As a general rule, when a printer runs out of ink or toner, it stops printing legibly. Depending on the printer model, the unit may look to replace one colour with another. For example, if you run out of black ink, your printer could replace it with blue, in order to still print the document you need.
Some printers will display the ink or toner levels each time you’re looking to print something, so you’ll always know how much “fuel” you have left and act accordingly. When ink or toner reaches super-low levels, some printers may stop printing altogether, to avoid any malfunctions of the device.
But what is the difference between ink and toner? Most people think these are synonyms and, while both of them are indispensable for printing, each of them is a completely different thing. Inkjet printers need ink to function, while toner is the fuel of laser printers. The latter is a fine powder while the former is a liquid that contains dyes or pigments. Basically, an inkjet printer will spray tiny dots of ink onto the pages, while a laser printer uses heat to release its electrically charged powder onto the paper.
As usual, there are advantages and disadvantages to both these types of printers. If you purchase an inkjet printer, you will pay less money for the unit itself, but the cartridges will require frequent change, which means you spend more money on consumables. Laser printers, on the other hand, are more expensive and require a larger investment upfront. However, in the long run, you will save more money with consumables, as toner cartridges can print a higher number of pages and won’t empty as fast.
Let’s take the Canon PIXMA MX492 All-In-One Color printer, for instance. Since this is an inkjet printer, it requires an ink cartridge to function. It has separate cartridges for black and white printing (compatible with Canon PG 245 or High Yield Version Canon PG-245 XL Ink) and for colour printing (compatible with Canon CL 246 or High Yield Version Canon CL-246 XL Ink). It also has some pretty awesome features, like the possibility to control your printer via a wireless connection, the option to print and scan files using your mobile phone and also to scan your documents to the cloud, allowing for very easy file sharing. Thanks to its wireless connectivity, it’s super easy to use this printer from multiple computers, without having to connect the cable each time to every single laptop.
On the side of the table lies the Brother MFC-9130CW. We’ve chosen this laser printer to compare it to the Canon PIXMA MX492 in terms of features, but as you can tell right from the start, the laser printer is way more expensive compared to its inkjet counterpart. Compared to the Canon, which can print up to 9 black and white images per minute, the Brother MFC-9130CW can deliver 19 pages each minute, thus proving its power right from the get-go. You get all the features from the Canon, like wireless printing via your mobile phone, the possibility to scan files, print and copy them, but it also features a 3.6-inch coloured display that provides the information you need when using the printer.
Long story short: if you’re an average printer user, the Canon (or any inkjet printer) is a great deal for printing the documents you need every once in a while. However, for a larger office, digital printing center and people who need to print documents on a daily basis, the Brother MFC-9130CW (or any laser printer for that matter) is a better investment on the long run.