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Laser or inkjet? Find the right MFP for you

Making the right choice of MFP is crucial to working efficiently and getting the best value for money from your investment - but with the range of models around, it's a daunting task.

Broadly speaking, printing technologies fall into two camps: inkjet and laser. Inkjet printers work by spraying minute quantities of ink onto the paper via a series of nozzles. Basic inkjets use four inks - cyan, yellow, magenta and black - to reproduce full-colour images. More specialised photo printers add additional inks such a paler versions of the cyan and magenta ink, to provide a wider range of shades and more realistic colour.

Laser printers, on the other hand, use a laser light to "write" an invisible image of electrically charged and uncharged areas on a rotating drum. This drum is then rolled through a layer of fine powder or 'toner', which sticks to the charged areas. This image is then transferred onto the paper. Colour lasers use multiple passes to build up the four colours required to create a full-colour image.

But which one suits you? It all comes down to the type and quantity of work you want to do with it.

Inkjets are the cheapest option, with MFPs starting from as little as £50, rising to hundreds of pounds for more sophisticated models or multifunction products that include scanning, copying and fax capabilities. With sophisticated photo printing inks, inkjets are the best choice for printing photos or glossy marketing materials and handouts. Inkjet printers also offer more flexible options for printing cards or CDs.

Laser printers can cost a little more to buy - but they generally print at a lower cost per page, so if you plan to print large volumes, you can soon recoup the initial purchase cost. They can't compete with inkjets in terms of absolute image quality for photos, but they excel at producing strong, vibrant colours in business graphics and the like.

Because laser printers work by creating a complete image which they then transfer to the page, rather than building it up bit by bit, they can print off a large number of copies very quickly. Toner cartridges for laser printers generally have a capacity of hundreds or thousands of pages, so you'll also need to replace consumables much less frequently.

This article was brought to you as part of THINQ's Business Printing Hub in association with HP (opens in new tab). monitors all leading technology stories and rounds them up to help you save time hunting them down.