Computer printers are becoming an integral part of our regular lives. Before choosing the right printer for you, it is really important to know the differences between a digital printer and a laser printer.
This article mainly addresses the intermediate users of printers and offers technical know-how as well as the in-depth differences between digital printers and laser printers.
So, let’s start!
- Digital Printers
- Laser Printer
- What is an Inkjet Printer?
- Are laser printers better than inkjets?
- What should you consider before buying a digital or laser printer?
- Printing Quality (DPI Vs PPI)
- Expandable Paper Capacity
- Initial Investment & ROI
- Print Speed
- Cloud Accessibility
- Availability of the spares
- Scanning Support
- Ability to add an additional tray
- Supportive with soft and hard paper
- Automatic Paper size recognition
- Energy Consumtption
- Consumables Cost
Digital printers are popular for their capabilities of printing from anywhere. That means a digital printer can operate without a wired connection. So, without attaching the printer to your computer, you can get your prints through wifi or from any cloud-based platform.
In a digital printer, you have the freedom to print both black and white and color prints; however, there are some issues.
In a nutshell, a digital printer is a compact printing device that benefits above the other traditional printing devices with its print from anywhere freedom.
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Let’s look at how a digital printer works
A digital printer receives the image from a computer and sets its color parameter as it was. A photo imaging cylinder rolls around while the inks make the prints as per the maximum capacity. The machine actually puts the ink directly on the curved paper like the traditional screen printing method.
Advantages of a digital printer
- Comparably cheaper than the laser printers
- Cloud operation
- Print on demand
- Quick payback
- Zero waste in comparison to the laser printers
- Supports a variety of paper types
- comparably lightweight
- Chances of paper jamming are low
- It’s durable for occasional use
Disadvantages of a digital printer
- Not suitable for a bulk printing
- Usually, multiple paper trays are not available
- Unable to deliver a perfect copy like the laser printers
Laser printing is a quicker method that uses a light beam, toner, and drum to make a printout. Laser printers are very useful during a bulk printing need.
There is variety in laser printers but, it is often costly when compared to digital printers, especially when you are preferring the printing speed and perfection of the xerox.
The notable advantage of laser printing is getting almost the same copy of the original document. For the better precession, the laser printing mechanism uses laser elemental approach that also helps to appear the text in a sharper tone. However, the payback of the initial investment could take a long depending the volume you are going to make.
How laser printers work
The primary source of the output of a laser printer is the laser light. This highly sensitive light directly impacts the drum and then the toner prints on the paper as per the static charge made on the drum earlier.
Here’s a visual of how a laser printer operates:
Advantages of the laser printers
- Image quality is better
- Freedom to work with various paper types
- larger paper size
- Multiple paper tray
- Higher print speed
Disadvantages of the laser printers
- The initial investment is high
- payback time is long
- Maintenance cost is high
- Produce wastages
- It May does not support print from anywhere
Here’s an infographic that illustrates the key differences between a digital printer and a laser printer:
What is an Inkjet Printer?
Inkjet printers work with traditional ink cartridges. The printer simply puts the ink on the paper and makes a xerox document. Usually, such printer cartridge contains all the primary colors such as black, magenta, cyan, and yellow which ultimately helps in producing a secondary color.
Inkjet printers are suitable for printing images or any documents which are rich in visualization. However, a low cartridge will automatically make a low quality color print.
People often buy inkjet printers due to comparatively low costs and regular usage.
How does Inkjet Work?
At the very first stage, it gets an image or any type of document from a computer device then the heated nozzle starts releasing the ink droplets over the paper. The droplets are not so large because a single letter might need so many droplets. In case there are some bubbles, an automated vacuum releases more inks to the heated nozzle so the next immediate droplet is ready to print ahead.
Benefits of Inkjet printers
- The initial cost is low
- Comparably easy to use
- Does not require any warm-up time
- Makes low noise than the laser printers
- Easier to move due to being lightweight
- Do not produce waste / significantly affect the environment
- Good for images or visualization-rich contents
Demerits of Inkjet Printers
- The print head is less durable
- Not suitable for bulk printing
- You cannot use a highlighter or marker over the prints as it dilutes the original color
- Printing often smudge
- Ink cartridges are so expensive
- Not friendly with moisture
Are laser printers better than inkjets?
Using an inkjet printer or a laser print is validated by the need of the end user. Since the inkjet printers are specialized in droplet-based inks, become suitable for someone who needs to print an image.
On the contrary, a user whose primary intention is to print in bulk would surely go for a laser printer for the speed, durability, and freedom to use a variety of papers.
Inkjet printers are highly discouraged if someone intends to keep in moisture or willing to use a highlighting pen on that. Inkjet prints are not highlighter friendly at all.
The only thing it matters is the print quality.
Though inkjet printers are cheaper than laser printers, the inks are expensive. From the perspective of the economies of scale, a laser printer would definitely come as the first choice.
However, inkjet printers are the best fit for the small and occasional users who often print documents, images, or anything else rich in visualization. Inkjet printers are also popular since it does not take extra time to warm up which basically makes them more appealing to the occasional user.
What should you consider before buying a digital or laser printer?
Buying a printer is a one-time decision. You cannot change the decision after you have made a wrong purchase. There are plenty of qualitative factors that may affect a printer buying decision which you need to consider confidently.
Here’s how the situation affects the printer choice:
- If you are a student or an occasional user, buying a laser printer with a double tray would not be feasible.
- If you are a notary public signing agent, no digital printer would help except the laser printer with a dual tray.
- If you are a consultant / own a research firm then the heavy print per minute (PPM) would be your primary concentration.
- If you need to print photos or art, a laser printer would not serve your purpose at all.
