Advantages & Disadvantage of Laser Printers
By Amy Weiss
Laser printers are relatively high-speed printers that use the process of
electrophotography, or xerography, to create images on paper. Developed by Xerox in
1971, the laser printer is common in the office environment, although inkjet printers are
gaining ground. Conversely, laser printers are becoming more common for home use.
The advantages and disadvantages of laser printers are responsible for both shifts.
Laser printers used to be inaccessible to the home user because of their price, but
prices have dropped drastically over the years. At one point a laser printer could cost
thousands of dollars; in 2009 it is possible to find monochrome laser printers for less
than $100 and color laser printers for under $200. Thousand-dollar laser printers still
exist; the price difference is generally reflected in quality and functionality.
When purchasing a printer it is important to consider not only the cost of the printer, but
the cost of the supplies—the print cartridges you'll need to purchase. Toner cartridges
tend to be expensive up front, with costs that can run upwards of $100. However a toner
cartridge has a much longer life span than an inkjet cartridge, leading to a much lower
cost per page. For example, a toner cartridge that costs $60 can yield 2,000 pages while
a $15 inkjet cartridge yields 200. This equals a cost per page of about 3 cents for the
laser printer, versus 75 cents for the inkjet.
Laser printers are known for being fast. For basic, monochrome print jobs, some laser
printers can produce upwards of 40 pages per minute. However the increased speed will
be reflected in the price tag, so it's important to weight the cost against user needs.
For those users who need to print a lot of business color—charts and graphs, for
example—laser has historically been the only choice, as it is faster and ultimately more
economical. However if only small numbers of color prints are needed, the up-front cost
of color toner cartridges can be a deal-breaker, especially as inkjet printers improve in
both speed and quality. Lasers are also not designed to produce photo-quality prints, as
the mechanics of toner formulation don't lend themselves to quality and durability the
same way that inkjet inks do. Also, laser printers are not designed to handle photo
paper, but if print and paper quality are not critical, many newer color laser printers
create acceptable photo prints.
Laser printers have a lot of moving parts, and those parts can break down. However the
parts can also be replaced or repaired. Laser printers generally have a fairly high duty-
cycle rating and, when properly maintained and used within manufacturer's
specifications, can last for many years.