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Do you need convincing that business inkjet costs 50% less than laser? The options are improving each year.

Issue #1204 – While printer manufacturers increasing realise that business inkjet is an essential addition to their product line-up, users are only slowly giving them serious attention. I believe that inkjet is the office technology of the future – we provide conclusive proof that Total Cost of Printing is undeniably in their favour.

Rather than just investigating professional business inkjet multifunction devices in isolation, an article was promised in the first article of the year pitching these devices against comparable laser devices.

With the number of laser machines potentially involved, it becomes difficult to have them all in one comparison together. So, because there is a small and well-defined group of serious professional business inkjet devices on the market, we’ve selected only those lasers that fall closest in terms of specification.

What this means in practice is that we’ve selected only those multifunction laser models that:

  • feature fax functionality as well as print, copy and scan
  • are also WiFi connectable

Sadly, duplex printing does not feature at all in the price range of laser devices that serve the small office environment and, logically, nor does a duplexing ADF. Therefore, laser devices to be included are reduced to a manageable number:

  • Canon i-SENSYS MF8080Cw
  • Dell 1355cnw
  • Epson AcuLaser CX17WF
  • Hewlett-Packard Colour LaserJet CM1415fnw
  • Samsung CLX-3185FW

To begin with, this actually indicates that the inkjet devices are considerably better-equipped and more highly specified than the available lasers.

Inkjet devices selected are just those serious business contenders – all of them four-function and including: duplex print capability; duplex scanning (except Lexmark); and wireless connectivity.

  • Brother MFC-J6910DW
  • Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4535DWF
  • Hewlett-Packard Officejet Pro 8600 Plus
  • Lexmark Pinnacle Pro901

It is a shame that Lexmark’s just-announced OfficeEdge range is not readily available yet and have not reached Europe. So, that model will have to feature in a subsequent article. However, with ink yields at 2,500 pages for black and 1,600 pages for colours, we ‘should’ be able to expect competitive Total Cost of Printing from OfficeEdge (but I reserve judgement till pricing is available!).

Canon’s MX885 has been excluded on the basis that its Total Cost of Printing is far from low enough to compete seriously.

To go into detail about the specifications in this article would be counterproductive. However, comment on the inkjet devices can be found at and . What I would say is that the old prejudices against inkjet technology can be dismissed – the business end of the desktop inkjet market can match, or even exceed, these laser devices for print speed, flexibility and features. Some may be a little more noisy than a laser device but there is no doubt that all are far less costly to own and run.

So, this article focuses on the costs – initial hardware purchase, ink/toner only costs and long-term purchase and ink costs – associated with buying these two printing technologies. It is, therefore, largely graphical.

Let’s start with hardware purchase. Clearly, the first thing to notice is that one machine stands out head and shoulders as being more expensive than any other – and it’s an inkjet. This is Brother’s MFC-J6910DW, which is so expensive because it is an A3 machine, with A3 printing, copying, scanning and faxing capability. It should be noted again that this machine is more expensive in Germany (where prices are sourced) than in any other European country. It is included, despite its ridiculously high hardware price in Germany, because it is the only A3 device worthy of consideration (with its LC1280XL cartridges). In addition, there is actually no comparable A4 device from Brother to include.

Hardware Purchase Price – Inkjet vs Laser

Median Street Price inc. tax – Germany

Apart from the A3 device, all professional business inkjet devices cost rather less to buy than the laser devices. While the lasers fall within a price range between €340 and €390, the A4 inkjet machines fall within a range from €210 to €300.

This puts the inkjet ranges in a strong position right from the start. But this is not all. A simple analysis of the basic costs of ink and toner shows that black ink for the inkjets costs a fraction of what users will pay for toner. Reduced to a simple Cost Per Page (CPP) for the number of pages expected from each cartridge there is no black ink that costs more than 43% of the cost of the cheapest black toner.

Interestingly, rather flying in the face of established understanding, the most expensive black ink is from Hewlett-Packard and the cheapest toner from Canon! At the opposite end of the scale, Lexmark ink is only just over one-fifth of the cost of Dell toner.

Supplies – Nominal CPP – Black – Inkjet vs Laser

Based on Median Street Price inc. tax – Germany

This is very encouraging for office users whose print profile is likely to include rather more black pages than colour pages and where almost all pages are likely to include black content (i.e. very few, if any, glossy photographs).

