Inkjet Versus Laser Debate Continues - InformationWeek
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Lamont Wood
Lamont Wood

Inkjet Versus Laser Debate Continues

Dell laser printer executive suggests getting inkjets for photo fidelity or personal use, but lasers for everything else.

Dell laser printer executive suggests getting inkjets for photo fidelity or personal use, but lasers for everything else.For the SMB office facing a printer purchase decision, it's usually a question of whether to get an inkjet or a laser printer. The subject came up during a recent conversation with Scott Gray, product manager for Dell's laser printers. What he said seemed to be worth passing on-with no claim that it's unbiased.

Inkjets are definitely superior for one purpose, he said: outputting digital photographs. Inkjets give better results with gradual color gradations, and so are better for the home market.

But if photography is not an issue, lasers are faster (not counting the warm-up interval of about ten seconds), he noted.

"Go to a photocopy machine and press Copy, and you'll get an immediate printout, and laser printers use a similar toner process and are just as fast," Gray said. "But with an inkjet printer you'll hear the print head blowing ink back and forth, line by line. For speed you can't beat a laser."

Then there's the concept of the duty cycle, meaning how many pages a machine can be expected to handle per month.

"If you are printing thousands of page per month, an inkjet will break down," he said. "All the moving parts in a printer have a lifetime, or a mean time between failure, and an inkjet has more moving parts. Numbers will vary, but an inkjet can be expected to wear out after a few thousand pages, not tens of thousands of pages, which is what a machine is facing if it is supporting a 20-person workgroup. Inkjets, therefore, a better for personal use."

Ink cartridges for inkjets typically run dry after a few hundred pages, while toner cartridges for laser printers may last a couple of thousand pages. Consequently, heavy use of an inkjet will demand constant refills even if it doesn't break down, he noted.

Of course, toner cartridges typically cost more than inkjet cartridges, and with a color laser you'll have to buy a replacement cartridge for all four colors. But Gray noted that the users typically run through black toner five times faster than color toner, so you rarely have to replace all four of them.

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