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Toner Cartridges vs. Ink Cartridges

7th Feb 2018

Toner Cartridges vs. Ink Cartridges

It’s a battle that’s raged for centuries...toner cartridges vs. ink cartridges! Who will emerge victorious from the printer/copier wars?

Uh, well, neither really. Toner and ink are like gasoline and diesel. Both are types of fuel, but they’re used in different engines. Toner cartridges and ink cartridges are both used to print images, but they’re made for different types of machines.

The table below helps break it down:

The Difference Between Toner Cartridges and Ink Cartridges

Toner CartridgeInk Cartridge
Used in laser printers        Used in inkjet printers     
Contains fine powder        Contains liquid ink     
Higher page yield        Lower page yield     
Does not dry out or clog         Can dry out and clog     
Long/unlimited shelf life        Short/limited shelf life     
Low cost per page        Higher cost per page     
Higher initial cost      Lower initial cost     


Toner vs. Ink

Without getting too complicated, laser printers use a different printing process than inkjet printers. Inkjet printers, as the name implies, squirt droplets of liquid ink onto paper to form an image. Laser printers etch an image onto a rotating drum which attracts charged particles of dry toner. The rolling drum transfers the image to the paper and the toner is fused to the paper with heat and pressure rollers. That’s why prints that come out of laser printers are warm.

Let’s break it down this way:

  • Laser printers use toner cartridges
  • Inkjet printers use ink cartridges
  • Toner cartridges contain dry powder
  • Ink cartridges contain liquid ink
  • Toner cartridges are bigger than ink cartridges
  • Toner cartridges typically have page yields ranging from 2,000- 20,000 pages
  • Ink cartridges typically have page yields of about 500 pages
  • Toner cartridges don’t expire
  • Ink cartridges expire
  • Toner doesn’t dry out due to infrequent use
  • Ink can dry out and clog due to infrequent use

ink cartridges and a toner cartridge

A trio of tiny inkjet cartridges alongside a much larger toner cartridge.

Toner vs. Ink: Which Is Better?

Now that’s a good question! Not “Who will win in a battle between toner vs. ink?” That’s a stupid question!

We believe toner longevity and lower overall print costs make laser printers the way to go. Ink cartridges carry the risk of malfunctioning if the heads dry out or become clogged. This risk increases the longer that inkjet printers are not used so it is important to use inkjet printers weekly.

Toner cartridges have a higher initial cost than ink cartridges. Toner cartridges are physically bigger, meaning they hold more supplies and print more pages. If you do a lot of printing, toner cartridges are more cost-effective. However, if you don’t print too often, you may find low-output, low-cost ink cartridges more cost-effective.

Toner vs. Ink: Which Is Better For You?

High-end commercial inkjet printers are used for product packaging, posters, marketing materials, advertisements and more. Laser printers and color copiers used to be too big and expensive for home and small business use, but that’s all changed due to compact printer designs and cheaper laser technology. Now laser printers and inkjet printers are priced nearly the same. It will cost more for new toner cartridges than for new ink cartridges, but, by comparison, you’ll get a much higher page count.