Competitive prices and revised technology are muddying the waters when it comes to choosing between inkjet and laser print technologies.

We look into the changes and try to help you choose the best technology for your needs.

There was a time when inkjet and laser printers knew their place. For highquality, affordable colour printing for the home inkjet was the obvious choice ; for heavy office workloads you bought a laser. Now, though, everything seems mixed up.

"Traditionally, when deciding on a printer, making a choice was made simple by the fact that inkjets were made for consumers and lasers were for business use," explains Mark Robinson, market business developer at Canon. "Inkjets offered end-users an affordable device which created great colour print quality while laser printers had high speeds and could handle volume for black and white, text-heavy documents - whilst costly to buy, it worked out cheaper for businesses printing huge amounts every month."

"If you look at the marketplace at present everything has changed. The lines between the classic inkjet and laser printer models are becoming indistinct and companies now have more variety when faced with choosing a device for their business needs. The once home-orientated inkjets now include models that are adequately fast and capable of keeping up with office demands while the work-orientated laser printers have evolved into a new generation of machines that offer similar levels of print quality to their inkjet counterparts and are small enough to fit into a home office."

Total Cost


Mark adds that the changes mean that overall cost differences between inkjet and laser are now harder to identify, especially when the growing popularity of XL cartridges is taken into account. "The total cost of ownership should also be taken into consideration as many small business owners often only look at the upfront hardware cost, not incorporating the price of consumables during the average three-to-five years of ownership," he says.

"Business inkjets such as Canon's MAXIFY devices offer market-leading running costs through XL cartridges which can print up to 2,500 black-and-white pages before they need to be replaced and which come at a competitive purchase price. Thanks to this, companies can also be cost-effective - and in some cases print up to 15 per cent more - without reducing the quality of the documents when compared to standard cartridges."

"Both inkjet and laser machines are cosf-effective; it just depends on how they are used," adds Giuseppe Iafulli, product manager for imaging at Brother UK. "Laser printers may be better in situations where highly professional documents need to be printed on a regular basis whereas inkjets are still likely to be a more cost-effective option for users who need to print documents for internal use. "Resellers need to gauge the customer's situation to determine whether there is value in them investing in a laser printer which may have higher upfront costs. Conversely, although an inkjet model may require lower initial investment, if it is used on its highest setting then this may be more costly in the long-term. It all comes back to understanding the best option for the business."

When asked which technology offers the best quality output for the best price Giuseppe says it also depends on usage. "This is entirely dependent on how the printer is going to be used. Inkjets and lasers can deliver similar end results although, if businesses need the highest quality for every document printed, then a colour laser offers the most cost-effective way of delivering this. If devices are mostly used for internal documents then business inkjets now offer high quality and can be a good alternative."


Pros and Cons


The fact is that both inkjet and laser printers have advantages and disadvantages even if technological advancements are helping both types of printer to push past their limitations. Take speed as an example; received wisdom has it that laser printers are faster but the reality is a little more complex.

Until just a few years ago inkjet printers maxed out at approximately 30ppm in mono and a tardy 1Oppm in colour, while many laser printers reached speeds of up to 40ppm in black and white or colour. Today laser printers have reached heady speeds of 70ppm meaning inkjets are left reeling in the slow lane, right? Wrong! The new generation of officefocused inkjets have technologically-advanced print heads that span the width of an A4 page, helping output reach up to 75ppm. Lasers do still win the pace race, however, thanks to far superior warm-up times, taking around two seconds less time (or more) to print the first page from sleep or standby.

Historically, lasers have been the mainstay of workgroup printing thanks to enhanced networking, management and security. Once again, though, inkjets are encroaching on this territory. An increasing number of office inkjet printers now have the same embedded management features as their laser cousins, plus features like secure pull-printing, PIN code release, NFC touch-to-print and cloud-printing features that enable the printer to work with a wider range of devices or take print jobs from remote locations are to be found on inkjets.

"Both business inkjets and lasers can be networked," explains Giuseppe. "At Brother we know that cyber security is an increasing concern for businesses of all sizes as trends such as BYOD and remote working continue to grow. That's why we're continuously developing our security services. Businesses with networked print devices should invest in hardware with excellent security features and consider services such as print management software to help ensure confidential information remains safe."


Selling the right solution


So, how can dealers ensure they're selling the most suitable product for their customers' needs?

"We always encourage dealers to have a thorough understanding of the individual customer's print needs when it comes to every sale and to recommend technology based on these," says Giuseppe. "Whether it's advising on feature set, type of print device or whether to opt for laser or inkjet technology it needs to be grounded, first and foremost, in which service or model would be best for the end-user.

"The print market has changed so significantly over the past 10 years that the difference between laser and inkjet technology is not what it once was. Both types of printer can meet similar customer needs and so, although it's always important to consider whetherlaser or inkjet would be the best option, this should form part of a wider overall decision guided by end-user needs."

Mark adds: "Ongoing developments in the print industry mean it's more important than ever for resellers to provide advice and consultancy to their customers. Many of today's businesses, including SMEs as well as larger enterprises, are going through various stages of digital transformation, with some being born out of the digital era. Resellers have the opportunity to help customers understand the variety of products available tailored to their individual needs and the potential savings and efficiency gains that can be achieved through the right device. By taking the time to understand their customer's requirements, workloads and capacity dealers can begin to provide guidance on the most suitable print technology."

At the end of the day both inkjet and laser printers can be star performers in the office. Choosing between them is a question of scale, workloads and the kind of tasks the printer will be asked to perform, which all comes down to talking to customers and providing solutions to their needs - something independent dealers specialise in.

This article was from the Dealer Support magazine - July 2016 edition. Written by Austin Clark.
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