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The difference between inkjet and laser printers and other features

The difference between inkjet and laser printers

There are very slight differences between inkjet printers and laser than there used to be, especially with high-end models. But there are some basic differences that still apply.

inkjet printers

printers

inkjet printers are best at

  • Occasional printing.
  • Great-quality colour printing.

Ink costs

  • Cartridges are cheaper to buy up front, but you get less prints per cartridge.
  • They may require several colour cartridges, depending on the printer.

Ideal for home use – printing documents, homework, tickets etc. They can be quite compact.

 laser printers

printers

Best at

  • Fast, frequent black and white printing.
  • General colour printing.

Ink costs

  • Cartridges are more expensive up front, but you get more prints per cartridge.
  • Needs a black toner and colour toner to work (black and white only models are available).

Ideal for home office and business use. They tend to be larger in size.

What are all-in-one printers?

They are printers that combine a scanner, photocopier and printer in one unit (some even include a fax machine). They’re available in both inkjet and laser printer varieties.

Shop all-in-one printers

printers

What are photo printers?

The only way to get photo-quality prints is with a dedicated photo printer. These use additional colour cartridges to produce more colour detail.

Shop all photo printers

What the printer specs mean

Print quality

Measured in dots per inch – DPI. The higher the DPI, the better quality of print, but also the more ink that’s used. Inkjets generally offer more detail.

Paper capacity

The maximum number of blank sheets of paper you can place ready in your printer.

Auto document feeder

Useful for all-in-one printers. If scanning multiple documents, a feeder will take the next page to scan automatically, without you having to insert it yourself.

Optical resolution

For scanners on all-in-one printers, also measured in dots per inch (DPI). The higher the DPI, the higher the copy quality is. Black and white documents don’t normally require a high DPI.

Print speed

This is measured in pages per-minute. Laser printers are quite fast. Inkjets vary but are generally slower.

Double-sided (duplex) printing

The printer can print on both sides of paper without you needing to turn the paper over.

Shop all document feeder printers

Shop all double-sided printers

Inkjet printers – how many ink cartridges should I choose?

printers

2 ink cartridges

Used on less-expensive printers and great for occasional use. These contain a black cartridge and a ‘block’ ink cartridge, which contains multiple colours.

Cartridges are relatively inexpensive, but you’ll need to replace the colour cartridge when just one colour runs out.

printers

4 ink cartridges

Ideal for more frequent colour printing. These use 4 cartridges – black, cyan, magenta and yellow.

You can replace the cartridges as and when they run out. Generally, you get more prints-per-cartridge than with 2 ink.

printers

5 or more

Printers with 5 or more cartridges would be used for printing high-quality photographs. The more cartridges, the higher the quality of the image


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