Buying a Laser Printer

Category: Printing

If you need to print high-quality text and graphics in large volumes, a laser print beats most inkjets. Laser printers churn out pages much faster and the cost-per-page of supplies is lower. Be prepared to shell out more money up front for a laser printer, but not as much as you might think. Here are some helpful tips to consider when buying a laser printer...

How to Buy a Laser Printer

You can buy a laser printer for less than $100 these days. The HP LaserJet PRO P1102W black-and-white laser printer is one example. It's even wireless so you don't need cables and can place it virtually anywhere in the home or office. It prints letter-size copies at 19 pages per minute. The Brother HL-2170W laser printer is comparable in specs and price. The Samsung Samsung ML-1665 monochrome compact laser printer can be had for as little as $30, although it prints 17 ppm.

Note that the cheapest laser printers do only black-and-white. If you need color, you'll have to spend more on the printer and supplies. Color laser printers cost about 50 to 75 per cent more than black-and-white laser printers of similar performance. Color laser printers work harder to print the same number of pages per minute because three different colors, plus black, must be applied to color prints. Color printing also means four different toners to buy, and that's where color laser printing can get expensive.
Buying a Laser Printer

The cost of toner cartridges varies widely, and so does their rated capacity in pages per cartridge. The "rated capacity" is only a relative guideline because every print job uses a different amount of various toner colors. If you print lots more black-and-white page than color ones, focus on the cost of black toner. Be sure you can replace individual color toner cartridges separately rather than buying an all-in-one toner cartridge that forces you to throw away unused toner. Likewise, avoid laser printers that bundle toner cartridge and print drum. The print drum generally lasts much longer than the toner cartridge, so you should need to replace it less often.

Check for the availability and price of re-filled toner cartridges for any laser printer you're seriously considering. Some laser printers are designed to work only with new OEM cartridges, so refills will not work with them. Re-filling toner cartridges can save you up to half the cost of buying new, and it's more environmentally friendly. A local business that refills toner cartridges would be ideal, to avoid the shipping component.

Paper size and capacity also figure into the purchase of a laser printer. Printers that handle only letter-sized paper cost less than printers that handle larger formats. Paper capacity if the number of blank sheets that the printer's hopper will hold, assumed to be 20-pound bond thickness. If you print on thicker stock, check the specs to see how thick it can be.

Print resolution is the most expensive variable in a laser printer. The print resolution of a laser printer is expressed in dots-per-inch (dpi) vertically and horizontally. A 600x600 dpi printer is fine for business correspondence and low-resolution graphics. If you plan to print high-quality photos and graphics you should buy a 1200x1200 or even 2400x2400 dpi color laser.

Reviews in computer magazines may be helpful, but they don't always reflect the long-term, real-world experience of actual laser printer owners. I recommend that you check consumer feedback sites like Epinions, as well as online user forums before buying a laser printer.

Share your experience with laser printers. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Buying a Laser Printer"

Posted by:

Lee McIntyre
10 Jan 2011

Hi Bob,

HP quotes InfoTrends to make a strong case that its newer lines of ink jet printers print for significantly less cost for supplies per page than an a average laser printer.

One advantage of a laser printer is that on pages with heavy ink, the paper from an ink jet printer tends to curl (due, I suppose, to the fact that the ink soaks into the page).

Posted by:

10 Jan 2011

I bought an HP LaserJet 2100 in 1999 that cost about $600. It's been a real workhorse, never had a problem with it (I wish I could say the same about an expensive HP inkjet printer from about the same period). I've printed thousands of pages of text and I'm only on my second toner cartridge.
I'm amazed at the way prices have dropped over 10+ years. However, I've used lower priced HPs of more recent vintage and they have been a real disappointment, having lasted only a couple of years. They aren't worth fixing, just toss it and buy a new one. Another example of the disposable society.

I guess it's a case of you get what you pay for. I would suggest looking at the specs of different makes to see if the machine requires the fuser drum to be replaced at certain intervals-my HP doesn't have any such requirement. This could negate any initial cost savings.

Posted by:

Ira Glanc
10 Jan 2011

I've been using a sub-$100 Brother laser printer. It works superbly on text, although it does a terrible job on photos (as expected). Refilling the toner runs about $30 at a store which refills your cartridges. Very reasonable.
It also prints much faster than an ink jet. My hat is off to Brother...I would certainly look at other Brother products in the future.

