When buying any color printer, it is important to look past the amazing sales on color inkjet and color laser printers and figure out how much it will cost you to keep the printer printing. Before you buy your ridiculously marked up printer cable (they don't come with them) and paper, you want to check out the prices on the ink or toner for your printer. This guide explains what to look for when making the decision to buy a color inkjet printer or a color laser printer.
Color inkjet printers are very affordable and produce beautiful quality color prints and photos. Their resolution is higher, but they also go through ink much faster than a laser printer uses up toner. Color inkjet printer ink volume varies a lot from printer to printer, so check specifically how many color prints you will get from a set of print cartridges. Many fall in the 300-500 color printout category. Visit the manufacturer's website to verify approximately how long your ink will last. Ink cartridges also vary widely in price, though pricing generally reflects just how much ink you are actually getting. Smaller cartridges run out faster. On average, ink cartridges run about $30-$40 each (you'll need a black and a color cartridge, or in many cases, a cartridge for each color (cyan, yellow and magenta). As such, a color inkjet printer that has two cartridges at $35 each that gets 400 pages of color prints from one set will have a per-page cost of just under $.18 per page. ($35+$35 divided by 400). Your output will vary depending upon what you are printing, and what at what resolution you are printing.
At first glance, a color laser printer may look like a good bet as prices have dropped significantly and they join the competition in color printing. They are quick and the toner lasts much longer than an inkjet cartridge. In some cases, you will get over 5000 prints out of one set of toners. Print quality for photos has not reached the level of inkjet printers, however for brochures and other color prints, color laser jets are a good option. Each toner color (there are four) will be priced similarly, in the range of $60-$80 each. So, if you're getting 6000 pages with a toner cost of $70 each, your price per page will be about $.05 per page. Big difference.
Really, the most important things to consider are what you normally print in color and how often you print. If you want the occasional glossy, picture perfect photo for the family album, for now, an inkjet printer is going to be the printer for you. If you want high volume color brochures or flyers where quality isn't as crucial, a color laser printer is far more cost effective. The examples above certainly don't represent all color inkjet or laser printers, so check ink and/or toner prices for models you are considering while shopping. Calculate your overall cost per page, and determine which makes more sense for you. With inkjet printers, your replacement cartridges will cost less, but you'll be buying them more often. With color laser jet printers, your toner is going to set you back a lot all at once, but you'll get more mileage out of these cartridges.