Toner vs Ink Printers: the Differences Explained

Last update February 15, 2019
Advertiser Disclosure

This site is a free online resource that strives to offer helpful content and comparison features to its visitors. Please be advised that the operator of this site accepts advertising compensation from certain companies that appear on the site, and such compensation impacts the location and order in which the companies (and/or their products) are presented, and in some cases may also impact the scoring that is assigned to them. The scoring that appears on this site is determined by the site operator in its sole discretion, and should NOT be relied upon for accuracy purposes. In fact, Company/product listings on this page DO NOT imply endorsement by the site operator. Except as expressly set forth in our Terms of Use, all representations and warranties regarding the information presented on this page are disclaimed. The information which appears on this site is subject to change at any time. More info

The variety of printers available in modern stores is outstanding. Whatever printing needs you may have, they are all readily met by the manufacturers of printers.

If you want to print on-the-go you are welcome to purchase yourself one of those tiny mobile printers. If you often need to make photocopies of documents and sometimes need to make their digital copies by means of a scanner then you need an all-in-one printer. Speaking of ideal solutions for those who are in search of home printers, one should, first of all, consider the product range of wireless laser printers. Those who need to have a printer at hand but do not print too often may consider inkjet printers. The choice and options are truly vast.

Printer Toner vs Ink Dilemma. Exploring

Now, when trying to find the ideal solution, you might be facing a dilemma as to what type of printer to buy. It shouldn't be too loud or too big or too expensive, but it should have a good production speed and print out clear pictures. Recharging it should not be challenging either and certainly, you don't want recharging costs to be high. And you are not asking a lot. The only question is what type of a printer to choose.

Most likely than not, you've heard about the heated toner vs ink dispute, entailing thousands of bloggers posting articles explaining the difference between toner and ink. Of course, you might want to go ahead and make your own research. But if you do not have time or desire to spend all of that time to delve into a many-hour research, we've summarized all the essential theses related to that discussion in this post. Sure, after you read it, you will be able to make your own decision. What you should realize anyway is that there's no such a thing as a universal solution and especially so when it comes to the ink vs toner dilemma.

Background Info

Speaking about technology, what you should know is that ink is used in inkjet printers and toner is used in laser-based models. Inkjet printers use very tiny sprays of ink for printing, while laser models use toner targeted by a super precise laser. There are a few peculiarities which derive from this difference. Ink needs some time to dry out, and thus it is better to wait a few seconds before touching the pages printed by an inkjet printer. On the other hand, inkjet printers need more time to spray the ink. Laser requires a lot of space, and thus laser-based printers can be significantly larger compared to inkjets. Ink, when left untouched for a longer period of time, will thicken and thus clutter up the micro pipes through which ink is sprayed. Consequently, even if you do not need your printer all that often you will still have to use it once in a while to make sure its printing capacity is not blocked. This does not happen to laser printers, though.

There is another peculiarity which you need to consider in case you yourself plan to recharge the printer’s cartridge. It is much harder to recharge toner cartridges. Microscopic fractions of toner are capable of making a mess of any room unless you apply professional equipment. Besides, toner cartridges can withstand a rather small number of recharge circles and are more costly.

In some cases, especially when speaking about professional quality color printing, images printed with laser printers will look slightly more precise. But this cannot be detected by non-professionals and hardly ever relates to the printing of documents. One more important peculiarity needs to be taken into consideration prior to making your final choice, which is the resistance of printed pages to various conditions: moist, frequent use etc. It is important to point out that, in general, pages printed with laser printers are slightly less resistant to external factors. But, again, for an average user, this difference won't be significant.

Practical Conclusions

All of these are the differences which won't matter a lot to anybody who isn't dealing with images on a professional level and who do not need to print super large volumes of documents every day. Thus, if you are an average user with pretty basic printing needs, there's no real need to delve into analysis so deeply. You will need to take into account only a few characteristics about which we will tell you hereafter.

If You're Limited in Space

While for the majority of people the size of the printer does not make a difference at all, there are also those people who have tiny desks or work in cramped offices and for who every inch matters. If you are one of those people looking for a compact printer that wouldn't occupy a lot of your desk space and could be positioned even on a shelf, if need be, then it may be a better decision to go for an inkjet printer. As a rule, inkjet printers are considerably smaller than toner ones.

If You're Limited in Budget

If your budget is limited, you ought to consider buying an inkjet printer. It is cheaper to buy and maintain. Not only that, it's also much easier to refill it, which means you'd be able to save even more recharging it yourself instead of paying for cartridge refilling services.

If You're Printing a Lot

If you usually print more than average and need to do it quickly enough, that can be an issue for an ink printer. Toner and laser printers will cope with this task much better due to their higher printing speed and functionality. But again, what means "many" for one user might mean "little" for another, so consider this. If you do not print more than a couple of copies of, say, five-page document a day, you do not really need a laser printer, unless you want it and ready to pay for it a bit more. However, if you normally print no less than several hundreds of pages a day, you will certainly need a more powerful printer capable of handling big volumes of print copies, and laser printers are fit for that. Another reason to choosing a laser printer over other models is if you print a lot but not too often. Unlike inkjet models that need to be used at least once in a while in order to not block their printing capacity, laser printers remain functional even if you don't touch them for a couple months.


Taking into account all that we've said above, you can clearly see that there's no one universal solution. Besides, many of the differences related to different printer types aren't that remarkable and significant for most average users. So even if you know them, you might not even say them in real life. However, if you're printing a lot on a regular basis and face the ink vs toner dilemma, our tips should help you find the printer that will meet all your needs.

If you're still hesitant about what type of printer to purchase, you may also want to read our review of home printers where you'll find models of different types and with various optional functions.