I am about to buy a color printer. I had a B&W Laserjet printer in the past but since then I've used Inkjets for decades. I need a printer that can deliver high quality as these photo Inkjet printers, but I'm tired of paying for ink that costs $9,000 per gallon (1 gallon = 3.785 liters = 300 cartridges = $9,000).

So, I was thinking about buying a color laser printer, but I'm not sure these printers can deliver the same quality and are worth the investment in terms of toner consumption.

I remembered that my old Laserjet printer was able to print 1100 pages per toner cartridge. The Inkjet printers I have can print 500 pages per cartridge. Price by price, 2 Inkjet cartridges have more or less the same cost as one toner cartridge and in theory prints almost the same. I am not sure if this is true for color lasers.

What can you guys tell me about quality, toner cost and cost per page for laser or Inkjet printer? Is it worth the change? (Keep in mind that an Inkjet printer costs $50 and a laser printer costs $200.)

2 Answers 2


Toner costs much more per purchase than inkjet ink, but each cartridge lasts much longer so per page they are considerably cheaper. Some cheap lasers aimed at the home market do not work out as cheap (sometimes noticeably more expensive than other lasers) per page, but will still beat a 'jet in the long run.

If you do very little printing, then the inkjet will win overall but if you do a moderate amount or more even a cheap laser will work out cheaper in the long run. But if you only do a little printing there is another noticeable factor against inkjets - they tend to gum up if left alone for a couple of weeks so you end us wasting half your ink doing head cleans next time you use it - bringing the cost per page up higher. My last Epson was terrible for this, and it wasn't a cheap grotty model either.

On good photo paper a good inkjet will produce better photo results than a cheap or mid-range laser, often better than an expensive model. But that again brings up the cost considerably, and on normal paper (standard 80gsm/90gsm stock) all but the cheapest lasers will win out these days. And if you plan to print much plain text (letters, documents) again the laser wins (you don't want to use good photo paper to get crisp text from an inkjet when you can get the same text quality on standard stock out of the laser.

There is also the problem of speed. Never trust an inkjet's claimed speed. My last one claimed "up to 20 pages/min" but it couldn't even pass blank paper through at that rate, and its highest speed setting wasn't worth bothering with. That lovely full page photo could take a number of minutes to create - my laser will kick its version out in seconds. I would doubt the pages-per-cart claims of inkjets too, especially for colour output as nth figures are based on colour text not blocks of colour like a chart or photo, much more so than lasers which in my experience get much closer to their rated output per cart.

These days I go with a colour laser, my current one is a Xerox 6125 which I got a good offer on last year (lower price and free toner carts, which brought the effective price below the cheaper units I was considering) and have been very happy with it, and if I want a few more professional quality photo prints I take the files to Boots or Tesco and use their facilities or self-serve printing machines. What I used to do was to have a B/W laser for docs/letters/draft and a colour inkjet for anything that absolutely required colour.

Don't get the cheapest colour lasers as they sometimes have noticeable banding issues in colour output and once you tot up all the consumables (check how long the drums last before needing to be replaced as well as the toner) don't work out a lot cheaper than jets. If you can get print samples of plain text and business graphic (text with relatively flat colour like charts and such) and photo output for any model you consider just to be sure. My Xerox 6125 has decidedly better photo output than my brother's Samsung 310 (though the Samsung's photo output isn't terrible, its basic colour output fine, and b/w output no worse than the Xerox).

Two other points to consider: a laser will be much quieter, but most colour lasers are significantly larger and need more space around them for ventilation.


The quality of a color laser printer won't rival high-end inkjets, but they can do as well as mid-end inkjets. Toner does cost a lot more than an ink cartridge, but lasts a lot longer, and toner cartridges are more stable than inkjet cartridges, so they're a better choice if you don't need professional-photo-quality printouts or if there will be (relatively) long periods of quiet between printing sessions (3 weeks or more).

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    HP used to use water-soluble inks in their inkjet cartridges. not sure that's still true, but i stopped buying inkjets after i found that out. Commented Apr 12, 2010 at 8:22
  • what is the problem of water soluble inks? smudging? The problem is paying $9000 per gallon. It is an outrage. People should do as a guy I read once on the web. The guy buys a new printer every time the cartridge runs out of ink. If every person did that, they will have to reduce the prices, because the inkjet printer prices are subsidized in order to create a market. The printer costs more to produce than the price it is sold. If every people buys a new printer when the ink goes out, you break the morons.
    – Duck
    Commented Apr 12, 2010 at 8:58
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    @mike: one word: RAIN. or coffee spills. or humid regions of the world. i like your suggestion, tho, but i took it one step further: i stopped buying printers. now if i need something printed i take a USB drive to Kinko's. Commented Apr 12, 2010 at 9:28
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    Water based inks also seem to be worse for fading over time in response to sunlight and such, in my experience. Commented Apr 12, 2010 at 9:51
  • thanks for your your comments! I think I will do that. I have a kinko's-like store 5 minutes from here. I will probably buy a laser. thanks.
    – Duck
    Commented Apr 12, 2010 at 10:46

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