Inkjet vs Laser Printers

Despite their popularity, there are some disadvantages to Inkjet printers to be aware of when making a buying decision.

Photo printing

For occasional photo printing, you are better off going down to the nearest print shop (think Staples, CVS, Walgreens, Costco, etc). The quality of the print will be significantly greater, and the cost of the print will be significantly less.

Printing photos at home requires a special type of photo paper and, as mentioned already, a lot of very expensive ink. Smearing and bleeding are common problems when using the wrong type of photo paper. If you don't have the right settings enabled for dry time, you can also end up with wet ink that will smudge as soon as you pick up the paper out of the tray.


Hidden costs

Perhaps the least obvious disadvantage to inkjet printers are the hidden costs associated with them. Inkjet printers can often be cheap to buy, but they can also end up being very expensive over time.

Some Inkjet printers can cost less than $50. However, the cartridges included in the box usually do not have much ink in them, and don't last very long. Ink cartridges that are included with inkjet printers contain much less ink than cartridges bought on their own. Depending on how much printing you do, they possibly could last as little as a few days. In short time, you'll have to buy more ink. Sometimes, printer companies will even require you to buy their brand of ink or risk voiding your warranty. These brand name cartridges can be very expensive. Depending on the brand and size, replacement cartridges can cost anywhere from $60 to $150.

Inkjet printers do not usually have a long lifetime, with many printers needing to be replaced after about three years.

Another consideration is the cost per page for your printer. A good comparison here is with laser printers. While laser toner cartridges can be more expensive than inkjet cartridges, they last a lot longer. Laser cartridges can have a significantly higher yield, in the range of thousands of pages. Inkjet cartridges usually only print hundreds of pages. In the end, the cost per page is significantly more with inkjet printers.

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Ink cartridges clog and dry up over time

For people who don't print very often, the possibility of ink cartridges clogging and drying up is a real issue.

Here are just a few reasons why inkjet printer cartridges can dry up:

  • The printer is left on all the time
  • Color pictures are printed very often
  • The printer is not turned off correctly
  • The printer is not properly maintained

If an inkjet printer is not properly maintained or cleaned on a regular basis, the inkjet cartridges can clog or dry up, leaving you with worthless cartridges. Maintaining inkjet printers takes time and energy and knowledge of the printer's functions and capabilities.



Inkjet printers have a limited life span and eventually must be replaced. Besides the out-of-pocket cost to replace the printer, the old ink cartridges likely will not compatible with your next printer.

Inkjet cartridges have a chip embedded on the cartridge itself, which is what communicates with the printer. If the cartridges are old or off-brand, there is a possibility the printer will not be able to use the cartridge.

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Refusing to print

Perhaps there is nothing more annoying than a "low ink" warning from your printer. The reason for the warning is to ensure you have ample time to go out and buy new cartridges and have them ready to go when needed.

Sometimes an inkjet printer will give you this warning even when the cartridge is full, especially with remanufactured printer cartridges. Fixing this depends on the brand of the printer manufacturer and the brand of the ink cartridge.

The main problem is that some inkjet printers will refuse to print black and white if the color ink cartridges are low or empty. Even if you don't want to print in color. Sometimes there is no way to fix this problem without replacing the ink cartridges. This leads to waste and unnecessary expenses when replacing too soon.

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Print speed and volume

The number of pages that can be printed before the cartridge needs to be replaced is called page yield. Unfortunately, inkjet printers are not known to have high page yields.

Inkjet printers are slow to print, especially compared with laser printers. An inkjet printer on average prints at about 16 pages per minute. Laser printers, as an example, can print up to 100 pages per minute. This is a difference of thousands of pages per month.

If your office printing needs include printing many large documents, the print jobs can take an exceptionally long time with an inkjet printer.

Inkjet printer cartridges only hold so much ink, so they have to be replaced often in a high volume print environment. This only adds more time required to maintain an active printing capacity.

Another consideration is the size of the paper trays in an inkjet printer. Most printers of this kind have low capacity paper trays, sometimes as low as only 50 sheets. This can be frustrating for people who print a lot.


Print quality

Inkjet print jobs can have all kinds of quality issues.

Sometimes the print is blurry or smeared. This can be caused by incompatible media, printer settings, ink leaks, or dirty print heads. Many types of paper are designed to have only one side intended for printing. Having the paper upside down can lead to blurry issues.

Other times, there is poor ink adhesion when applied to the media. Again, this can be caused by incompatible media or too much ink being applied.

There can be issues with hardware or software that negatively impact print quality. Problems with faulty or damaged ink cartridges are not uncommon. Bad settings including color saturation or resolution can also be problems.

Sometimes you will see problems such as horizontal white lines running through each line of print. This is caused by clogged nozzles that aren't putting out ink. Less common, but also a cause, is paper dust getting between the the cartridge's electrical contact points and the cartridge housing. This interferes with the communication between the printer and ink cartridge.

Another common quality problem are when vertical lines become jagged. This is due to print heads being out of alignment and unfortunately there is not much you can do to avoid this problem. Eventually, all print heads end up being misaligned.

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Inkjet printers are very common and cheap to buy initially, but they certainly do have downsides to take into consideration. Knowing your printing needs for your particular home or office is critical in making the right selection.

For many situations, the downsides to inkjet printers can be significant. Ink costs can be high, cartridge replacement can be frequent, page yield can be low, and print quality can suffer.

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