If you were in the market for a new printer and your primary concern was price, many would not look past an inkjet printer simply because the initial cost is a fraction of what a laser printer may cost. However, you would be wise to look at just more than the initial cost of a printer; as laser printers offer much superior technology and a significantly reduced cost per page to an inkjet printer.
One of the major things that laser printers have over their inkjet counterparts is the speed at which they deliver pages. When printing using black only (mono), laser printers have been shown during tests that they can be twice as faster. A typical colour laser printer the Lexmark C540n prints pages at a speed of 20 pages per minute, while the equivalent inkjet printer the Canon PIXMA MP640 churns out pages at a rate of 10 pages per minute. Not surprisingly, the gulf between the speeds of both types of printer becomes even wider when printing in colour. The following section will explain why this is.
Toner and Ink Placement
Laser printers work in a completely different way and function by electrostatically charging certain points on the paper where the computer instructs it to. Tiny particles of toner that have an opposite electrostatic charge then become attracted to the paper, forming the printed image. The paper then passes through a fuser which heats up the toner and effectively fuses it to the paper. This is a completely liquid-free process and results in text characters appearing much sharper and of a much higher quality than printouts delivered by inkjet printers.
Laser printouts are also far less likely to fade when left in sunlight than those pigments used in inkjet printing. This is due to the toner particles being much larger and therefore far more resistant to degradation caused by UV light.
Quality of Print
The colours produced by colour laser printers are often much brighter than the equivalent colours in inkjet cartridges. This makes laser printers perfect for their main colour function: printing graphics. It must be noted however that because laser printing is a completely dry process, it makes it difficult to mix colours, meaning that there is a much smaller array of colours available to the printer.
That said, the difficulty of mixing primary toner colours gives typical colour laser printers a much smaller gamut of available colours, which causes problems when they try to reproduce photos. Colour laser printers do reproduce good quality photos of mostly man-made objects, but those photos of landscapes and of people do look a little artificial, in comparison with those photos delivered via inkjet printer.
The cost of using laser printers has historically made them much cheaper to use than inkjet printers despite the initial increased outlay, but recently the cost inkjet cartridges and the inkjet printers themselves has reduced to the point where this is not as clear cut. The price of a toner cartridge can be around 3-4 times the price of an inkjet cartridge but will have the ability to printout 7-10 times more pages.
The above points make it rather clear cut which printer is the best one for you.
If you are a light user who prints the occasional photo and a few documents then an inkjet printer would be the obvious choice, since you would not be printing enough to make buying a laser printer economically worthwhile.
On the other end of the scale, a heavy user that demands speed, sharp text in their documents, crisp graphics and value for money but prints few photos would be much better off buying a laser printer.