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What is the difference between a toner and drum cartridge?

Toner cartridge vs drum cartridge, what is the difference? Many customers have been asking us this question. Therefore, let us quickly run through the roles and responsibilities of each of this component, the naming convention and how they complement each other to produce a beautiful print out for you. We are not delving too technical into the details as this article mainly serves to help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions

Toner Cartridge

The toner cartridge is the most commonly changed component in the laser printer. This is the component where the toner powder (aka ink for ink cartridges) is stored. There are as many as 9 important components within a laser printer (if you are interested, you can read up more from a previous article written Here)

A toner cartridge contains coloured or carbon / iron oxide powder (toner) that is positively charged, which is then “melted” onto the paper. The toner powder is distributed onto the paper evenly with the help of the doctor blade (part of the toner cartridge), forming the image that the printer drum has helped construct. Examples of toner cartridge is as below

Drum Cartridge

The drum cartridge (aka as imaging unit) is a component which is usually attached to the toner cartridge. It has a general frame structure which enables the toner cartridge to “sit” and cache nicely to it. Some brands like Brother and Samsung, they have designed both drum cartridge and toner cartridge to be separate units for easier maintenance work and to provide more affordable toner prices. Other brands like Canon and HP, the toner cartridge and drum cartridge units are combined into one toner cartridge and hence, typically you can expect it to slightly higher in price.

A drum unit is a metal cylinder that has a special coating (green colour) that can receive a static positive and negative electrical charge from the laser within a laser printer. In layman terms, the drum helps to “draw” the required print out onto the paper for the toner powder to be form on it. Some examples of drum cartridge is shown below. For our premium compatible drum cartridges, a detailed installation manual is provided within each package.

Naming Convention

Lastly, it is important to able to identify the naming convention of a drum cartridge. Out of all the market leading laser printer brands, mainly Brother and Samsung have separate toner and drum cartridges. For Brother, typically the toner model number starts with TN-xxx while the drum unit starts with DR-xxx. As for Samsung toners, the model number starts with MLT-xxx for monochrome(black) toner cartridge or CLT-xxx for colour toner cartridge. As for the drum cartridge, it starts with MLT-Rxxx for monochrome(black) drum cartridge or CLT-Rxxx for colour drum cartridge

SamsungMLT-xxx/ CLT-xxxMLT-Rxxx/ CLT-Rxxx
Naming Convention


Both toner cartridge and drum cartridge are highly important in the laser printing process and they work hand in hand. Do bear in mind, for every drum unit changed, it should last you ~3-4 toner cartridges. Always check the label on the component or packaging and follow the naming convention above to determine which component to buy. Feel free to contact us if you are unsure of any of the above and remember to subscribe to our newsletter with exclusive discounts and content.

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Brother, Brady, Canon, Casio, Dymo, Epson, Fuji Xerox, Lexmark, HP, Samsung and other manufacturer brand names and logos are registered trademarks of their respective owners.
Any and all brand name designations or references are made solely for purposes of demonstrating compatibility.