Laser printers were once seen as business printers only—the huge behemoths that occupy the corner of the room in an office building. Because these huge and expensive machines could print high quality documents quickly, they were used by companies that might print 1000 pages a day. Inkjet printers, on the other hand, were an early alternative to noisy dot matrix printers that required special paper and printed in low-quality, pixelated fonts.

Inkjet printers changed the way people printed at home, read more here. With an inkjet printer, people could create bright and colorful documents and even print color photos. As inkjet quality improved, laser printers became more affordable. People now have a choice between an inkjet printer and a laser printer for their home office or small business.

Inkjet printer technology works by spraying ink through tiny nozzles onto paper. The paper absorbs the ink and may bleed slightly, so edges of graphics and fonts might not be quite as crisp. However, using special photo-quality paper, an inkjet printer can produce stunning color photographs. Quality varies with the sticker price, but in general you can find an inkjet printer that prints the occasional photo without spending a fortune. While laser printers are coming down in price, inkjets are still the less expensive option all around. While the initial cost of an inkjet and a laser is about the same, ink cartridges are cheaper for inkjets.

Inkjets aren’t quite as efficient with their ink, however, leading to a higher cost per page than laser printers. Compared to laser printers, they’re also much slower. Not only do they print more slowly, the ink on the page needs time to dry. So if you’re printing a large document, it will take a long time and you run the risk of smudging some of the text.

Laser printers will never smudge, because they use a technology that heats powdered ink in order to fuse it to the page. You’ll never need to worry about getting ink on your hands when using a laser printer. Pages print quickly and are immediately dry.

There’s no need to use special paper for a laser printer, either. Laser printers use their toner more efficiently than inkjet printers use ink, too. So you can expect to get more pages out of a laser printer toner cartridge than an inkjet refill. But you can expect to pay up to twice as much to replace a laser printer toner cartridge. The color on laser printers isn’t as rich as an inkjet printer, either, making photo printing problematic. Finally, laser printers are much bulkier than inkjets.

Choose a printer based on what you need to print. If you’re frequently printing large documents that are primarily text, go with a laser printer. But if you are looking for a printer that can print the occasional email or webpage, but need it to also print bright color photographs, too, you’re better off with an inkjet printer.