Cartridge Wars – Ink vs Toner

In a recent article here on the FMS Blog, we discussed the differences between Inkjet and Laser printers. Today we have another comparison article for you, only this time it is comparing the differences between an ink and toner cartridge.

Some people may have no idea what a certain cartridge is or what it’s commonly used for, so we have compared three crucial aspects of both – the price, the quality and the capacity.


Ink Cartridge

An ink cartridge is most commonly used in inkjet printers which are most often found in homes or very small offices. That is because it only has a certain reservoir of ink that usually only allows people to print a small number of pages. As the name also suggests, an ink cartridge actually contains ink that is directly deposited onto the paper.

Even high capacity cartridges such as the HP 301XL tri-colour cartridge has a print yield of approximately 330 pages based on 5% A4 coverage. This makes ink cartridges the ideal choice for anyone who does not print often and when rationed effectively can last for months.

The low page yield is obviously a downside, but the upside is that ink cartridges usually offer much higher quality printing than a toner cartridge. HP cartridges in particular can be full of pigment ink that will provide vibrant colour. This means that they can be the perfect accessory to print out treasured memories into photo form.

Another benefit is the price. A high quality ink cartridge can usually be bought for less than £30, making it the ideal choice for anyone who has to be conscious of their money. Ink multipacks can also reduce the cost even further, making ink cartridges that economical choice for homes, students or small offices.


Toner Cartridge

On the opposite end, toner cartridges have been designed specifically to be used in laser printers. These are usually the large printers that can be found in offices or other workplace environments and have been designed to fulfil the needs of lots of people.

As such, the main benefit is that they are manufactured specifically to produce large amounts of printing before a replacement is required. The standard capacity HP 647A Black toner cartridge has an approximately print yield of 8,500 pages based on 5% A4 coverage, making the difference between ink and toner clear.

The reason that toner cartridges are able to print so much is because the toner is actually a powder, unlike the ink which is a liquid. The toner powder is transferred onto the paper by a drum unit that is electrostatically charged, and then in turn fused onto the paper by heated rollers. As such, printing is incredibly quick and also allows for many pages to be printed.

The downside to this is quality, which anyone who has worked in an office can attest to. Unlike ink cartridges which can produce lifelike photographs, toners are only really suitable for general office requirements such as letters, invoices and so forth. While it will still produce quality prints, a toner cartridge will unfortunately never achieve the quality that ink can produce.

The biggest downside to a toner cartridge is the cost. Occasionally a toner cartridge can cost under £100, but for the most part it should be expected that they will cost much more than this. Considering that this is for each cartridge in particular, buying a full set of toners could potentially end up costing up to £1,000, realistically making them only affordable for offices.

Sarah Jubb