Inkjet Versus Laser Printers - Page 2

By Drew Robb
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Testing a New Breed of Small Business Inkjet Printer

Small Business Computing tested this assertion. We chose a two-page magazine article with only a small amount of color on each page. A count of 1,670 pages later, the black cartridge gave out. That was far more than we expected and indicates that HP’s claim of 2,200 is far from pie in the sky. That number is probably based on printing documents with fewer lines of text.

We'll go with the 1,670 figure for now; the cost per page drops to slightly more than 2 cents. For the examples above, a three-year ink bill for 15,000 pages annually comes to a little more than $300 (down from $1,596 in the earlier inkjet example). Even though the price of the HP 8500 is considerably more than any of the legion of low-end inkjets, SMBs should studiously avoid them in favor of a higher-end business inkjet.

A few caveats: you need to buy four cartridges -- one black and three color models for a combined cost of more than $100. Further, these HP machines do not have an integrated print head, which becomes another consumable. No data is provided on their lifespan.(Note: this probably doesn’t add any more expense than replacing the drum in a laser printer, which typically has to be done every 20,000 pages or so).

HP isn’t the only game in town when it comes to high-end small business inkjet MFPs. Lexmark offers the Pinnacle Pro901 for $299 (one sale for $199 at the time of this writing). Cartridges are rated for 500 pages and cost $4.99 for black and $17.99 for color. Those numbers haven’t been tested, but it works out to one cent per page, which is excellent if it holds up in the real world.

Many other potential small business inkjet options are available from Brother, Canon and Epson.

Laser Printers by the Numbers

In comparison to the average inkjet, laser printers have the reputation of being quieter, faster and hassle free. Back in 2005 when we first addressed the inkjet versus laser issue, the math came out in overwhelming favor of monochrome lasers for SMBs (no color). The HP and Brother lasers we looked into at the time were priced around $400 to $500 and provided printing at about 2 cents per page. Hardware costs have plummeted -- we recently bought a Brother monochrome laser MFP for less than $200. Printing costs remain about the same.

Some examples include the HP LaserJet Pro P1102w ($99), with a replacement toner that costs $67.99 and prints an estimated 1,600 pages. The HP LaserJet P4014 printer (starting at $699) has replacement cartridges priced at $172.99 for about 10,000 pages. Based on these estimates, once you get to 25,000 pages annually, the economics start to favor the more expensive LaserJet P4014.

The interesting thing with these official HP numbers is that the company appears to be saying to buy its business inkjet over its laser printers. For example, 50,000 pages a year (1,000 a week or 200 per business day) would cost about $1,800 for printer and toner based on the page rates for the P4104 laser. The P1102w would cost about $500 more. These numbers are higher than those of the HP 8500 MFP inkjet.

Other possibilities in the monochrome laser field include the Lexmark E260d at $199 (on sale at $119). Brother and Canon also have a good selection of monochromes.

Shulman recommends that small business with heavy printing demands consider even higher-end printers. The Lexmark T652dn business printer, he said, retails for $1,149, prints very fast (32-60 ppm) and takes cartridges that yield from 7,000 pages (starter) to 32,000 (high yield).

“They are so good that they license them to Dell, IBM, Toshiba, Source Technologies and Standard Registrar,” said Shulman. “They are a must-have for insurance and billing companies or any company doing serious printing such as medical records.”

One final monochrome laser printer factor to note is durability. A laser printer might last you five years. Inkjets seem to wear out faster -- perhaps in half the time.

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This article was originally published on May 10, 2011
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