Color Ink Jet Printer vs Color Laser Printer (which one?)

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Mac2004, Feb 7, 2007.

  1. Mac2004 macrumors regular

    Mar 17, 2004
    I want to buy a nice home office printer for photos and other printing needs. I have a few questions....

    1. Should I buy a inkjet or go for a color laser printer now?

    2. Who makes the best quality color laser printers for a Mac?

    3. If you suggest an ink jet, which one is the best model right now?

    3. How expensive is it to run a color laser printer and how long do the color toner cartridges last for?
  2. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    I hope you don't mind if I listen in on your thread.

    My story:
    I have two low-end inkjet printers. One no longer prints one color of ink, and it's beyond all of the self-service (ink replacement, head cleaning, alignment, etc.) techniques that typicall fix ink problems. It needs to go out for repair, which would cost more than the printer's value.

    My other inkjet printer started having a paperfeed problem that may also require professional service since it requires disassembly to fix. Again, probably not worth it.

    My choices are to buy compatible replacement printers so I can use the supply of ink cartridges I already have, buy a better quality inkjet printer and hope it lasts longer, or jump to a color laser laser printer and be done with finicky inkjets.​
    To make that choice, I have the same questions that you do.
  3. blodwyn macrumors 65816

    Jul 28, 2004
    Portland, Oregon
    I think you would be disappointed with most color laser printers for photo printing. I have a color Laserjet 2600N and the photo quality is not even close to being up to snuff, especially given that AFAIK you can't put photo paper in it. Toner cartridges last much longer than inkjet cartridges, and don't suffer from drying out but replacing the toner cartridges can run a couple hundred bucks

    As far as inkjets go, I didn't like my Epson because it needed constant cleaning to clear the jets. Perhaps my fault as it used to sit without printing for several days. I just got a Canon IP6000D and it's a great printer with apparently none of the nozzle blocking problems that I had with Epson.
  4. Mac2004 thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 17, 2004
    Are there any printers that just print 4x6 and 5x7 photos?
  5. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Jul 16, 2002
    In general, laser is less expensive than ink jet on a per-print basis, especially if your usage isn't everyday -- laser cartridges don't dry out or clog, so you won't have to throw one out before it is used up. In terms of which method of printing is "better," this depends entirely on what you mean by better. I don't think laser can be touched for text printing quality (especially PostScript laser printers), but a higher-end ink jet is generally more capable of printing more accurate color photographic images, and can do it on a much wider variety of papers.

    Cost per page for color lasers varies quite a bit, if memory serves from around $0.04-0.10 per page. Most of the color lasers I've seen print 3-6,000 images on one set of cartridges. This varies a lot.

    Ink jet is fairly slow, laser printing can be very fast. How important this is depends on your needs.

    Most color laser printers are very noisy. But then, so are a lot of ink jets. Color lasers are big and heavy. Don't expect to put one on your desk.

    No manufacturer of laser printers is clearly the best. Virtually every one of them has pluses and minuses. The main thing to look for in a laser printer IMO is PostScript or a PostScript emulator. This automatically eliminates all of the cheapest models (everything under $500, essentially). Beware of "starter" (less than full capacity) toner cartridges -- most of the manufacturers stick you with these!
  6. yg17 macrumors G5


    Aug 1, 2004
    St. Louis, MO
    I've used a color laser at work (and not a cheap one, some super huge, super expensive HP one) and the color laser was great for simple things like color text. But I was printing up some graphs and I really think an inkjet could've done better. Perhaps it was the resolution of the images, but the lines on the graph were jagged, and it didn't seem to do a wonderful job of blending colors.

    Also, they're horrible at color matching. We actually have 2 of those printers that are identical in every way. I sent 2 jobs to the queue, which selects which printer to print to, so since printer A was processing my first graph, printer B got my second. The background color on the graphs was a light shade of grey, identical on both graphs. But on the printouts, the background color were 2 very different shades of grey. And neither of them even really matched what was on my screen. The results seem rather unpredictable. Wasn't a big deal in my case, but if you're wanting photos, you don't want your printer to screw up the colors.

    I say stick with a nice inkjet photo printer, the color lasers just aren't ready for photos yet.
  7. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Jul 16, 2002
    I gave up on ink jets for much the same reason -- constant care and feeding. They are also highly impractical for use in any environment where volume printing is required. I tried keeping one around (in addition to our trusty old LaserJet 5MP) just for photograph printing, but it was hopeless even in that limited role.

