So far so good-but things get more interesting when you look at the actual figures that HP cites to back up its claims. They are from a 2007 Infrotrends study of the costs of printing out several types of color documents using either a retail printer, HP Color LaserJet CP2020/CM2320 series printers, or HP Officejet Pro Series inkjet printers. Yes, the laser printers were usually cheaper-but the inkjet printers were invariably cheaper.
For a press release with a small amount of color, and toner covering 10 percent of the page, the price at the printing store started at 60 cents per one-sided page and fell to 40 cents by the time the quantity had risen to 2,500 copies. The laser cost was below 20 cents per one-sided page and the inkjet cost was below 10 cents.
For a newsletter with small four-color pictures and toner covering 30 percent of the page, the print shop price fell to the laser price of just under 40 cents per one-sided sheet when volume reached 2,330 sheets. After that the print shop was cheaper than laser printing-but the inkjet price was lower than both, at just below 20 cents.
For a fancy sell-sheet with a large color photo and 60 percent toner coverage, the laser price (80 cents per one-sided sheet) started out higher than the retail price (about 60 cents.) But the retail price fell to the 35-cent inkjet price by the time quantities hit 2,500.
Unsaid in all this is that lasers can be nearly twice as faster as inkjet printers, so if you are inclined to large print runs you should not stick with an inkjet. (Lasers are also quieter.)
As for choosing between laser printing and retail printing, the lesson seems to be that for fancy-large volume printing, you're better off going to the print shop. Where the point of diminishing returns lies depends on how patient you are with standing in front of the printer, feeding it paper and wondering when the toner will run out.