Need help deciding on what type of printer fits your needs? PrinterComparison.com has a new series, “Finding the right printer for you.” Building on our handy guide of the same title, in this article we’ll focus on laser printers.
All about Laser Printers
Laser printers use precision lasers (hence the name) to glue dry ink (toner) to a light sensitive drum which heats the ink and applies it to your print medium. A simple process when using black ink becomes slightly more complicated when you introduce color. Color toner typically comes in three colors – cyan, magenta, and yellow – and each need to be applied separately.
Even with the added color, this process takes very little time compared to other styles of printers giving laser printers an advantage in print speeds, especially monochrome (black and white) versions. While there are laser printers that can pump out 150+ pages per minute (think production printers), average consumer and small business laser printers will typically print 20-50 pages per minute depending on the job style (color vs. black and white) and most manufacturers will specify the print speeds of each machine based on the job style.
Laser printers often produce high quality black and white prints with little smudging but sometimes produce less quality color prints due to the more complicated process. When each color is applied separately, it can cause small misalignments that lead to blurring or fraying on the edges of the prints. Most often, you’ll only see these problems with color prints in lower end models.
The features on each printer vary just as they would with a notebook or camera. Some of the features to look for in a printer are: resolution, scan, copy and fax capabilities, duplexing, automatic document feeders, size/number of paper tray(s), monthly duty cycle, etc. Laser printers often have duplexing and automatic document feeders as standard features along with large paper trays to match their high print speeds.
The major setback for most consumers looking to purchase a laser printer is going to be the high initial cost. Even an entry level monochrome laser printer can cost between $120-$200 depending on the company.
On the plus side, toner for laser printers has become easier to use and more affordable. Most manufacturers package toner in easy to use cartridges sparing users the mess and hassle of refilling toner and many will allow consumers to reuse their cartridges by refilling them for a lower cost than purchasing a new cartridge.
Also, users can bypass the manufacturer since many vendors such as Staples and OfficeMax will refill toner cartridges. Environmentally conscious consumers looking to make their laser printers a little “greener” can buy recycled cartridges from several online retailers.
Several major manufacturers sell laser printers on their websites and through authorized retailers and vendors. Prices vary on specs and brands.
• Brother – specializes in laser printers. Find monochrome, color and multifunction printers from $120 and up.
• Canon – has the imageCLASS and imageRUNNER lines
• Dell – has several laser options in their “For Office” section starting at $119.
• HP – features the LaserJet line which starts at $129.99.
• Lexmark – has three lines of laser printers from $149.99
• Ricoh – also specializes in laser printers. Has a great online compare set-up but no pricing available.
• Samsung – only manufactures laser printers. Prices start around $200.
• Xerox – the Phaser line of laser printers start at $179
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Laser printers are work horses often found in office environments because they are great for printing large jobs quickly and efficiently at a low cost per page. If you are looking to upgrade your home office printer or just like the fast speeds and high quality, a laser printer could be just what you need.