What is the difference between inkjet and toner cartridges?


As a buyer and user of printers, either in your office or in your home, understanding the differences in the printing technology available arms you with the information required to make choices on what type of printer to purchase and what type of consumables (and their associated cost) will be needed to keep the printer running.

The key consumable for a printer other than the printing paper is the replacement ink cartridges or toner cartridges that supply the “ink” required for the printouts.  Both the aforementioned cartridges do the same thing but do it differently with different classes of printers.

The inkjet cartridge works with an inkjet printer to print out jobs.  As its name implies, a jet of liquid ink is squirted from the ink cartridge through print heads within the printer onto the paper sheet forming images and texts.  Software within the printer precisely controls the movement of the inkjet while the paper sheet is fed through the printer.

While the toner cartridge contains a fine polyester powder which is capable of being electrically charged and attracted to an opposite charge.  The required opposite charge is created on a photosensitive electric drum (also known as printer drum) by a laser. Then the toner cartridge deposits polyester powder on the outline formed on the charged printer drum. The printing paper is then charged as it passes through the printer, and with the aid of a hot fuser, attracts and appends the polyester particles from the printer drum to itself forming smudge-free prints.

Apart from the different technologies behind the ink cartridges and the toner cartridges, one other key difference is you cannot use an ink cartridge in a laser printer nor can you use a toner cartridge in an inkjet printer.

Ink cartridges typically have a lower upfront cost but their page yield is typically lower leading to a higher print cost per page. While toner cartridges typically have a higher upfront cost with relatively high page yield leading to a lower print cost per page.  If you envision that you will need to print only hundreds of pages in a year, then an inkjet printer might be the better option.  But if your print needs are in thousands per year a laser printer with toner cartridges will serve you better.

Laser printers using toner cartridges on average have a faster print speed than inkjet printers using ink cartridges.  While both of them give quality prints, laser printers are better suited to printing text, and inkjet printers are more suited for images.

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