This is a common question: which is best, engineered or laminate flooring. The immediate answer to the question is that both of them are equally perfect in their own way and for their own use depending on the user's needs:
Both are alternates for Solid wood floors, both move (expand and contract) less than solid wood and both look nice! However, like everything, they too have their pros and cons.
What laminate flooring is:
Laminate flooring is basically a photograph of a hardwood plank, laminated and stuck onto a composite wood material like HDF (High-density fiber board).
The benefits of laminate flooring are:
The Price: Definitely cheaper than Engineered
The Durability: whilst an engineered wood floor is vulnerable (some real woods being comparatively softer) to damage from things like high heels etc, laminated flooring has a much harder surface, and scratches do not ruin the effect either – within reason.
The Range: laminate flooring can be a picture of anything. This means that you can have a marble-like palatial floor, on the budget of a palatial servant.
The downsides of laminate flooring are:
It is not real wood. A faux wood floor, even if it replicates a gorgeous Rs 600/- square foot oak wood floor.
Non-Repairable: Laminate flooring cannot be sanded down and refinished. Thus, laminate flooring is unlikely to be a floor for life.
What engineered flooring is:
Engineered flooring is a thick hardwood plank veneer, laid on top of other, generally softer & cheaper, woods.
The benefits of engineered flooring are:
The Durability: Engineered flooring is practically a hardwood floor. It can be resanded and refinished a varying number of times (depends on the thickness of) to prolong the life. It can also be oiled or lacquered to finish & protect it from damage, which also prolongs the life. The advanced coatings on the engineered floors of today provide a fantastic level of protection and ease of maintenance for the end user. The life can further be prolonged by caring properly for the floor, which is the same way as one would need to care for a laminate or a solid hardwood floor (the procedures may differ).
In engineered flooring is even more suitable than a solid wood floor in a certain set of circumstances: in areas of high humidity (basements etc). Engineered flooring is much more pliable, so it can expand and contract with changes in the air, without much trouble.
It is the Real Thing: As you have probably gathered by now, engineered flooring is about as close as you can get solid wood flooring. In fact, to the untrained eye, it is practically impossible to tell that it is not a solid wood floor. It is not solid only to the extent it has been engineered for performance (cross layered structure) otherwise it is a 100% real wood surface!
From the con side:
Price: Definitely higher than a laminate floor. But you are talking about real wood here!
So, who wins the Laminate Flooring Vs Engineered flooring battle?
As I said at the beginning, both are perfect in their own ways for people with different circumstances:
For people who are on a budget and/or do not own the house/plan to change the floor for some reason in 5-10 yrs, then laminate is going to be their best option (it is not that a good laminate floor will not last longer or does not look good. Of course it is not real but it is a question of budget & practicality). For couples with very young kids, this might be a better option as well. In fact, the top of line laminate floors such today that it becomes really difficult to tell them apart from an engineered or solid wood floor. Most people can't.
Meanwhile for someone who has his heart set on the authenticity & brilliance of real wood, then engineered wood flooring is the perfect package for you. There is nothing to match the warmth and aesthetic. Just go for it!