The Difference Between Ink And Toner Cartridges

Knowing what cartridges work in your printer is incredibly important. Order the wrong product and you might end up costing your company hundreds of dollars or at least an inconvenient return shipment if the error is caught in time. Ink and toner are two completely different kinds of printer cartridges, each with their own distinct advantages and disadvantages.

What's the difference?

In a nutshell, ink cartridges contain liquid and are used by inkjet printers and toner cartridges contain powder and are used by laser printers.

The ink inside an ink cartridge can be either dye-based or pigment-based, depending on which cartridge you have. Most inkjet printers on the market traditionally include dye-based inks. They are more economical than pigment based ink cartridges and are appreciated for their ability to produce vibrant, true to life color prints and photos. Dye-based inks are not waterproof and can be susceptible to smudging, with many prints tending to fade after 25 years. Pigmented-based ink offers a crisper finish and a quicker dry-time than dye-based ink. It is valued by professional photographers and graphic designers for its ability to print archival quality images and text. Pigment ink also tends to resist water and UV light better than dye-based ink, and is able to resist fading for up to 200 years.

Toner is a dry powdery substance that won't stain like an ink cartridges, but it can get messy if handled improperly. Monochrome laser printers print with just a black toner cartridge. Color laser printers use four separate black, cyan, magenta and yellow toner cartridges to produce a print. The drum unit is another very important term you should also be familiar with, because without it, you won't be able to print! The drum works with the toner cartridge to fuse the toner powder to paper. A drum unit can be built into the toner cartridge or sold separately as a single unit, depending on the consumable requirements of your printer. Toner cartridges with a built-in drum unit are generally more expensive than a single toner cartridge but most consumers find them more convenient because you never have to worry about replacing the drum. Every time you buy a new toner, you are essentially replacing the drum. Separate drum units can typically be replaced after the use of 3-4 toners.

Who should use it?

Now the big question, which printer is right for you? It all boils down to your printing needs!

Inkjet printer advantages and disadvantages.

Many families, photographers and small home offices prefer inkjet printers. Every inkjet machine prints text, color images and photos. All-in-one inkjets include some combination of fax, scan and copy functionality too. If you plan to print at a small volume on a regular basis or are in need of quality photos, they are a solid choice. However if you are not careful, cartridge replacement may get pricey (more on that later). There are two common ink cartridge combinations. Some printers require just two ink cartridges, a black and tri-color. The tri-color handles handles your color prints, but the downside is you'll need to replace the entire cartridge if one color is running low. Other printers use individual ink cartridges. You'll find most printers require a black, cyan, magenta and yellow cartridge but some photo printers may require additional cartridges like a light cyan or light magenta.

Laser printer advantages and disadvantages.

Consumers with high volume printing needs will likely want to go with a laser printer. These machines are best suited for small-medium businesses and schools that print a lot of text heavy documents and color prints. Although the technology seems to be improving every year, photo printing is not recommended on a laser printer. Due to the powdery nature of the toner cartridge, photos can't reproduce the same tonal distinctions as an inkjet printer and photos tend to end up looking dull. We aren't saying photos can't be printed with a laser, but if you are photographer, you'll likely be dissatisfied with the results. We recommend buying a monochrome laser printer if you just need to print in black. Color laser printers are available for those needing to add a a bit of color to everyday documents. Similar to the all-in-ones mentioned previously, multifunction laser printers provide print, scan, copy and fax capabilities. Practically every printer these days is Wi-Fi ready as well, meaning you can print wirelessly from your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Which printer cartridge is right for me?

Deciding what features and print options you are looking for in a printer is just part of the story. The cost of printer cartridges is an equally important factor to consider and often overlooked by first-time printer buyers. It is no secret that cartridges can be expensive. Cartridge price, cartridge size and the number of pages you get from a cartridge varies wildly across printer models and what printer you choose can ultimately make or break a printing budget, depending on the cost efficiency of its cartridges. First time buyers are often swayed by a big box store's weekly printer sale, only to later find out that cartridge replacements cost twice as much as the printer. Please don't get stuck in that trap. Before you buy, map out operating costs for the life of the printer and make sure those costs line up with your printing needs and budget. We will show you what to look out for here: