Inkjet or Toner-Based: Which is Better for Small Businesses?

2065

09/10/2012

Marlene Orr

Lexmark International has announced it will exit the inkjet business, a move that’s expected to result in annualized savings of $95 million once the restructuring plan is fully implemented. “We took a hard look at our business and determined that exiting inkjet was necessary in order to provide greater mind share and shift more resources toward delivering higher-value business solutions,” said Melissa Lucas, Lexmark media relations. “We are squarely focused on strengthening and broadening our portfolio of end-to-end solutions in order to help our customers make better sense of their unmanageable content and heighten the level of productivity within their business.”
 

The news prompted us to share some insight with our subscribers on how the data on bliQ can help them see if inkjet still makes sense for them, especially in the small to medium-size business (SMB) market. The results may surprise you.

 
Inkjet Versus Low-End Laser/LED All-in-Ones
 

For small businesses, more often than not, budget is much more important than speeds and feeds or bells and whistles, because, after all, they are small businesses, with small budgets and less “wiggle room” for large purchases. In some cases, SMBs choose a device or supplies based not on long-term costs, but instead on up-front investment. They ask themselves, “what will this cost me now?” It’s wiser, of course, to look at the long-term costs, as well as the pros and cons of the various technologies used, when evaluating a customer’s document imaging needs. The many tools found in bliQ can help.

 

We chose to compare all-in-ones because, at this level, many business users want the most value for their dollars and device consolidation is a simple way to satisfy this need. Below is a simple side-by-side comparison of some business inkjet and laser products priced in the $400 to $600 range that were tested by BLI.  Looking at the basic specifications, a user can see that while similar in terms of price range and target market, each device, on the surface, could have advantages for a given environment.

 
 BASIC SPECS Canon Color imageCLASS MF8080Cw Dell 1355cnw Multifunction Color LED Printer Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4540 HP LaserJet Pro 300 Color MFP M375nw HP Officejet Pro 8600 Premium e-All-in-One Lexmark OfficeEdge Pro5500 Lexmark X543dn OKI MC361 Color MFP Xerox WorkCentre 6015NI
Street Price $449.00 $419.99 $399.99 $599.00 $399.99 $399.00 $599.00 $549.00 $449.00
Max Monthly Duty Cycle 30,000 impressions 30,000 impressions 20,000 impressions 30,000 impressions 25,000 impressions 30,000 impressions 35,000 impressions 45,000 impressions 30,000 impressions
Technology Laser LED Inkjet Laser Inkjet Inkjet Laser Laser LED
Speed (color/black) 8 ppm/12 ppm 12 ppm/15 ppm black 11 ppm/16 ppm 19 ppm/19 ppm 16 ppm/20 ppm 14 ppm/21 ppm 21 ppm /21 ppm 23 ppm/25 ppm 12 ppm/15 ppm
Std Paper Capacity 150 sheets 150 sheets 580 sheets 250 sheets 500 sheets 300 sheets 250 sheets 250 sheets 160 sheets
Max Paper Capacity 150 sheets 160 sheets 580 sheets 550 sheets 500 sheets 850 sheets 900 sheets 880 sheets 160 sheets
Duplex Manual Manual Auto Manual Auto Auto Auto Auto Manual
 

Taking the comparison a step further by looking at the BLI lab test data of each device, users can see important differences become clearer. While toner-based devices are generally faster than inkjet devices, which rarely operate faster than a few pages per minute when printing more complex files, some of the business-class inkjets (which offer more robust features and ink yields more on par with toner-based models) tested delivered surprising results. In BLI’s job stream test, which is a key indicator of real-world performance in environments where multiple users will be sending jobs to the device simultaneously, the LED-based OKI MC361 was the fastest; this is not surprising, given the unit’s rated speed is the fastest in the group. In color mode, however, the inkjet Lexmark OfficeEdge 5500 was the fastest, despite a slower rated speed than some of the toner-based models.

 
Job Stream Canon Color imageCLASS MF8080Cw Dell 1355cnw Multifunction Color LED Printer Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4540 HP LaserJet Pro 300 Color MFP M375nw HP Officejet Pro 8600 Premium e-All-in-One Lexmark OfficeEdge Pro5500 Lexmark X543dn OKI MC361 Color MFP Xerox WorkCentre 6015NI
Productivity Ratings
Tested Black Speed 10.2 7 8.7 7.1 6.3 16.4 17.5 21.6 6.9
Tested Color Speed 6.5 5.5 6.6 5.7 5.6 11.4 14 11.8 5.5
 

Many business documents are just a few pages in length, so first-print times matter. If a user’s typical workflow involves mostly printing one or two pages, BLI’s first-page time tests should be a big consideration in the purchasing decision. Surprisingly, two inkjet models were the fastest in BLI’s tests despite having slower rated speed than some of their laser/LED competitors. For printing a black Word and color JPG file, the Epson model proved fastest, with the Lexmark OfficeEdge trailing behind it by mere fractions of a second. For the other three file types tested, the Lexmark model was the fastest. And note the very significant variation in the first-page out times, with, in this case, one device making users wait three times longer for the first page than with some others. (Test results for the Word document can be found here, while the other file types, as well as the first-page time from overnight sleep, can be found in the productivity section of each test report on bliQ).

 
First-Print Times (In seconds) Canon Color imageCLASS MF8080Cw Dell 1355cnw Multifunction Color LED Printer Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4540 HP LaserJet Pro 300 Color MFP M375nw HP Officejet Pro 8600 Premium e-All-in-One Lexmark OfficeEdge Pro5500 Lexmark X543dn OKI MC361 Color MFP Xerox WorkCentre 6015NI
Word (.DOC; Black text) 25.06 13.22 7.82 17.26 15.38 7.85 14.11 10.51 17.15
 

As noted earlier, many small businesses are most concerned with the “bottom line.” So, those users will want to look at cost per page to help determine life-cycle costs for the all-in-one they choose. The three business inkjets in our comparison offer the lowest costs per page based on BLI’s yield testing when compared with the laser and LED models tested. Note, however, that yield testing is performed in default mode, which, with these inkjet models, provides quality that while acceptable on bond paper, is not as good as that provided by laser/LED devices. If users need better quality—for marketing materials to send to customers, for example—they will likely print in the units’ best mode, which uses more ink, thereby raising the cost per page for those documents and also lowering speed.

 
  Canon Color imageCLASS MF8080Cw Dell 1355cnw Multifunction Color LED Printer Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4540 HP LaserJet Pro 300 Color MFP M375nw HP Officejet Pro 8600 Premium e-All-in-One Lexmark OfficeEdge Pro5500 Lexmark X543dn OKI MC361 Color MFP Xerox WorkCentre 6015NI
Full-color Cost Per Page 15.775¢ 12.053¢ 6.723¢ 9.218¢ 6.008¢ 6.797¢ 11.689¢ 14.776¢ 20.000¢
 

Ultimately, the answer to whether or not inkjet makes sense for business users depends on the volume, workflow and budget of the individual user. Thankfully, many of the answers needed to make a purchase decision can be found in the data here on bliQ.