Ink or Toner? Which one is Better and More Economical?

Ink or Toner? Which one is Better and More Economical?

If you do a lot of printing in your organization, it's important to know which type of printer is the most cost-effective. Is it an inkjet or laser printer? Inkjet printers use ink cartridges while laser printers use toner cartridges. Each type of cartridge is unique, with advantages and drawbacks. We explore the efficiencies of both ink and toner and let you decide which one best suits your company or business needs.

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Ink Vs. Toner. What's the difference? Ink

Ink is a liquid that is used in inkjet printers. It is sprayed directly onto a page by an inkjet printer. The printer squeezes small amounts of ink via tiny nozzles onto the paper as it slowly rolls out of the printer. Most inkjet printers use dye-based ink. While they are more economical than pigment-based inks and have higher capacity when it comes to producing true-to-life colors in photos, they are not waterproof and are prone to smudging. Graphic designers and professional photographers prefer pigment-based ink for several reasons. One, it dries faster and has a much crisper finish. It's also resistant to water and UV rays, meaning it can last much longer.


Toner, on the other hand, is a powder used in laser printers. As the name suggests, the printer has a laser that creates an electrostatic template of a given printout on a metal drum inside the printer. The printer releases the toner, which sticks to the areas on the drum that have been electrostatically charged, fusing the toner onto the page. As the paper passes over the drum, the image imposes itself onto the paper’s surface. There are monochrome laser printers that can only use black toner and can only be loaded with black toner cartridges. And then there are color laser printers, which use four colors of toner to print. These are yellow, cyan, magenta, and black. The colors are mixed together in different proportions to produce the colors required in printing. The drum in laser printers is responsible for fusing the toner powder from the toner cartridge onto the paper during printing. Without the drum, you won't be able to print anything on your laser printer. Some drums come built into the printer, making the printer more expensive, while less expensive ones are built without, and you can buy the drums separately. Printers with built-in drums are more convenient and cheaper to use in the long run since you don’t have to replace the drum unit in your printer. A printer without a built-in drum will force you to buy one separately, and you’ll have to deal with replacements between three or four replacements of the toner cartridge.

Initial Cost

Some years back, inkjet printers were cheaper to buy and expensive to run while laser printers were the opposite. But how times have changed! You need to consider other office demands before making your decision. The cheap initial cost of an inkjet printer will be offset by the high frequency of ink cartridge replacements. Conversely, laser printers have a high initial investment but the yields are high and cartridges have longer lives.

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Ink Vs. Toner: Which Is Better? Printer Ink Advantages

  • Affordability. Inkjet printers are more affordable compared to laser printers. Printer ink also costs way less than toner. However, keep in mind that the initial low cost will be offset by the frequency with which you replace the ink cartridges.
  • Less messy than a toner. Toners can be messy to handle. Toners use powders that are prone to smudging. While they both give good results if you give them enough time to dry, ink prints are more resilient.
  • Ink cartridges are easy to replace. Apart from being cheaper, ink cartridges are usually smaller than toner cartridges. This makes them easier to replace.

Printer Ink Disadvantages

  • Lower print yield. Well, an inkjet printer will save you lots of money upfront due to the low cost of both the printer and ink cartridges. However, the inkjet printer produces fewer prints overall than a laser printer. This type of printer is ideal for home use or if you don’t print too much.
  • Maintenance. Inkjet printers clog too easily, especially if the ink remains unused for a long time. The ink might dry, clogging the print head. For that case, consider buying an inkjet printer with a print head cleaner built into the system.
  • Replacing ink cartridges. Inkjet printers use two common ink cartridge combinations. Some printers use a black and tri-color cartridge to handle black and color prints. The problem is that if one color is running low, you’ll need to replace the entire cartridge.

Toner Advantages

  • Longevity. Laser printers are capable of printing large volumes in the long run than inkjet printers. These types of printers also can siphon away unused toner for reuse. With an inkjet printer, wasted ink is wasted ink. That’s why they are best suited for small-medium businesses and schools that print a lot of heavy and colored prints.
  • Faster printing. The laser in laser printers allows precision printing and functions faster than an inkjet printer.
  • The picture quality is way better. Due to the precision of the laser beam, the images appear sharper and a lot clearer than when you’d use an inkjet printer. This is not to say inkjet printers don’t produce good quality photos. But, professional photographers may prefer the picture quality from a laser printer to that of an inkjet printer.

Toner Disadvantages

  • Toner cartridges are far more expensive to replace. If you do heavy printing most of the time, it becomes expensive to refill toner cartridges than ink cartridges.
  • The initial cost is high. The cost of purchasing a laser printer is far too high compared to that of an inkjet printer. The high cost is attributed to higher yields and longevity.
  • Laser printers are usually larger, which might be an issue if you have limited space.
  • Refill toners can be messy. If handled improperly, the microscopic powder used in toner cartridges can smudge very easily and cause such a mess. Plus, they can be quite difficult to clean.

Choosing the Right Printer for You

It all boils down to your preferences and how you plan to use the printer. Generally, you should consider the page yield, cartridge size, and cost per page. The initial cost might be a contributing factor to most people, but you should keep in mind that the overall cost efficiency might be significantly huge if you opted for an inkjet printer instead of a laser printer.

Any thoughts? Let us know your comments!

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