We then take the analysis on a step to consider the cost of colour inks. Here we find that the very cheap black ink from Lexmark is not matched by low cost of colour ink.

Instead, we find that ink costs for printing colour pages with Lexmark’s Pinnacle Pro901 are only 29% lower than toner for the Canon MF8080Cw. More typically, ink for colour prints on Epson’s WorkForce Pro WP-4535DWF costs only one-quarter of the cost of toner for Dell’s 1355cnw.

Supplies – Nominal CPP – Colour – Inkjet vs Laser

Based on Median Street Price inc. tax – Germany

All three of the inkjet devices (other than Lexmark) have ink costs for 4-colour printing that are less than one-third of the average cost of toner for the laser machines.

Put this together with the hardware costs and it is obvious that business inkjet machines cannot possibly end up costing more to own and run than a laser machine – ever … under any circumstances.

So, when we look at a projection for Total Cost of Printing over a three-year period of ownership and this fact becomes even clearer.

This calculation is based on printing 800 pages per month over three years, with 70% of those pages being printed in black only and 30% being printed in colour.

Somewhat extraordinarily, we find that Total Cost of Printing with Brother’s expensive-to-buy MFC-J6910DW falls within the range of costs demonstrated by the A4 machines – this is basically due to the aggressive pricing on Brother LC1280XL cartridges, combined with the high cost of Lexmark colour inks. What the low ink cost achieves is to place this model well within range of business users who may have an occasional requirement for the A3 format.

Total Cost of Printing – Inkjet vs Laser

Based on Median Street Price inc. tax – Germany

Note that for this level of machine, the mixed mono/colour CPP over three years shown in the accompanying table is calculated on the basis of 800 pages per month; 70% pages in mono and 30% pages in colour; is based on the use of maximum capacity supplies; takes into account any standard, or starter, supplies shipped with the device; and also includes the cost of purchase. All prices are Median Street Price with tax, sourced in Germany.

This places average inkjet costs at only 46% of the average cost of owning and running an equivalent laser machine. Take the Brother A3 and Lexmark machines out of the equation and that cost level falls to less than 40%.

Because print volumes vary considerably from user to user, it is helpful to show these results for a range of monthly print volumes. The chart below shows an average Total Cost of Printing for these inkjet devices against an average for the laser devices, running from a low monthly volume of just 100 pages per month up to a fairly substantial 1,500 pages per month.

You will notice that the difference in long term Cost Per Page is lowest at the lowest print volumes, where there are two models (Brother MFC-J6910DW and Hewlett-Packard CLJ CM1415fnw) for which the user would never need to buy any colour cartridges at all and only one black cartridge!

Follow through to the other end of the chart though, and it becomes increasingly clear that the saving for inkjets just keeps on increasing the more pages that are printed. At 100 pages per month, the saving is 29%; at 800 pages per month (as shown in the chart above), the saving is 54%; and at 1,500 pages per month, the saving rises to 59%!

Comparative Long-Term Cost Per Page

Based on Median Street Price inc. tax – Germany

Note that the mixed mono/colour CPP over three years shown in the accompanying table is based on the use of maximum capacity supplies; takes into account any standard, or starter, supplies shipped with the device; and also includes the cost of purchase. All prices are Median Street Price with tax, sourced in Germany.

Now, some users may find a Cost Per Page figure a little difficult to identify with. So, let’s translate the figures above into Total Expenditure over three years.

Comparative Total Expenditure

Based on Median Street Price inc. tax – Germany

Note that the mixed mono/colour CPP over three years shown in the accompanying table is based on the use of maximum capacity supplies; takes into account any standard, or starter, supplies shipped with the device; and also includes the cost of purchase. All prices are Median Street Price with tax, sourced in Germany.

This demonstrates very graphically just how beneficial inkjet technology is to the office. There should be no concerns for users about print quality with these machines and there is a lot to gain, not just in terms of cost but also in terms of functionality.

Please do remember that these averaged comparisons do include the high initial purchase price of the Brother A3 model on the inkjet side. So, if A4 is all that is required, the saving is even better!

In addition, there is considerable gain to be had from reduced power consumption for inkjet devices. Typically, this comes in at between 25% and 46% of the cost of power using a laser device – significant!

Need convincing any more?

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