There are two main types of printers for home use, inkjet and toner (laser) printers. If you have a printer at home, it is likely that uses inkjet cartridges. Laser printers have become more popular for home use in recent years though.
The most important difference between these two main types of printers is cost, the technology and the cartridges. When toner printers were first introduced, they were big and expensive. Inkjet printers on the other hand were relatively cheap to buy and much smaller than the average laser printer. For years, the inkjet printer was by far the most popular for home use, but with advancements in laser printer technology, things have changed a bit.
Let’s have a look at the difference between printer toner and ink cartridges.
Cartridges for inkjet printers contain liquid ink. When you are printing a document with an inkjet printer, the device deposits the liquid ink on the page according to the instructions sent from your computer. An inkjet printer usually has 1 black colour cartridge, and 1 or 3 colour ones.
When the ink in a cartridge runs out, you won’t be able to print that color anymore and thus will need a replacement. Inkjet cartridges are relatively cheap (around £10 – £30), but don’t last very long at all. A typical inkjet printer can print about 200 – 250 pages per cartridge.
There are also kits available to refill your cartridges. Refilling a cartridge is much cheaper than buying a new one. The process to do this can be tricky, however, and may damage the cartridge or even your printer. It is generally also not recommended by the manufacturer and using refilled cartridges may void your warranty.
Laser printers use toner cartridges. These cartridges don’t contain liquid ink, but a very fine powder that can be magnetically charged.
When printing with a laser printer, powder particles are picked up by a magnetic drum that then rolls them onto the paper in the required pattern. A laser is then used to fuse the particles onto the page.
Toner cartridges are more expensive than inkjet ones, but they last much, much longer. A toner cartridge on average costs between £60-£120, but can print from 1,500 up to 3,500 pages. The laser printer itself is also more expensive to buy.
Toner cartridges can be refilled, but it is usually more difficult to do than with inkjet cartridges. To avoid damaging your printer, it is best to have them refilled by a professional or purchase a replacement cartridge.
Pros and Cons of Toner and Ink Cartridges
If you print a lot (say over 2,000 pages per year), a laser printer will probably provide better value than an inkjet. If you only use your printer once in a blue moon, the investment in the more expensive printer and cartridges won’t be worth it.
Inkjet printers have the advantage that they produce a higher print quality (unless you invest in a more professional and expensive laser printer). If you use your printer mainly for printing out photos, you should stick with inkjet printers.
So overall, the main differences between ink and toner printer cartridges in terms of which you should choose come down to usage volume, whether you are interested in cost saving in the short or long-term, and the type of documents that you print out.
Read advice on choosing between inkjet or laser printing on the Guardian website.