Laser printers combine fast print speeds, sharp output and low running costs per page. Like copiers, laser printers use a photographic drum to attract electrically charged toner and transfer it to paper, where the image is fused using a heated roller.
In the past, the price of colour laser printers meant that home users opted to use colour inkjet technology, but now several models can be found for less than £170, making them viable alternatives for individuals and SMEs wanting to print fliers, spreadsheets, brochures and other business documents. In addition, cheaper black and white laser printers - with an entry price point of £60 to £90 – are a reasonable option for printing text and simple graphics.
Raising your budget offers features like copy, scan and fax built in. Most high-end laser printers will also have ethernet or wireless networking features, making them a good solution for homes / businesses with multiple PCs or users that are looking for printing high-resolution images.
In office / heavy-use environments (including medium to large workgroups) laser printers are the de facto choice for business, not only in terms of print quality, but also overall lifetime cost and reliability.
Faster than inkjet and with hardware options to handle even the most demanding print jobs, typical laser printer ranges consists of single function (mono) lasers all the way through to high-volume A3 colour multi-function printers (MFPs) - with top-of-the-range finishing options.
With entry-level (mono) printers from the likes of Samsung, Epson, HP, Canon, Brother and Lexmark typically costing £60, a good starting point is to decide whether a single-function machine is sufficient for your needs or whether copying, faxing and scanning are also required.
For more than just printing, an MFP should be your starting choice for a machine - especially as low running costs and higher page volumes / print speeds will tip the balance versus inkjet alternatives (see our footnote below about when to choose inkjet).
Aside from the main benefits of laser printing (being speed, quality, reliability and security, five of the most important buying considerations are:
Generally speaking the high the number, the better the performance - with affordable mono lasers hitting speeds of 35 ppm or higher (many equivalent colour units can manage the same speeds for both black & white and colour output).
Other important factors to consider are the media sizes handled, time to warm-up (also known as time to first page print), duplex and networking capability.
The same basics apply to multi-function units for medium and large workgroups, though more sophisticated touch-screen displays, higher print resolutions (up to 2400 x 600 dpi instead of 1200 x 1200dpi) and high-yield cartridge options (often 25,000 pages or more) usually feature.
When specifically buying for workgroups, key performance indicators are both the Maximum Monthly Duty Cycle (for medium workgroups usually around 150,000 pages per month) together with the Recommended Monthly Page Volume (in the region of 3000-50,000+ pages).
Before making a choice, don’t forget to check the cost of supplies and accessories as these will also affect the overall lifetime cost of ownership. A good place to start is our handy Ink & Toner Finder.
If you print infrequently or need to print on different types of media, including glossy photo paper, t-shirts and printable CD/DVD discs, then an inkjet printer may be more suitable (not least because the footprint of such machines is usually smaller than a laser equivalent).
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