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Impact Printers vs. Non-Impact Printers: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on February 10, 2024
Impact printers physically strike paper to print, while non-impact printers use other methods like inkjet or laser.

Key Differences

Impact printers operate by directly making contact with the paper. They usually use a ribbon and print head that physically strikes the paper to produce characters or images. Examples include dot matrix and daisy-wheel printers. In contrast, non-impact printers do not make physical contact with the paper. These printers, like inkjet or laser printers, use nozzles, lasers, or LEDs to transfer ink or toner onto the paper in a non-contact manner.
Impact printers work by physically impacting the paper through a print head, making them more suitable for carbon copy printing. Non-impact printers, on the other hand, employ various technologies like thermal, inkjet, or laser to deposit ink or toner onto the paper without physical contact.
Impact printers are generally noisier due to their mechanical striking action. They are also typically slower compared to their non-impact counterparts. Non-impact printers, especially laser printers, are faster and quieter, making them ideal for office environments.
The print quality of impact printers is usually lower than that of non-impact printers. Non-impact printers provide higher resolution prints, suitable for professional documents and high-quality images. Impact printers are often used in environments where carbon copy printing is required, such as in point-of-sale systems.
Impact printers have higher maintenance needs due to their mechanical components. They are, however, generally cheaper to operate in the long term. Non-impact printers have lower maintenance requirements but can have higher operational costs, especially in terms of ink or toner replacements.

Comparison Chart

Printing Mechanism

Physical contact with paper
No physical contact with paper

Noise Level

Noisier due to mechanical impact
Quieter as there is no striking action

Print Speed

Generally slower
Faster, particularly in laser printers

Print Quality

Lower resolution
Higher resolution and quality


Higher due to mechanical parts
Lower, but ink/toner costs can be higher

Impact Printers and Non-Impact Printers Definitions

Impact Printers

These printers are suitable for carbon copy printing as they can press through multiple sheets.
Printing receipts in a retail environment often utilizes impact printers.

Non-Impact Printers

These printers do not require physical contact with the paper to produce an image.
The graphic designer preferred a non-impact printer for high-resolution color prints.

Impact Printers

Impact printers are characterized by their noise due to the striking mechanism.
The clattering sound in the back office was from an old impact printer printing invoices.

Non-Impact Printers

They are generally quieter and more versatile than impact printers.
The library chose a non-impact printer to avoid disturbing readers.

Impact Printers

An impact printer uses a print head to strike an inked ribbon against paper.
The dot matrix printer, an impact printer, is commonly used for printing multipart forms.

Non-Impact Printers

This category includes inkjet, laser, and thermal printers.
For her photography business, she invested in an advanced non-impact printer for vibrant photo prints.

Impact Printers

They use a mechanically driven print head that moves back and forth, or up and down, on the page.
The service center used an impact printer for printing detailed service reports.

Non-Impact Printers

Non-impact printers use methods like inkjet or laser technology to transfer ink to paper.
Most home offices use non-impact printers for their quiet operation and high-quality print.

Impact Printers

Impact printers create images through direct physical contact between the ink ribbon and paper.
Impact printers are often found in industrial settings due to their durability.

Non-Impact Printers

Non-impact printers are known for their higher print quality and faster printing speed.
Our office upgraded to a non-impact printer to improve document production efficiency.


How do impact printers work?

They work by physically striking an inked ribbon onto the paper to form images or text.

Are impact printers noisy?

Yes, they are generally noisier due to the mechanical impact during printing.

Are non-impact printers suitable for office use?

Yes, they are ideal for offices due to their quieter operation and faster printing speeds.

What are examples of non-impact printers?

Examples include inkjet, laser, and thermal printers.

What are common types of impact printers?

Common types include dot matrix and daisy-wheel printers.

What is a non-impact printer?

A non-impact printer is a printer that prints without striking the paper, using technologies like inkjet or laser.

Can impact printers print color?

Yes, but their color printing capabilities are generally more limited than non-impact printers.

What is the speed comparison between the two?

Non-impact printers are usually faster compared to impact printers.

What is an impact printer?

An impact printer is a type of printer that uses mechanical parts to strike an ink ribbon against paper.

Do non-impact printers have lower maintenance?

Yes, they typically have lower maintenance needs but may have higher ink or toner costs.

Are impact printers more durable?

Yes, they are often more durable and suitable for harsh environments.

Is the print quality of non-impact printers suitable for professional documents?

Yes, they are highly suitable for professional and high-quality document printing.

Do non-impact printers offer wireless printing?

Many modern non-impact printers offer wireless and network printing capabilities.

How do non-impact printers differ in printing quality?

Non-impact printers usually offer higher resolution and better print quality.

Do impact printers require special paper?

They often use continuous feed paper, especially for multipart forms.

Can non-impact printers print on various media types?

Yes, they can print on a variety of media, including glossy paper and labels.

Which is better for home use?

Non-impact printers are generally better for home use due to their versatility and quality.

Are impact printers more economical in the long run?

They can be more economical due to lower ink costs and durability.

Can non-impact printers handle large volumes?

Yes, especially laser printers, which are designed for high-volume printing.

Are impact printers good for carbon copy printing?

Yes, they are ideal for creating carbon copies.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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