Should I buy a colour laser printer?

Colour laser printers are getting cheaper to buy

colour printerAs I write this (25/10/17), Curry’s are offering a Samsung colour laser printer for just £139.99. So, why might you (and why might you not) be better off with a laser colour printer than an inkjet colour printer?

Do you need an “All in One”

If you need scanning and copying as well as printing, then I think you will have to go for inkjet. As far as I know, there are no “all in one” laser printers that are aimed at a consumer market (ie costing less than, and being smaller than, a small house).

Print Quality

Laser printers (both mono and colour) produce better, crisper, text. The photo quality of colour laser printers has always been pretty poor, though. They are improving, but if high quality photos are important to you then I would certainly recommend trying to get hold of print samples before buying a colour laser printer. This, by the way, can be difficult or impossible.

I feel confident in saying that a decent inkjet printer (from Canon, Brother, Epson, or HP) will produce good quality photo prints when using the right settings and when printing on photo quality paper. I wouldn’t have the same confidence in recommending a colour laser printer for photo printing.

It has to be said, though, that printing a high quality photo on photo paper using an inkjet printer is more expensive than sending your image off for professional printing using Snapfish or a similar service.

Samsung CLP-415N laser printer
Samsung CLP-415N laser printer. On sale by Curry’s at £139.99


Laser printers are faster than inkjet printers. Somewhere in the order of 12 ppm (pages per minute) is typical for an inkjet printer, whereas a budget laser printer is about 18ppm. If you only printer single pages, though, the initial warm-up time is probably more important than the speed per page (check the specification of any shortlisted printer). Certainly, if you anticipate regular print runs of, say, 10 pages or more then I think you would appreciate the faster throughput of a laser printer.

Physical size

Laser printers range from big to ginormous compared with inkjet printers. The actual footprint may not be very different, but some laser printers are quite high. You probably wouldn’t want one looming at you from the corner of your living room.

Network Connectivity

I think I’m right in saying that all printers still have USB connectivity for connecting one printer to one computer. Most people nowadays, though, want to print from more than one device and don’t want un-necessary cables running from the printer to their router. Pretty well all inkjet printers have wireless connectivity these days. Not so with laser printers. Some do have wifi connectivity, but they quite often have only ethernet connectivity. An ethernet connection means having a cable going from the printer to the router. Also, if you want to print from a mobile device, then check whether any shortlisted laser printer can handle this. Not all of them can.

Canon PIXMA MG5750
Canon Pixma MG5750. The inkjet all-in-one that I would buy.

Running Costs

Colour inkjet printers are expensive on a “per sheet” basis (somewhere in the order of 10p per sheet for ink). Colour laser printers cost nearer to 1p per sheet for ink. But if you have to pay an arm and a leg for laser cartridges and use them so infrequently that you never use the cartridge up, then how much are you actually paying per sheet? Once again, if you have regular print runs then it’s much easier to realise the savings offered by a laser printer.

It’s very difficult to come up with definitive guidance, but there are two situations that I can think of that would steer you in one direction or the other:

  • If you want to print decent quality photos then go for an inkjet printer (but remember that it’s probably cheaper and less fuss to send them off to somewhere like Snapfish or Boots or take them into one of those big yellow boxes in Boots and print them yourself.
  • If you have regular and/or sizeable print runs then a laser printer would probably be more appropriate.

If you want to delve into the specifics of buying a printer, rather than just stick a metaphorical pin into the relevant Amazon page, then I recommend looking at Printerland. I have bought printers from them on behalf of clients and have found them very helpful and reliable. Their website is also very detailed in the specifications of the products they offer.