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Updated: 25 Mar 2022

Inkjet vs laser printers: which is best?

Wondering whether to get an inkjet or a laser printer? Both have pros and cons -  we'll help you choose which type is best for you.
Felix Wilson
Inkjet vs laser printer

If you’re looking for a printer that can handle a wide range of tasks, go for an inkjet. Best Buy inkjets turn out text-heavy documents, images and photos with ease.

But some inkjet printers expend ink to clean their heads, meaning it isn’t actually used for printing. If you go for a printer on our Best Buy list, its low running costs will keep your bank balance happy.

If you’re all about productivity, a laser printer may be a better choice. Best Buy laser printers shine when printing black-text documents and professional-looking office graphics.

Although laser printers are typically a bit more expensive than inkjets, they print a lot more pages from each toner cartridge. So the cost per black-and-white or colour page is usually much less. As an office workhorse, a laser printer takes some beating.

Ink tank printers offer something of a compromise - they're dirt cheap to run and great for colour, but they still can't quite match most laser printers for black text or speed.

For our top picks, as well as advice on the best features to look out for, see our guide to the Best Printers for 2022.

Inkjet printers: great all-rounders

Pros of inkjet printers 

  • Usually compact and great all-rounders  
  • Better than laser printers for colour photos
  • Can be cheaper to buy

Cons of inkjet printers

  • Ink use can increase running costs
  • Slower to print black text pages than a laser printer

Inkjet printers are great all-rounders, able to handle documents, letters or recipe print-outs, as well as print photos – and, on the whole, they do a much better job with the latter than a laser printer.

Consumer inkjets are usually quite small, so they don't take up much space in your home, and they're usually quiet, too.

Inkjets are cheaper to buy than laser printers, but running costs can be higher. This is because of the ink they use during cleaning cycles, meaning it isn't actually used to print. With inefficient inkjets, costs per printed page can be much higher than with laser printers.

See the best inkjet printers to suit all budgets.

'We print a total of 2,750 A4 pages to assess every printer that we test in our lab. It all gets recycled when we're finished, so nothing goes to waste.'

Laser printers: office workhorses 

Pros of laser printers 

  • Superb at printing black-text documents
  • Fast printing speeds
  • Low toner running costs

Cons of laser printers

  • Expensive to buy
  • Can be bulky and noisy
  • Can struggle with images and colour

When it comes to printing mono (black-and-white) documents quickly and efficiently, you can't go far wrong with a laser printer. You can get  a colour laser if you want to produce professional-looking business graphics, too. 

Laser printers are normally faster than inkjets when printing, and can handle a heavier workload if you’re planning to print a lot of pages every month. 

Plus, while the toner cartridges are expensive to buy, each one prints a lot more pages than a set of inkjet cartridges. So the actual cost per black-and-white or colour page is usually much less. 

However, as well as being generally more expensive to buy, laser printers are usually bulkier and noisier than the equivalent inkjet printer and will take up more space on your desk. 

If you're happy that a laser printer is right for you, check out the best mono laser printers or the best colour laser printers.

Ink tank printers: expensive to buy, cheap to run

Pros of ink tank printers

  • Very cheap to run
  • Often well-suited for photos
  • Rarely need refilling

Cons of ink tank printers

  • Expensive to buy
  • Black text not as sharp as laser printers
  • Not ideal for occasional printer users

Ink tank printers have built-in reservoirs that you can refill with bottled ink, and are a relatively recent addition to the home printer market. Like regular inkjet printers, they're great all-rounders, that often excel at printing photos.

Unlike cartridge printers, though, they're extremely cheap to run. We estimate that it could cost as little as a few pounds a year to print 20 pages of black text and 10 colour images a year. The average inkjet would cost roughly £135 to print the same amount, and even a laser printer would average £23. Starting at around £150 they can be pricey to get started, but it you print often you're likely to save hundreds over the lifetime of the printer.

As with all inkjets the nozzles can get blocked with dry ink if you don't use it regularly. This could be even more of an issue if the ink has been sat in the tanks for months or years, so it may not be for you if you don't print very often.

We'll help you choose the right printer for your budget - see our independent printer reviews.