Help Center - What is the Difference between Ink and Toner Cartridges? Which is Better?

What is the Difference between Ink and Toner Cartridges? Which is Better?

Points of Difference Between Ink and Toner

  Ink Toner
Image Quality Better for photos Better for posters and brochures
Print Speed Slow Fast
Initial Costs Low High
Long-term Costs High Low
Components Liquid Powder
Printer Inkjet Printer Laser Printer

The physical characteristics of ink vs toner cartridges differ considerably, both in terms of design format and contents.

Toner and ink cartridges are both used to print documents and photos, but the methods by which inkjet and laser printers accomplish this are fundamentally different.

For one, toner is a powder, while ink is a liquid. In order to fully understand how toner cartridges and ink cartridges are so different, consumers need a basic knowledge of printer technology. A closer look at inkjet and laser printer functionality can help to illuminate the ways in which toner and ink work differently.

Image Quality

Ink has softer gradients and its ability to blend gives it a wide range of colors. This gives it better photo quality especially when paired with photo coated paper. But it is costlier than toner.

However, if you're going to print brochures or posters instead of photos, toner is more compatible with plain paper than ink or card than ink. While toner is also cheaper, it won't have the same photo finish one would achieve with ink.

Ultimately, buyers must weigh their desired quality against upfront cost, cartridge longevity, and other factors before choosing which printer is best for them.


Speed and Capacity

Another difference between ink and toner cartridges is printing speed and capacity.

Laser printers are the preferred option for people who value speed because they are much faster than most printers that use ink cartridges. The electromagnetic process that takes place inside a laser printer is highly precise and allows it to run large print jobs quickly and efficiently.

The inkjet printers are generally slower because the jets that control ink output are not as precise as laser printer technology. Inkjet printers also tend to hold fewer sheets of paper which means more breaks to refill.

While some inkjets are marketed as having laser-quality print speed, they are usually not capable of the speed provided by a high-end laser printer. This isn't to say that they are better overall, of course. Inkjet printers have their own advantages that laser printers do not.

So, when it comes to printing speed, laser printers take the lead.

Replacement Cost

If you're in the market for a new printer, cartridge replacement cost is going to be a crucial factor to consider.

Printer cartridges vary in price, but, in general, toner cartridges are more expensive.

Inkjet cartridges are less expensive but tend to need replacing more often.

In comparison of ink vs toner, toner is a better long-term choice in terms of cost-effectiveness. Mainly due to a single cartridges longevity. Ink replacements seem more affordable initially, but after considering how often you'll need to replace them, the cost adds up. While it is possible to find toner refills and ink refill kits, they can be a bit of a hassle.

Remember that cost shouldn't be the only factor when choosing a printer. While the two cartridges differ in cost, they also have different strengths. It's best to research these differences to have a full understanding of what type of printer, and therefore, what type of cartridge, will best fit your needs.

You can also consider compatible cartridges or remanufactured cartridges to lessen printer costs.

Inkjet Printers Use Ink Cartridges

As their name suggests, inkjet printers require ink cartridges. The liquid ink inside the cartridge is locked in an airtight foil compartment. The ink cartridges are loaded into the print head, which is fitted with numerous microscopic ink nozzles.

As the print head moves back and forth across the paper, the nozzles create the image with droplets of ink. The technology responsible for controlling the jets in an inkjet printer varies depending on the brand and model.

For example, thermal bubble printers use heat to control ink flow, while piezoelectric printers rely on electrically charged vibrations. In either case, information sent from the computer dictates exactly how the printer applies the ink from the cartridges.

Laser Printers Use Toner Cartridges

Laser printers use toner exclusively, so ink cartridges that an inkjet printer would use is not an acceptable substitute. The two main components of toner are iron oxide and plastic resin.

To transfer images and text to a paper, a laser draws and electrostatic template of the image onto a rotating metal drum inside the printer.

The drum, which is covered in a photosensitive material, starts with either a positive or a negative charge.

An extremely precise laser alters the electrical charge in certain spots according to data fed from the computer. The drum is then coated in magnetically-charged toner, but the fine particles only adhere to the areas where the laser previously defined the image.

Next, a sheet of paper, which has also been magnetically charged, rolls past the drum and draws the toner away. Finally, a fuser sets the image by warming and melting the plastic particles.

Comparing the Benefits of Ink Vs Toner Cartridges

The benefits of toner and ink differ depending on your needs, such as what you like to print and how often. Thoughtful buyers consider efficiency and cost-efficacy issues like machine speed, print quality, and overall price when assessing printer functionality.

Toners tend to be more expensive than ink, but are better at printing high volumes of documents than ink.

Ink is less expensive than toner and works better for photos and images.

Once you've decided which fits your needs, you'll have an easier time next time you go shopping for a new printer.