Inkjet or Laser Printer - Which Makes Better Sense for You?

Posted on January 20, 2021 by Sridhar Balasubramanian

If you're trying to choose between an inkjet and laser printer, it's obviously beneficial to have information comparing the two in terms of quality, cost and longevity of cartridges. Inkjet printers employ liquid ink or dye, which they draw from ink cartridges the purchaser must replace when empty. Laser printers use another material encased in their cartridges — toner (or powder) — to create the printed images. 

A Bit About Ink and Toner

Inkjet cartridges are made up of microscopic nozzles that spray droplets of either dye or pigmented ink onto paper. A fascinating article published by Cartridge World (February 2019) reveals that an inkjet cartridge can discharge more than 1,120 ink droplets simultaneously per second, from individual ink nozzles inside printer cartridges that measure one-seventh the diameter of a human hair.

The ink in inkjet cartridges is composed of mostly water (98%), along with a combination of glycol, glycerine, dye or pigment resin, and alcohol. The relative quantities of these constituents is proprietary information, closely guarded by competing manufacturers. Interestingly, according to an August 2018 article in Consumer Reports, printer ink costs between $13 and $95 per ounce. (They also reported, shockingly, that many inkjet printer models distribute only half or less of the ink in their cartridges to the page, with some only managing 20 to 30%.) 

Toner cartridges contain toner, a powder that is mainly made up of finely ground polyester (a kind of plastic). These fine granules hold an electric charge that clings to anything with an opposite charge. Inside a printer, a laser creates an electrostatic template of the image being printed on a rotating, electrically charged metal drum. A cartridge distributes toner onto the drum, and the toner will stick only to specific spots where the laser alters the drum’s electrical charge. 

At the same time, the laser printer puts a charge on pieces of paper as they pass through the machine. The sheets curl over the drum, pulling the charges off the toner in an exact replica of the image being copied. A searing hot fuser melts the plastic toner particles in place, rendering the final precise, smudge-free print. 

One very unsustainable fact about toner cartridges is that it requires, on average, one full gallon of oil to produce a single toner cartridge.

Inkjet Versus Laser Printing: Pros and Cons

Numerous articles enumerate the advantages and disadvantages of inkjet versus laser, but herein is a summary:

Inkjet Advantages

  • The cartridges are less expensive, as they hold less ink relative to the amount of toner in laser cartridges, and they are simpler in design.

  • Ink prints don’t smudge as easily as toner prints. In addition, ink prints are known to be more durable than toner prints.

  • Ink cartridges are easier to replace.

Inkjet Disadvantages

  • Ink cartridges produce overall fewer prints.

  • Ink cartridges easily get clogged, especially if the printer remains unused for a long period of time.

Laser Toner Advantages

  • Laser printers create prints more quickly, due to more complex and precise technology.

  • Print quality is better due to the heightened technology utilized in a laser printer.

  • Laser toner cartridges last longer. They are larger, and unused toner can also be siphoned and reused.

Laser Toner Disadvantages

  • Laser toner cartridges are expensive to replace. Also, if the cartridge is contained in the same housing as the printer drum, toner might go to waste if the drum needs replacing before the toner runs out. 

  • Laser printers are more expensive due to their more advanced technology.

How to Choose the Right Printer Option for You

The question of which printer type will better serve an individual or business depends on what kind of printing is being done. Although laser printers are known to provide better print quality on paper, the design of inkjet printers is more suited to photographic prints, as well as to printing on materials other than paper (canvas, cardboard, specialized art papers, etc.).

According to another article published by Cartridge World (March 2019), laser printers are more suited to large offices that print mainly black-and-white documents and have less need for variety in paper size. In addition, since laser printers generate prints faster, they are more matched to the efficiency demands of most large offices.

The article goes on to say that inkjet printers, on the other hand, are better for homes and small businesses, especially when high-quality photos and prints with bright colors and tonal depth are a priority.

Think of photographic artists, for example, who would definitely be able to generate better photographs with an inkjet printer. Some multimedia artists print on materials other than paper and in a variety of sizes to create their artwork, so these individuals would be better served using an inkjet printer. In addition, homes and small businesses generally don’t prioritize the speed of producing prints as do large businesses.


1. Bufete, T. (2018, August 17). The High Cost of Wasted Printer Ink. Consumer Reports.

2. Cartridge World. (2019, March 14). Printer Toner Vs. Ink: Which is More Economical? .

3. Cartridge World. (2019, February 8). Understand the Difference Between Ink and Toner. .

4. LaMarco, N. (2019, January 24). Printer Ink or Toner: Which is More Economical? Chron.

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