is an easy technology to shop for. You don’t need to be fluent in techno-babble to understand printer specifications, and there are generally fewer specs to take into consideration than when shopping for computers
. But there’s one key technology difference that you need to know.
When you’re buying a new printer
for home use or office use, you’ll have to choose between an inkjet printer and a laser printer. This is the first and most important decision you’ll make when choosing a printer.
What’s the difference between an inkjet printer and a laser printer?
An inkjet printer uses ink to print documents, while a laser printer uses a laser to print documents. Pretty simple, right?
The different printing processes affect each printer’s speed, functions, and image quality. Let’s go into a bit more detail.
How does an inkjet printer work?
Here’s how it gets the ink onto paper:
1. The printer processes an image or document from a device.
2. Small nozzles (jets) are positioned throughout the printer to spray ink droplets onto a sheet of paper as it passes by. Hundreds of nozzles release thousands of ink droplets.
3. To release an ink droplet, the nozzle is heated by electricity. The heat causes the ink to expand in a bubble, and it expands through the nozzle until it squirts onto the paper.
4. When the ink bubble collapses, a vacuum is created that draws more ink into the nozzle from the ink cartridge, ready to release the next droplet.
5. It takes many droplets to form a single character.
The nozzles are attached to a printhead, which can move left and right across the paper to create new characters.
How does a laser printer work?
Although it’s called a laser printer, static electricity is the main phenomenon that occurs to get those images and text on the page. Remember, when it comes to static electricity, opposites attract; only positive charges and negative charges stick to each other.
Negative can’t attach to negative and positive can’t attach to positive (try playing with the ends of two magnets if you don’t believe it).
A laser printer cleverly manipulates static electricity to attach toner to a sheet of paper. Laser toner
is a powdered ink that’s more grain-like than regular ink.
Here’s how a laser printer works:
1. The printer processes an image or document from a device. Then it uses high-voltage circuits to give electrical charges to some of its components.
2. The “photoreceptor drum” is a revolving drum that’s given a positive electric charge.
3. A laser beams against a mirror. The mirror reflects the laser onto the photoreceptor drum.
4. While the laser is beaming, the mirror moves in such a way that it “draws” out the image on the photoreceptor drum.
5. Wherever the laser hits the photoreceptor drum, the positive charge is replaced by a negative charge. The mirror has basically sketched a negatively-charged shape onto a positively charged canvas.
6. Toner is released onto the drum. The toner is positively charged, and it sticks only to the negatively charged parts of the drum that have been outlined by the laser. The toner essentially “colors within the lines.”
7. A sheet of paper is rolled through the printer. The paper is given a powerful negative charge.
8. As the paper passes the drum, the paper’s negative charge pulls grains of toner from the drum onto the sheet of paper. The toner grains sit on the surface of the paper.
9. The paper’s electric charge is removed. Then it passes through hot rollers that use heat and pressure to fuse the toner grains into the paper.
What uses are best for an inkjet printer?
You should get an inkjet printer if you need to print high-quality color images.
Inkjet printers have better tonal variety and they’re better at blending colors. Inkjets can also print on a variety of paper types, including glossy paper. Laser printers can’t print on any paper type that’s sensitive to heat.
Inkjet printers don’t print as quickly as laser printers do, and their paper trays can’t hold as much paper.
Inkjet cartridges are also more expensive, although certain programs like HP Instant Ink
can help reduce their cost.
For those reasons, inkjet printers are a better option if you print less frequently, or if you only print a few pages at a time.
What uses are best for a laser printer?
You should get a laser printer if you print high volumes of black and white documents.
Laser printers can print much faster than inkjet printers can. Most are equipped with high-capacity paper trays, so they can print more pages at a given time. They’re also built to handle the printing of thousands of pages per month without succumbing to wear-and-tear.
Laser printers don’t print color photos as well as inkjet printers do. They can print basic photos for everyday use, but they’re not built to print gallery-quality photos. For that reason, they’re not optimal for photographers or designers.
Laser printers are larger and heavier than inkjet printers, which makes them difficult to fit in a home office (although some models come in a more compact size). But they’re very well suited for office use due to their high printing capacity.
Which HP Laser and Inkjet Printers are Great Values?
1. HP OfficeJet 5255 All-in-One printer
The HP OfficeJet 5255 all-in-one printer
is an inkjet printer that’s great for photo printing. It can print borderless images on a variety of different paper sizes. The OfficeJet 5255 AiO printer has wireless capabilities and is compatible with HP Instant Ink.
2. HP ENVY 5055 All-in-One printer
The HP ENVY 5055 AiO printer
is an inkjet printer that can print borderless images at a very high color resolution. It has great wireless capabilities via the HP Smart app and Bluetooth Smart technology.
3. HP LaserJet Pro M102w multifunction printer
The HP LaserJet Pro M102w multifunction printer
is a laser printer that’s compact enough to fit comfortably in a home office. The paper tray can hold 150 sheets and it can print 23 pages per minute in black and white. It’s one of the most budget-friendly laser printers on the market.
4. HP LaserJet Pro multifunction printer
The HP LaserJet Pro multifunction printer
can perform a variety of tasks, as the name implies. It can copy, scan, and print color images, and it can print black and white documents at a speed of up to 42 pages per minute.
Once you have decided on which type of printer is best for you, then you can narrow your selection based on factors like multifunction capabilities and color printing. Your printer is vital to your work or school success, so make sure you get the one that will best suit you, whether it’s an inkjet or laser printer.
About the Author: Zach Cabading is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Zach is a content creation specialist based in Southern California, and creates a variety of content for the tech industry.
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