Toner vs Ink Cartridge – Learn the Differences

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Updated November 22, 2022

Inkjet and laser printers are two of the most commonly found impressive printers in home offices, professional settings, and dorm rooms. What sets these printers apart? It all comes down to ink cartridges and toner cartridges.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Inkjet printers use ink cartridges, while laser printers use toner cartridges.
  • Ink cartridges are filled with ink, while toner cartridges are filled with toner dust.
  • Toner cartridges tend to last much longer than inkjet cartridges, while inkjet cartridges excel at making color reproductions.

Toner Cartridges and Ink Cartridges

Inkjet printers use ink cartridges as their method for printing. These printers spray small droplets of ink on the paper to create a reproduction. Read our guide to what is an ink cartridge to learn more.

Laser printers, on the other hand, use toner cartridges as their method for printing. Toner cartridges contain toner dust which is melted by the printer’s laser to create high-quality and accurate prints. These two cartridges can use regular printing paper sizes categorized as either North American or International Standard.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Ink Cartridges

There are some unique advantages and disadvantages to using an inkjet printer that has been equipped with one or several ink cartridges. One of the advantages is being able to refill printer cartridges. So, it makes sense to use ink cartridges, especially if you’re not sure what to do with your old printer that doesn’t use ink cartridges.

Color Printing

Ink is one of the most commonly used substances in the world and particularly excels at reproducing vivid colors. Many color inkjet printers are equipped with different-colored ink cartridges, which can be mixed to create any color on the color wheel. Generally speaking, toner cartridges do not do so well with color, so you should choose an inkjet printer if making color photo reproductions will be a primary use case for your printer. Each cartridge prints how a printer’s speed is measured by images per minute or pages per minute.

Insider Tip

Many color inkjet printers are equipped with different-colored ink cartridges, which can be mixed to create any color on the color wheel.

Shortened Lifespan of Ink Cartridges

A key disadvantage of using an inkjet printer is that ink cartridges must often be replaced. Ink cartridges could begin to run out of ink after just 100 or 200 prints, which means it could not be cost-effective to use an inkjet printer in a highly trafficked office environment. In other words, the cost of these ink cartridges will add up over time. It must be noted, however, inkjet printers tend to boast a lower initial buy-in cost than laser printers. While this is true, you can generally squeeze more ink out of an inkjet printer. For a great recommendation, read our Canon SELPHY CP1300 review.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Toner Cartridges

Toner cartridges also feature a number of distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Insider Tip

It must be noted, however, inkjet printers tend to boast a lower initial buy-in cost than laser printers.

Increased Longevity

You may be asking yourself, how long does laser printer tone last? Well, toner cartridges can last a long time. You may not need to replace a toner cartridge until it has been used to make 1,000 or 2,000 prints. Some cartridges can even last for up to 5,000 prints. In the long term, using toner cartridges should save you some money.

Decreased Color Efficiency

Toner cartridges are not known for being able to pull off high-grade color reproductions. Laser printers should typically be used for monochrome prints, with inkjet printers being used for color prints. With that said, get started looking at laser printers by reading our Brother HL-5100DN review.

Warning

Ink cartridges could begin to run out of ink after just 100 or 200 prints, which means it could not be cost-effective to use an inkjet printer in a highly trafficked office environment.

F.A.Q.

Can toner cartridges used in laser printers be compatible with each other?

Sometimes. There are a lot of different toner cartridges available, however, so we would recommend reading the printer’s instructions thoroughly before trying to squeeze in a foreign toner cartridge.


How much will it take inkjet cartridges to dry out?

Inkjet cartridges will dry out if removed from the packaging and left to sit for around a month. We recommend attaching an ink cartridge to the printer as soon as it has been removed from the packaging.


Will toner cartridges dry up if the printer sits idle for too long?

No. Toner cartridges contain no liquid, so they are already “dried up.” Toner cartridges contain toner dust.



STAT: In general, if you print normal density pages with a laser printer (4.5–5% coverage on the page), you will get the rated pages from the cartridge or a little more. (source)

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