Until a few years ago, color laser printers were found almost exclusively in the business area. The investments just seemed too high for private individuals. But the situation has changed and color laser printers have also become a serious alternative to inkjet printers in the private sector. Higher acquisition costs still have to be accepted. But users of the laser printer also expect many advantages.

What is a color laser printer?

Colour laser printers allow prints on film and paper. This is done by an electrophotographic principle. A laser printer belongs to the category of page printers because the entire page is exposed and printed in one pass.

In contrast to an inkjet printer, dried ink cartridges are a thing of the past with a colour laser printer. A high printing speed and best printing results at comparatively low printing costs are only some of the advantages of these devices.

How does a colour laser printer work?

When the print command is given, the pages to be printed first build up. This happens depending on the printer in the printer memory or in the computer. The printer contains a light-sensitive image drum. This component is exposed by a laser beam.

The exposed areas are covered with toner and the colour is transferred to the paper. Heat and pressure fix the toner on the paper. In a color laser printer, this process happens four times in a row, because the laser printer has four different toner cartridges.

The following colours are operated individually:

  • Black
  • Magenta
  • Yellow
  • Cyan

The toner reaches the paper by two different methods

Single-pass printer with four image drums

These units are equipped with four exposure units. The mode of operation is similar to large, professional printing machines. The image drums can be arranged one above the other or one behind the other. The printing inks are transferred from the image drums one after the other and finally fixed.

Printer with one image drum

With inexpensive laser printers, it will usually only be possible to find an image drum in the housing. The individual printing inks must be transferred to the image drum one after the other. Only when all the colours involved adhere to the transfer belt are they transferred to the paper.

For which applications is a color laser printer recommended?

Those who only occasionally print out a few pages of text, a graphic or a photo will probably be able to have these tasks done to their satisfaction by an inexpensive inkjet printer. If, on the other hand, you print frequently and in large quantities, cheap printers will soon reach their limits.

In the following situations, a colour laser printer is worthwhile:

You would like to print 100 invitation cards or send your friends and acquaintances photos of the birthday of the new generation? Colour laser printers are also convincing when it comes to preparing brochures and presentations for the job. The printing costs, extrapolated to the inkjet printer, are then even cheaper and after only 2,000 prints, the purchase of a colour laser printer has already paid for itself.

The colour laser printer not only pays for itself when large quantities are printed. If excerpts are only rarely needed, an inkjet printer would theoretically be sufficient. However, users often find that after just a few weeks of downtime, a reasonable printout is no longer possible because the print head nozzles have become clogged and the cartridges have dried up. If a test is printed, streaks and streaks appear on the paper.

Therefore, color laser printers are an option even for people who print very little. The print quality does not suffer from the standstill. The ink cannot dry up due to the special printing technique.

The advantages and disadvantages of colour laser printers


  • very good print quality
  • low printing costs
  • brilliant color prints
  • no special paper necessary
  • high printing speed
  • reliable even during longer standstill periods
  • long durability of the printouts


  • expensive to buy
  • Loss of quality in photo printing
  • high noise level
  • high energy consumption

Colour prints are comparatively cheap with a laser printer. Five pages can be printed for less than one euro. Those who own an inkjet printer will have to buy expensive special paper to be satisfied with the print results.

For a printout, the colour laser printer needs about a quarter of the time estimated for an inkjet printer. Those who print frequently will gain a clear advantage.

The printouts of an inkjet printer fade after a short time. The print results of the laser printer resist light and moisture and therefore last much longer. With photo printing it is clear that only four colours are used. Inkjet printers are available with up to six colours.
By rasterizing the print image, a color dot is composed of various small dots. This does not go unnoticed by the observer, and reductions in contrast and detail must be accepted.

What should be considered when buying a color laser printer?

Before making the purchase decision, a few important factors should be considered. This makes it easier to evaluate and compare the individual models and ultimately select a suitable device.

These factors come into consideration:

  • Print resolution
  • Power consumption
  • Print formats
  • Volume
  • Additional functions

Print resolution

The item descriptions often contain information about the print resolution. The resolution refers to the fineness of the print result. Usually a print resolution of 600 x 600 pixels per inch, or dpi for short, is sufficient for a high-quality printout.

Modern devices of the companies Canon, Brother or Kyocera work with a resolution of 1.200 x 1.200 dpi. With this, even detailed graphics can be printed out in very good quality.

Power consumption

If the printer is used frequently, the energy consumption is not the least important factor. The described mode of operation is classified as energy-intensive. This begins with the commissioning of the device. Values of up to 1,000 watts are not uncommon when the printer is switched on. The electrostatic drum charging and the subsequent fixing of the toner are energy-intensive processes.

The power consumption can be considered from different points of view:

  • Power consumption in sleep mode: If the machine is running in energy-saving mode, the least amount of energy is consumed. The machine is ready for operation, but cools down completely. If a new print command is received via WLAN, the laser printer is brought back to temperature and starts the described functional sequences.
  • Consumption in standby mode: Standby mode indicates that the printer is ready. A new print job can be started without significant delay. This assumes that the laser printer remains at operating temperature. This means that power is still consumed, but much less than in print mode.
  • Consumption in print mode: During printing, the maximum energy consumption of the device is reached. After the printout is produced, the colour laser printer goes into standby mode.

The values for the individual modes vary between the different models. While the figures in print mode vary between 300 and 500 watts, the range in standby mode is significantly different between two and 70 watts. The least power is consumed in energy-saving mode with an average of one to ten watts.