- If you need to print cards then you need a professional ID card printer preferably with chip and engraving options.
Consider these before buying a printer:
Printing Quality (DPI Vs PPI)
Before buying, a printer the quality of the printouts would be the first concern. Typically laser printers offer the best quality prints but you may not afford laser printers always.
Let’s imagine you are an occasional user and going to buy an inkjet printer. Undoubtedly the inkjet types do also produce good quality prints but consider the ink costs and the preserving problems. As mentioned earlier, inkjet printouts are very much sensitive to marker/highlighter/any other water-based color pen.
The prime quality measurement is DPI or Dots Per Inch.
The DPI mainly represents how many dots will be in an inch of print. Normally, the higher the DPI, the darker the document will be. However, there is another quality measurement which is Pixel per inch or PPI.
PPI refers to how many pixels will there be in an inch of print. The tricky part is:
DPI directly measures the printing ability of a printer but, PPI is related to the quality or resolution of the picture that you are trying to print. So, If the main picture with a lower PPI can not be printed with high resolution regardless of the capacity of the printer.
On the other hand, a raw file with a higher PPI will get better and brighter with a high DPI printer.
Expandable Paper Capacity
You consider expanding the paper capacity in your printer under the following conditions. There may be so many employees or you may have a higher amount of prints. Whatever the reason, a printer having such paper capacity expansion options will always offer you a further advantage of printing smoothly.
Otherwise, you may need to go and check from time to time if the printer has the required number of pages inside.
A few things to remember before considering a purchase of a printer. The first thing you need to look at is whether the printing device has wifi support besides its LAN connection. A common printer under the network of a group of people allows everyone to print following its own printing queue.
Apart from these, you need to check if the printer works through Bluetooth or from a smartphone. If it supports smartphones, check whether it gets compatible with either android or IOS.
I would prefer to buy a printer that has no connectivity concerns with MAC or Microsoft surface pro.
Initial Investment & ROI
People buy a printer to ease their regular activities. Considering the initial investments ROI or payback should be your concern. Let’s imagine you are thinking about buying a laser printer at USD 1500 which ultimately pays you back in ten years’ time. I will surely discourage you since you are never so sure whether it will work efficiently during this ten-year tenure.
Also, this is also not feasible for someone to buy an Inkjet printer if he or she is about to print a lot. In that case, the inks will cost higher than the other options.
Ultimately, it’s your choice to think for a minute about your purpose and the key concerns. After that, choose the printer wisely.
Sometimes, we do not let everyone access our printer. Accessing printers does not always put the printers at risk by misusing them but also someone with very good technical knowledge might hack the printer and gets the printing data such as a printing log or something else.
Under the following circumstances you may need an ID card authorization-based printer:
- If your concern is to monitor independent printing volume
- If you want to limit someone’s access to a particular page size or print settings
- Or, if you just put the control mechanism in place for any unexpected incidents
Print speed is determined by the term PPM or Pages Per Minute. a Higher PPM refers to the higher printing speed of a printer. Typically a printer with high PPM would always cost you more money.
So, it is important for you to consider your need before making the ultimate decision.
We do not strongly recommend buying a printer with 50 PPM+ unless you need to print a lot of amount of papers in a day.
Not all printers would offer you the advantage of operating from anywhere. Usually, digital printers offer such cloud accessibility programs. However, there are some good quality laser printers that enable you to operate them from cloud-based software which comes with the printer itself.
Availability of the spares
We always recommend you to buy a printer from a reputed brand since spare parts and other consumables is a regular need. Do not buy a printer from unrecognized brands at a low cost. Such a decision can hurt you for a longer time with the availability of spares and services.
Furthermore, there are some companies who initially set the printer price low to influence you to buy. But, they ultimately earn throughout the printer’s life by selling spare parts at a higher price.
Some good quality laser or inkjet printers come with a default scanner. It ultimately saves you time and money from buying another scanner. Also, photocopying a booklet or multiple pages can get messy by one by one page. You can easily scan first and run the print command for whatever copy you need.
Ability to add an additional tray
There may be someone who needs two or three types of documents simultaneously. In that case, a printer with one single document tray would not add any value since you need to change the paper before you run the print command.
For example, notary public or a loan signing officer needs a letterhead, A4 paper, and legal paper simultaneously. In that case, they can choose a laser printer with multiple trays or add an additional tray to their existing printer depending on the compatibility.
Supportive with soft and hard paper
You should also look at whether the printer supports different types of paper in different GSM. For example, an architect would need normal paper to print the proposals but harder paper would assist in printing the shapes and diagrams where he or she can put additional colors in the future.
Usually, the paper thickness is referred to by GSM and you may enquire to the seller about the printer’s compatibility with different GSM.
Here’s an illustration of paper thickness based on GSM
Automatic Paper size recognition
If you are going to buy a printer with multiple paper trays or, if you are going to add an additional tray to your existing printer then the ability to detect paper size automatically helps in saving your time and paper wastage.
Otherwise, each time you may need to select the tray manually and this is so unrealistic.
Printers require electricity to run. Look at its energy efficiency before making a purchase. Printers that take time to get warmed up would surely need more electricity to operate. You can take the help of this energy consumption calculator to find the expected cost to yours.
As said earlier, an inkjet printer comes at a low price but the inks are expensive. On contrary, the laser printers’ initial cost is higher but the supplies are affordable when weighted at the per-page cost. However, you should always have a clear idea of what are you going to buy and how the printer affects your operating costs.
Here’s a parody comparison of the printer’s cost
Choosing the right printer is not tough but challenging. You need to make sure what is your ultimate purpose and what features are worthy for you. We believe the comparison of digital printers, laser printers,s and Inkjet printers was informative to you to make the right decision.