Business Printers: Inkjet vs. Laser - Page 2

By Drew Robb | Posted May 19, 2010

Laser Color Printers

Five year ago, color lasers were cost prohibitive, but options for color laser are becoming cheaper and more abundant. The HP Color LaserJet CM1312 MFP printer ($399) is aimed at small businesses with high print volume. It offers print speeds of up to 12 pages per minute. However, replacement cartridges are pricey: $71.99 for each of three colors (approx. 1,500 pages per cartridge) and $77.99 for black (approx. 2,200 pages)

Other options include the Lexmark C543dn ($399), as well as models from Brother and Canon.

Ink Wars

Hundreds of companies make inkjet and toner refill cartridges: some are good, many are awful. The reason for so many getting involved in this market is simple: ink is now probably the most expensive liquid on the face of the earth. You have to watch out for vested interests, and independent studies of actual costs are hard to locate.

HP and Lexmark roll out sponsored tests to demonstrate how superior their inks are. The test results from both vendors are impressive, but then again they pay for them. The refill and remanufacturing companies counter that the tests are rigged in various ways to skew the results in their own favor.

But testing isn’t the only frontier in this battle. It has also become a very litigious scene. Customers find out about it when printer OEMs threaten to void warranties if they use other inks. They warn users of the risks: poor quality, leaky toner, hardware failures and doubling your printing costs.

Basically, you're faced with believing the printer OEMs, the refill makers or trying each yourself to see how it works out.

Business Printer Buying Recommendations

Schulman advises SMBs to ignore the propaganda about business inkjets, steer clear of color laser and rely on a good, monochrome laser printer that turn out low-cost black and white prints in large quantities at a reasonable cost per page. 

He also recommends that small businesses shop for a multifunction printer that can use third-party laser toner cartridges and to locate those supplies before -- or while -- making a printer purchase.

“Inkjet remains an excellent alternative for low use, for photographic prints and for those who need color,” said Schulman. “We suggest that small businesses who occasionally require color maintain an inkjet printer specifically for that purpose.” 

Lyra Research's Andrew Lippman offered different advice:

  • SMBs that print more than 1,500 pages per month and have a strong need for color documents should consider a color laser printer or MFP in the $400 - $800 range.
  • SMBs that print fewer than 1,500 pages per month and have a strong need for color documents should consider a high-end inkjet printer or MFP in the $150 - $400 range. 
  • SMBs that print more than 1,500 pages per month and do notneed color documents should consider a monochrome laser printer or MFP in the $300 - $700 range. 
  • SMBs that print fewer than 1,500 pages per month and do notneed color documents should consider a monochrome laser printer or a high-end inkjet printer in the $150 - $500 range. 
  • An SMB with extensive printing or copying needs (more than 10,000 pages per month) should consider leasing a high-volume laser MFP.

“This type of print-intensive SMB should also look for managed print service offerings from manufacturers and distributors,” said Lippman. “Sellers are more willing than ever to help a business more efficiently place and use their printing equipment.”As regards printing costs, he said that color printing typically costs four to six times more than black-and-white printing. “An SMB should carefully consider where and when they need color documents” said Lippman.

Drew Robb is a Los Angeles-based freelancer specializing in technology and engineering. Originally from Scotland, he graduated with a degree in geology from Glasgow's Strathclyde University. In recent years he has authored hundreds of articles as well as the book, Server Disk Management by CRC Press.

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