Print formats

In most cases, colour laser printers are designed to produce printouts in DIN A4 format. With some devices, DIN-A3 prints can also be made. If you want to label envelopes or invitation cards, special devices can be attached to the printer for this purpose.

Most colour laser printers have a paper cassette, which is also common for other types of printer. There the required paper is inserted as a stack. This allows the printer to be operated for a longer period of time without having to constantly refill paper. Professional business printers go one step further and have several cassettes that can be operated separately.

Some smaller printers have an open feeder at the back. There a rather small sheet supply is available. Some models that have a paper cassette use a multifunction feeder. This allows the use of different paper sizes.


A color laser printer is not to be overheard. This can be unpleasant if the printer is placed near the desk and is used frequently. You will not find models without operating noise. The noise level can be significantly reduced if the printer manages to switch from print mode to sleep mode in the shortest possible time.

Canon colour laser printers are convincing in tests and switch to the almost silent sleep mode within a short time after the printer is finished. Printers that integrate an extra button for switching between print modes are an advantage.

Additional functions

Some color laser printers are equipped with useful features that can increase the ease of use and expand the range of applications of the device.

  • Multifunction devices: Multifunction devices are not limited to the printing process alone, but also have a scanner. The scanner in turn can also be used as a fax or copier. This saves the purchase of several devices. The scanner can be used to digitize documents and photos. The handling is very easy. You place the document on the flatbed scanner. For the processing of the scans an appropriate software is necessary.
  • Single sheet feeder: A single sheet feeder sounds like a common and widespread principle. However, not all color laser printers are equipped with it. The paper is not put into the cassette, but individually operated by a separate feeder. This allows you to print even pages of different sizes and structures in real time.
  • Duplex printing: Often printouts are to be made on both sides. This is cumbersome and time-consuming if each ejected sheet has to be turned and inserted again. With duplex printing, the printout is automatically fed in and also printed on its reverse side.

What do colour laser printers cost?

Laser printers are usually more expensive than inkjet printers. Customers also have to dig deeper into their pockets for toner than for simple ink cartridges. However, since considerably more pages can be printed with one toner cartridge, the operation of color laser printers is quite economical. Anyone who prints frequently and in large quantities will be well advised to use a colour laser printer.
Prices vary between manufacturers and models. First of all, it is important to distinguish between cheaper and more expensive devices.

Inexpensive colour laser printers

The low cost models are equipped with a host-based printing system. These so-called GDI printers have neither their own processor nor an internal memory. The electronics of these devices are handled by the computer. For occasional print jobs, even inexpensive colour laser printers can be completely sufficient and convince in price and performance.

Price: 80 to 200 Euro

Cost-intensive color laser printers

Price-intensive devices work faster and smarter. The function is not limited to the printing process itself. The printer prepares the pages using modern technology and various programming languages. These include Postscript from Adobe or the Printer Command Language, or PCL for short, used by Hewlett-Packard.

Price: 300 to 2,000 Euro

Which cartridges and toners are available for colour laser printers?

After some time it becomes necessary to replace some wear parts on the color laser printer.

These include:

  • Toner
  • Image drum
  • Transfer and fixing unit

Toners for color laser printers are not cheap. The manufacturers' revenues are usually not generated by the actual devices, but by the various consumables.

With cheap printers, it is quite possible that the parts you have to buy later may exceed the purchase price of the actual device. In this case you should think about buying a new, more economical printer instead of buying an image drum or fuser unit. Of course, this always depends on how often you need the colour laser printer and whether it is for domestic or professional use in the company.

The purchase of toner can be made more attractive in terms of price if you choose a compatible product from a third-party manufacturer. Original toners can cost up to 70 percent more. This is not possible with the other wearing parts. These are only offered in the original.

Does the colour laser printer have to use special paper?

Special paper is not necessary for the operation of colour laser printers. However, it is important to use only a product that is suitable for the operation of laser printers. If this is not observed, the printout would be unusable, because the toner powder burnt on at temperatures of up to 200 degrees Celsius attacks the surface of the paper. The printer could also be damaged if unsuitable paper is inserted.

What are the printing costs?

If the profitability of a printer is to be determined, various aspects must be considered:

Acquisition costs + purchase price + follow-up costs = printing costs

Whether a color laser printer is really economical is determined not least by its use and capacity utilization. For these printers to be profitable, a minimum of 1,500 pages should be printed.

The printing costs per page are surprisingly low. One page in black and white costs about three cents. For a colour page, an average of twelve cents is taken as a basis. For colour laser printers, a maximum of 20 cents per printout is estimated. Since special paper is required for inkjet printers, a printout on these models costs 60 cents or more.

How is a colour laser printer installed?

Thanks to modern technology, installing the equipment is actually child's play and should not take more than 20 minutes. The prerequisite for this is that all the necessary cables, drivers and auxiliary equipment are available.

First all cables are connected. Then the printer and PC are connected. The compatibility between the two devices is established by a program, which the suppliers usually supply. If this is not the case, you can also download appropriate tools from the Internet.

Once the color laser printer is connected to the computer, it usually starts to search for a suitable driver on its own and uses it for the installation. Once the printer is installed, you can make the desired fine adjustments. These can be set via the printer software. These include the desired paper size or parameters regarding color and print quality.

What makes a good colour laser printer?

  • clean and sharp printout
  • very good image quality
  • low toner costs
  • low printing costs
  • comprehensive functions
  • sufficient connectivity
  • simple service
  • compact size