have a straightforward answer whenever someone asks me for a printer recommendation — or how he or she should go about choosing one.
The answer really is: it depends.
The easiest way to start this discussion is to understand the different types of printing technologies. More importantly, the strengths and weaknesses that each has. But as you’ll see below, thanks to various hardware and software advancements, the traditional lines between, say, laser printer and an inkjet printer are blurring.
That said, for the benefit of those new to the topic, this lead-in is inevitable.
Both laser and inkjet printers have been around for decades, which means comparisons between the two technologies are out there just as long.
In very simple terms, laser printers use laser (and mirrors) to draw the image on a photographic drum. The negatively-charged drum is then used to attract the positively-charged toner, which leaves an inked image on the drum. Next, the paper is brought near to the drum so that the ink powder particles on the drum can jump onto the paper — and finally, the image is fused to the paper using hot rollers.
Inkjet printers are easier to understand. While one inkjet maker may use a slightly different technique to fire the wet ink than the next, the premise is the same: thousands of super-tiny nozzles on a printhead is used to place millions of equally tiny ink dots on the paper every second to form the image.
Because of their origins, the inherent characteristics of each method and the fact that they’ve been in the market for years now, the typical strengths and weaknesses of laser and inkjet printers are well known to many people. Here’s a rundown of common impressions people have of the two:
As I mentioned earlier, printer tech has come a long way. While the above may all be true at some point in time, because printers today come in so many shapes and sizes, with so many features now shared between the two categories, and with products at so many price points, it’s increasingly less relevant to decide your next printer purchase based on such loose rules of thumb.
Take for instance the Canon imageCLASS MF269dw mono laser printer. It offers print, scan, copy and fax functions, has a top print speed of 28 pages per minute (ppm), and comes with a lot of advanced features including a 50-sheet duplex auto document feeder (ADF) and network printing. If I didn’t tell you that it’s priced at just S$379, would you’ve (wrongly) assumed based on the specs that it costs at least S$700 and therefore drop it from your shortlist?
The point I’m trying to make here is this: when buying a printer today, making decisions based on hardware specs and conventional wisdom (which may well be misconceptions now) isn’t the smartest move. Because the pro and con lines are blurring, instead of choosing between laser and inkjet, it’s better to start with identifying your printing needs or user profile and then narrow it down from there.
Let's explore that in the next page, shall we?