When choosing a printer there are a number of factors to consider. One of the main ones is whether to go with a laser printer (toner) or an inkjet machine. Toner and ink are often used interchangeably but there are actually significant differences in the formulation and printing process. Let's compare the two types of printing to learn which is better for your situation.
The Printing Process
Toner - Toner is used in laser printers exclusively and is a powder comprised of organic and synthetic compounds. Toner is comprised of extremely fine particles that are slightly magnetic. Because of this, toner can cling together to form a clump. This is why it's best practice to shake a toner cartridge before install, shaking the cartridge helps to redistribute the toner for even, full printing.
During the printing process, an imaging component inside the printer "writes" the images onto the page and then the toner is transferred onto the page using a magnetic charge. After the toner is transferred, the paper goes through the printer's fuser and the toner is heated/melted onto the paper.
Ink - Ink on the other hand is a liquid and not a powder. Inkjets are equipped with nozzles that spray the ink onto the paper in the tiniest of droplets. The miniscule size of these droplets allows for precise and high-resolution images.
Comparing the Two
Toner and ink differentiate themselves in a few primary ways. Let's take a look at them to see how they stack up.
Cost - Inkjet printers typically have a lower upfront cost however, laser printers generally end up being more cost-effective for high volume users over the course of time. This is mostly due to the cost of supplies. While toner cartridges tend to cost more than their inkjet counterparts they also tend to yield significantly more pages. In turn, toner cartridges will last longer which means you won't have to change your cartridge as much.
Quality - Inkjet and laser printers have come a long way in terms of quality and both can deliver incredible results. However, the inkjet printer has a slight edge in this category due to it's technology. As described above, ink is transferred onto the paper in droplets measuring mere microns in diameter. These tiny droplets lead to incredible precision and image quality.
Performance/Longevity - When considering performance and longevity we give the leg up to the toner cartridge and laser printer. Toner cartridges can print for thousands of pages and they don't dry out like ink cartridges do. Laser printers also print at much faster speeds then inkjets so laser printers are best for large print jobs that need to be completed efficiently.
At the end of the day, laser printers and inkjet printers each have features that provide value for the end user. The key is to understand what your needs are and which machine best meets those needs. If you only print occasionally or need the highest quality, inkjets are a good choice. However, if performance and overall cost-effectiveness are most important a good laser printer should provide the best value.