Laser Printers

A laser printer is practical for an office environment in which several people are using the same printer via a network. Many units can have multiple trays with different kinds of paper in it, so you can print out a photo and then a document by selecting the correct tray in software. (You can use inexpensive plain paper for laser photos, but you'll get better quality photo prints using premium or glossy paper.)

When considering a using a color laser instead of an inkjet printer, you should be aware of the differences between the two technologies:

Lasers are much faster. In fact they're faster than most desktop technologies, capable of printing 3-12 color prints a minute. Expensive, high-speed models can crank out up to 35 ppm.

■ Relatively few lasers are designed to output photo-quality prints. An ordinary office color laser can print photos, but not on special photo paper, the gamut is much reduced, and details may appear mushy or indistinct. On the other hand color lasers specifically designed to output photos onto glossy paper can produce very good to excellent photo-quality prints.

■ Built to last and work hard on a regular basis, laser printers have much heavier duty cycles than typical inkjet printers.

■ While all but the most expensive inkjets are usually replaced rather than repaired, many lasers are sold with an on-site service contract for a year, which you can pay to extend to a few years. On the other hand, lasers have lots of parts, requiring moderate to frequent attention and maintenance, and some parts must be replaced periodically, such as the drum and toner cartridge, or emptied, such as the waste discharge bottle.

■ With a laser printer, you can print on the back of the photo, with some units doing it automatically (duplexing). But the print may bleed through, depending on how dark the text and photo are and the quality and thickness of the paper. Inkjet prints are rarely double-sided.

Laser printers tend to be bigger and heavier than comparable inkjets. You'll need a larger, more substantial desk, or even a printer table to accommodate it. (See Figure 20-2.)

Figure 20-2: Most color lasers are business printers, optimized more for text and business graphics than photos. But they are great for presentations and other documents that need to include photos. Built to last, they are heavy-duty devices that are also quite big. Pictured is a Konica Minolta magicolor 2300, which at the time of this writing is priced below $500. (Photo courtesy of Konica Minolta.)

Figure 20-2: Most color lasers are business printers, optimized more for text and business graphics than photos. But they are great for presentations and other documents that need to include photos. Built to last, they are heavy-duty devices that are also quite big. Pictured is a Konica Minolta magicolor 2300, which at the time of this writing is priced below $500. (Photo courtesy of Konica Minolta.)

While most inkjets are cheap to moderate, with more expensive consumables, the initial cost of lasers is moderate to expensive, but the cost per page tends to be less expensive.

Put a laser photo next to an inkjet photo, and depending upon the make and model, you may see a difference, with the laser falling behind in quality. Still, for newsletters, quick proofs, and other documents that include photos, the laser printer can do an adequate to nice job. And lasers specifically designed for photo output can produce truly excellent images.

Unlike inkjets, no laser printer can produce an archival photo. The colors will eventually change and fade.

Laser printers tend to last longer than inkjets.

For photo output, you may have to maximize internal memory in your laser, which will cost you additional money.

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