    Unfortunately, I was seduced by the low price of a Samsung color laser, which I would rate unacceptable. I am currently searching for something better. Postscript is a must. Good halftones are the only way around the inherent limitations of laser printing, and you don't get good halftones without Postscript in my experience.
  8. isleofjib macrumors regular

    Jan 21, 2007
    i've been researching this myself. from what i've seen and read, color printers are great for text, so so to very good for graphics and not even close to inkjets for photos. depending on the brand of printer you get, the toner is good for 2500-4500 sheets (also depends if you get a high capacity toner cartridge). the price of the cartridges typically runs from $90-$125 for 2500-4000 sheet b/w and a little more for the color ones. high capacity are more and high capacity color ones more still. as to which are most compatible, i'm still sorting that out. :)
  9. skubish macrumors 68030


    Feb 2, 2005
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    inkjet printers are the best for photos handsdown.
  10. pixelbaker macrumors member


    Aug 21, 2006
    not necessarily helpful to you per say as it doesn't answer the question you asked, but in my experience color lasers don't provide photo-quality, inkjets are too costly to maintain and use for photos if you're printing often. what we've ended up doing is simply ordering our digital photos as prints from the nearest wal-mart online and picking them up from the 1-hr photo. I think 4x6 prints are $0.12ea if I remember correctly. the quality are better than any home-made prints that I've seen and much less work.
  11. bit density macrumors 6502

    Mar 5, 2004
  12. Sedulous macrumors 68020


    Dec 10, 2002
    Do inkjet prints still fade?

    Anyways, we have a Xerox Phaser 6350 (laser color) and it is fast with good print quality (2400 dpi), and the prints do not bleed when wet. But this printer might be more than you want.
  13. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Jul 16, 2002
    It depends on the ink and paper used. Some ink/paper combinations are considered archival quality (100+ year life span).
  14. plunar macrumors 6502


    Sep 7, 2003
    The high end Xeroxes can deliver on photo-quality prints. I had a Phaser 7750 that I printed out over a 100 top quality wedding invites with a small photo on the back (in about 10 minutes). the textures were wonderful too - the text has an embossed feel that makes people go wow when they touch it. It can also handle borderless prints, and the photo quality was about on par with the epson combo photo/scanner i had. Definitely enough for hand outs and party photos.

    Of course, the Phaser cost about $7000 at the time. The Epson was $129 after rebate.

    The real answer to your question is two printers. You can get an excellent b&w laser and a canon/epson photo inkjet together for under $600 with some looking around. if you don't mind a bit of compromise on speed and quality, you could go as low as $400 on a good deal.
  15. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

    Jun 25, 2002
    Gone but not forgotten.
    Even a $150 ink jet printer is going to be better than the best colour laser for photos. Inexpensive laser printers are good but not great and if you plan to do any artwork, you'll want a more expensive model, likely one that supports PostScript.

    Canon has the best of the ink jet printers and has for the last few years. I liked what my Epson all-in-one does but it's prone to clogging if you don't use it at least every week.

    HP and Lexmark generally have the best consumer/small office laser printers and while they can do a great job on graphics, I wouldn't print photos on them. They're still best at text.
  16. aj98 macrumors member

    Nov 16, 2006

    In general, toner is going to run you 125$ per color.

    Note in the fine print most toner capacity is rated at 5% coverage, which is about a single page of text, not full page photo work.

    But, there's more to the cost of color lasers than just the toner.

    For most, the imaging unit, fuser, and transfer kits are considered consumable, and must be replaced on a periodic basis.

    I've seen some last for years, and others fail after less than 10k pages.

    (which seems like a lot, but the calculation is 1 "page" for each color used; so 1 physical page = 4 imaging unit pages)

    Depending on the model, plan on spending up to 1000 to replace those parts.
    The problem there isn't always the cost, but the speed at which the price goes up because of availability.

    That spiffy color laser you buy today gets discontinued next year, 2 years from now, the imager or fuser dies....
    toner kits also increase in price after the printer is discontinued.
    (An older tektronix phaser we have at work...the imaging unit is now 1000 by itself, toner went from 125 to 250 per cartridge...)

    Photo Inkjets: I like Epson. On photo paper, prints are more vivid/vibrant than any of the dozen or so color lasers I've used at work.

    However, the prints are neither waterproof nor scratchproof.
    (some Epsons offer waterproof ink)

    Downside: You may only be able to get 30 or fewer 8.5x11 photos out of a cartridge set (at ~ $60 per set)

    As already mentioned, lasers do a much better job on text, and, in straight BW, are faster.

    Personally, I have a BW laser for general purpose printing,
    and an Epson R300 for photo work
  17. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    Yes, I have one of the small HP units for proofing and it works fine for that, I wouldn't class it in the same league as a high-end inkjet, but it's good for what I use it for. It's portable enough to proof in the field if I need to, it's the A617- when I got it they had it on sale at BestBuy for $99.
  18. emmi macrumors newbie

    Feb 1, 2007
    For inkjet printers, my bf uses HP and hasn't had a problem with it so far. My parents have had a Canon inkjet printer since 1998 and it's been working great without problems. The quality in printing is good as well. So in terms of inkjet printers, I'd suggest HP or Canon from observing other people's experiences. Hope this helps! :)
  19. Keebler macrumors 68030

    Jun 20, 2005
    i have a few inks and a laser. the inks are handsdown better for photos, but with the cost of ink, i simply print mine out at a local photo shop (grocery store, photo lab, costco (price club).), don't have to worry about having the right size of paper and since i'm usually at those stores, not a hassle to pick up considering i upload through the web.

    so, imho, don't buy one nor the other :)


    PS, if you need to print alot of other stuff at home, the colour laser would be the better choice in the long run b/c their cartridges last alot longer than inks.

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