The Differences Between Ink Cartridge and Toner Cartridge

When purchasing a new printer for business or personal use, one of the questions that frequently arises, is what is difference between printers that uses ink cartridge? The easy answer is that ink cartridges hold liquid printer’s ink, similar to what is in an ink pen, and the content of a toner cartridge is a carbon-based powder, but there is more to the story.


Ink Cartridges

A printer that utilises an ink cartridge uses pressure to apply the ink to the paper, similar to typewriter. The reason printers that use ink cartridges remain popular is that the cost of ink cartridges is typically less expensive than toner cartridges and the quality of the print is often higher than a toner-based printer. On the down downside, if the printer is used infrequently, the ink may dry out faster than it is used up.

If space is an issue, an ink printer will likely fit into the area better than a toner printer. Ink cartridges can sit in the palm of the hand, so the printer need not be much bigger than a sheet of paper. A toner or laser cartridge is about the length of a forearm, and the printer needed to house it is much bigger.


Toner Cartridges

While ink is pressed on the page, toner is mixed with a polymer and burned onto the paper. A printer using toner has a heating element, which melts down the particles in the toner. Once the particles are melted down, they stick to the paper and create the words and images.

Not all toners contain the same formula and the size of the particles that make up the toner is largely responsible for the quality of the finished imagine. The smaller the particles, the more clearly an image the printer will produce.

Many people prefer printers that use toner because they print faster and the print is more stable, meaning it does not fade or smear as frequently as other printers. Toner cartridges are also much bigger than ink cartridges, and they will printer more pages before a replacement is needed. An ink cartridge may only print 200 sheets before a replacement is needed. A toner cartridge user may get 5,000 printed sheets. On the other hand, a buyer will shell out much less for an ink cartridge than a toner cartridge.


Whether one cartridge is better than the other is really dependent on the use. Both ink toner cartridges have their proponents. Consider the purpose of the printer and the space available. High volume users will definitely find the toner-based printer more cost and time effective, but if infrequent printing of one or two sheets is more apt to be the use, then an ink printer will likely be more cost effective.

The differences between ink and toner cartridges are as much about how the print gets on the page as it is about the contents of the cartridge. When purchasing a printer, consider the cost, space and quality before making a final decision.

Ben Greenwood is writing on behalf of Cartridge World, providers of office supplies such as refill ink cartridges and toner cartridges.