FEBRUARY 2011 IN
RICK ASTER’S WORLD

Laser Printers Achieve Price Parity

Inkjet printers aren’t so important, now that you can buy a laser printer for about the same price.

Laser printer prices have been falling in recent years, and a cursory look at an office supplier’s online store suggests that they have now achieved price parity. The featured inkjet printers are priced from $59 to $120. Meanwhile, the featured laser printers cost $49 to $180 — a similar price range.

For now, many users will still need an inkjet printer for color documents. Color laser printers start at $200, and they do a poor job of printing photos. But for ordinary business documents, almost everyone will be using laser printers.

That’s because of the price of ink. An ink cartridge for an inkjet printer costs about the same as the toner cartridge for a laser printer — but where the ink cartridge prints hundreds of pages, the toner cartridge prints thousands. Most people who didn’t print documents every day didn’t mind paying 11¢ per page, instead of 2¢, when an inkjet printer cost $300 less to buy. But with no savings up front, you can no longer make a business case for buying an inkjet printer for ordinary business documents, no matter how few pages you’ll be printing.

One of the problems with inkjet printers for low-volume users is that the ink degrades over time. Printer manufacturers suggest replacing the ink cartridges after six months even if you have barely used them. There are no such issues with toner, which may just need a shake to loosen it up if it has been sitting around for a few years.

Inkjet printers can make a comeback, but there will have to be a breakthrough in the ink. As soon as someone can design inks that will be more reliable and less expensive in printers, people will be ready to take another look at computer printers that print in ink.


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