Buying Guide: Printer Cartridges

Aside from loo roll and certain kitchen sundries, replacement print cartridges are one of the most bothersome things to buy. Why? Not only are they pricey to purchase, they’re also rather baffling – with literally hundreds of cartridges available for a myriad of different manufacturers and printer types.

To help you navigate the often puzzling world of printer cartridges, we take a look at the types of cartridge available and offer some advice on which is best depending on your usage, requirements and printer type.
Businessman Fixing Cartridge In Photocopy Machine

Ink & Toner – What’s The Difference?

Without question, the first thing you should know about print cartridges is the difference between ink and toner; here’s a look at both to help you understand just how the two substances differ.

Ink Cartridges

Containing a quantity of black or coloured liquid ink, ink cartridges are used exclusively in inkjet printers. Inkjet printers are fitted with a series of powerful ink jets, which are used to spray the liquid ink on to the page where required. The ink contains a complex blend of pigments and dyes, which aids page retention and produces more accurate colour.

Toner Cartridges

In essence – toner is a dry, complex powder containing microscopic plastic particles. Toner is used in laser printing, whereby the powder is electronically charged, heated and applied to the paper via a rotating drum inside the machine. This process allows for fast, efficient printing – particularly for large print jobs.

So – Which is Better?

The perennial ink vs. toner debate depends on a number of factors, including your overall usage, print budget and quality requirements. Here, we’ll cover the pros and cons of toner and ink cartridges in terms of cost, image quality and performance, to help you make an informed decision on which is right for you.


In terms of initial purchase cost, ink cartridges are considerably cheaper than laser, with the average ink replacement costing around £25 compared to £50 for a laser cartridge. That said, laser cartridges tend to have a much greater output, and are capable of producing many more pages per cartridge than an inkjet cartridge. Thus, it really depends on your usage. If you print only occasionally, an inkjet printer will probably work out cheaper, if you print often and a lot, a laser could prove the most cost-effective in the long run.

However, if you invest in the very latest, high-performance inkjet machine, you’ll find that the output and performance is very similar to a laser printer. Again, it depends on your usage, and how much you’re willing to spend on a new, high-end printer outright.

Speed & Performance

If speed is your primary requirement when purchasing a new printer, you’ll need to decide between laser and inkjet, as both offer excellent speed and performance depending on how much you’re willing to spend. In times gone by, inkjets were slower than lasers, but new developments from HP, Epson and Brother mean that top of the range inkjets can now compete with laser printers in terms of print speed.

Invest in a high-end laser or inkjet machine, and users can expect around a twenty sheet per minute print speed. Compare this to the six sheet per minute print speed of cheaper inkjets, and the initial purchase cost of a range topping machine could prove worth it.

Image & Text Quality

Whilst laser printers often offer faster all-round performance, they can’t compete with the inkjet in terms of out and out image quality. Given that inkjets use liquid ink, they’re much better at blending colour more accurately – something which lends itself well to printing full-colour images. If you intend to print mostly black text documents however, the speed and performance of a laser machine offsets any drop in quality.


Things to Look Out For

Whether you’re searching for a specific type of cartridge or are hoping to save money on future print costs, knowing the terms below will help you find the cartridge you’re looking for.

OEM Cartridges

OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. In other words, if a cartridge is marked OEM, it means it’s produced by the same manufacturer as the printer itself – HP for example. OEM cartridges tend to be the most expensive, but they do offer the best quality.

Compatible Cartridges

Compatible cartridges are developed by third-party companies to offer a cost-effective alternative to OEM cartridges. Fitted with a state-of-the-art connection chip, these cartridges are compatible with a range of modern printers, but their ink quality may waver depending on the manufacturer. At Toner Giant, we manufacturer our own compatible ink cartridges – click here for further details.

Combination Ink Packs

Combination ink packs offer a cost-effective way to purchase two or more cartridges at once. These handy units usually contain both black and colour cartridges, making them perfect for those who have recently purchased a brand new printer. Though expensive, combination packs do offer good value when compared to the cost of individual cartridges – provided you use both coloured and black ink that is.

Solid Ink Cartridges

Solid ink cartridges are used in solid ink printers, and are widely considered among the most eco-friendly cartridges money can buy. Developed specifically for solid ink printers, solid ink cartridges are made of a wax-like material, which is melted to a liquid form before being applied to a page. Solid inks are renowned for their accurate, vibrant colour, but tend to be considerably more expensive than ink and toner cartridges.

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If you’re looking for affordable ink and toner cartridges for your printer, look no further than Toner Giant. We stock a complete range of cartridges for the industry’s leading printer manufacturers, as well as a selection of quality compatible cartridges. To browse our range of printer cartridges, visit the Toner Giant homepage or call us on 0845 365 3605 for further information.

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