Posted by:

O. Lamoree
14 Jan 2011

In 1995 I bought an OkiData OkiPage 4W B&W laser printer for $300. It worked great until no more drivers for it after Win ME. It went into storage. Years later I saw that some Italian had rewritten the drivers for it for Win2k and forward. It has worked for almost the last 10 years with up to XP but now couldn't find a driver for Vista/Win 7... yet. Still has the same drum, and the same cartridge that twists open to refill with powder.. currently using a bottle of Lanier powder I found for a $1 at the flea market. The print quality is "ok" after 15 years and I use it for maybe 200-300 prints per month... and still going strong. Hard to part with a machine that has served well.

Posted by:

14 Jan 2011

You might want to attach a note on the DPI section, that if they are going to be printing photos, they should adjust the expected page count. A printer that claims 1200 pages at 5% is going to run dry extremely fast when printing at 80%, like in about 75 pages, so don't expect to print cheap color 8x10s. Thanks for some good buying advice, I have thought about getting a color laser for some time, but with the page counts above, I still upload my photos to Walmart.....

Posted by:

17 Jan 2011

As a person who sometimes goes weeks without doing any printing, then does several hundred pages, I got pretty tired of discarding nearly-full ink cartridges that had dried out and constantly struggling with clogged print heads. I invested $130 in a Samsung CLP 315 color laser and could not be happier with the results. I was surprised by the print quality of photos. I'd been led to believe that laser photos would be far inferior, but the quality was equal to any multifunction inkjet. Best of all, twoo years later and I've yet to have to replace a toner cartridge.

Posted by:

26 Jan 2011

I have a HP b/w laser and an HP color inkjet. I did try a color laser but found that when I turned it on it blew the circuit breaker for my office. Based on my limited experience the laser draws much more current than an inkjet. Am I right?

Posted by:

26 Jan 2011

One more note to what's already been said. The current laser printers come with "starter" cartridges, which have a much lower capacity than the replacement cartridges. This modifies the equation slightly, since you have to buy replacement cartridges much sooner. But a fast color laser is such a pleasure, the cost savings almost don't matter - it's much faster than an inkjet, and the toner doesn't dry out if you don't use it.

My 7 year-old Dell 3000cn ($300) died last year and I replaced it with a Dell 3130cn ($350 on sale). It prints text flawlessly and at better than 30 pages per minute. It prints pictures almost as well as my Epson inkjet and in a couple of seconds rather than a couple of minutes.

I'm still on the original toner. Highly recommended.

Posted by:

Erich Vontobel
26 Jan 2011

Hi Bob
Can you please tell us something about LED printers. Could it be that this technology will replace the laser technology? As I heard there are already LED printers available and they seem to be even better than the laser printers.

Posted by:

27 Jan 2012

I too have had good luck with Brother laser printers. I find the HL2170W to be a bargain, esp since it can be both network AND wireless. Local stores wanted about $60-70 for the large capacity toner. I found one re manufactured on ebay for $22 delivered. It works fine. I used to use inkjets, but they were a real pain. Expired cartridges, clogged nozzles, etc,etc. I don't print much, and I used more ink "cleaning" the nozzles than I did printing.(and these were NEW OEM cartridges) Inkjets also don't like cats, their loose fur screws them up. What I really like about the laser,is if I don't print anything for a month or so, it prints perfect without cleaning, etc. If I need a color picture, I load it onto a thumb drive and take it to Walmart. That's cheaper and a much better pic than an inkjet.

Posted by:

29 Jan 2012

About laser printers my daughter talked me into a xerox laser color printer when my 880 epson inkjet failed. I use Mitchell on Demand and it is great for wiring diagrams because the color lines are very clear. also have 3 computers and all use the same printer. It is fast and reliable. the best advice i had in a while and we do quite a lot of printing here and the higher speed is a great time saver and print cartridges last quite a while considering how much printing is done.

Posted by:

17 May 2012

I have had an HP Color Laser CP3505 for several years and I really like it. I have only had to buy one black cartridge so far. I was so surprised how long I went on the first cartridge and I do lots of printing. Even though it was quite expensive to begin with my figures show I have saved money in the long run and don't have the nuisance of constantly running our of ink and having to buy another cartridge and that is not so easy living some distance from a place to purchase such. This printer has lots of bells and whistles which I needed.

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