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Printers have come a long way since the 1980s. Then, dot matrix and laser printers were widely used as inkjet printers were far too expensive for the bulk of the market. Today, remarkable innovations in technology have led to printers that are more affordable and better than ever before. Laser and inkjet printers have emerged as the leading printing technology, as they cover a broad spectrum of costs and capabilities. When choosing a printer, several factors should be considered, including price, speed, cost per page and the number of pages that can be printed each month without breaking down. Each printer type has its pros and cons.
An inkjet printer sprays wet ink directly onto paper during the printing process.
With some models priced less than $100, inkjets are a smart choice for an occasional-use, at-home printer. Since inkjets produce vivid hues and high-quality graphics, they work well for color applications and photo printing.
The biggest disadvantage of inkjets is that they can be costly to operate. In comparison with laser toner, the ink cartridges used in inkjet printing yield a higher per page cost. Additionally, certain inkjets use a 3-in-1 style cartridge that must be replaced if any of its colors run out - a wasteful process. Inkjets also provide lower print speeds and the ink tends to smear when wet.
Laser printers use a special laser to produce an electrically-charged image on a drum. The image is then rolled through powdered toner and the toner is fused to the paper using heat.
Laser printers cost less to operate on a daily basis — just a few pennies per page. Laser toner cartridges typically last much longer than inkjet cartridges, resulting in a higher volume of pages printed per month (duty cycle). In addition to sharp text quality, newer laser printers offer fast, efficient printing speeds, upwards of 40 pages per minute.
Laser printers can cost anywhere from $100 to more than $1000. Unlike inkjet models, laser printers do not work well for photos and high-quality graphics. Additionally, the toner cartridges required by laser printing tend to be costly.