Are Compatible Ink Toners and Cartridges Worth It?
October 6, 2009 By Paul Rich
Let’s start with a question. Why did compatible cartridges come into being in the first place? The simple answer is that customers didn’t want to pay the relatively high prices for manufacturer cartridges and wanted a cheaper alternative. This created opportunities for new markets to emerge for those of us who were looking for more cost effective ways to do our printing. Originally, the only way to save money on inkjet cartridges was to refill them yourself – messy and time consuming this practise actually helped the manufacturers to sell more; people got sick of inserting a syringe into a cartridge to hope everything would be OK and work properly – much of the time it didn’t. Then remanufacturing companies started up, providing a cheaper alternative to the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) cartridges. With savings from 20% – 60% over the originals they were bound to set the market alight – and they did. So the benefit to you is to save money. To protect themselves and their highly profitable product lines the OEMs had several weapons available:
Initially, they specified that using any other ink than their own in a printer would invalidate the guarantee. However, this became an issue about monopolies and competition; so now in the USA and UK it is now illegal for manufacturers to force customers to buy only certain types of supplies. So, in short you can use compatible consumables in your printer.
What about the argument that compatibles can damage your printer, especially if they leak. In fact this scare story has been one of main reasons why people have steered away from compats, whereas in reality this is highly unlikely and a rare occurrence. In fact most damage happens because of neglect from long term use where the printer hasn’t been cleaned and where
debris has built up leading to printer problems. There’s no evidence for this and many high quality compatibles are just as reliable as the originals.
Investment in ink technology. This is one area where the big boys will always win. They have the resources and budgets to invest in new types of ink that improve the vibrancy of the ink on the paper, produce better true to life colours; are fade resistant and will basically last for years and years.
OK then, what different types of cartridge can I choose from?
There are basically three main types of compatible toners and cartridges: Compatibles – in many cases these are brand new cases with new parts manufactured by third party companies, and closely match those of the OEM version, yet with 15%-40% saving in cost. Remanufactured – these are existing cartridges that are taken apart, cleaned, repaired, refilled then sealed. They are quality controlled to ensure quality and compare favourably with the OEM cartridges. Refilled – some companies will simply do what’s know as ‘drill and fill’. They drill a hole in the side of the cartridge, refill it with toner and then seal the hole. In these situations it is unlikely that the cartridge will be cleaned or any broken parts replaced, with the cores used multiple times. This is one reason why they are more prone to failing with potentially poor print results.
Not all compatibles are equal
Quality standards differ between companies with some having far higher failure rates than others. The key point here is to make sure you buy any compatibles from reputable sources so you know what you’re getting, both in terms of the actual ink and the casing itself. A case that has been refilled a dozen times is far more likely to break down than one that has only gone through the system twice. In fact leading remanufacturers even operate under the same quality standards as the OEM versions – ISO9001; plus ISO14001 (recycling) and ISO19752 (quality
testing) to ensure they have quantifiable guidelines to work within. Furthermore, the best compatible manufacturers will also guarantee their cartridges in case of failure.
What are the benefits of compatibles?
Saving money – that’s the real benefit. If you a lot of ink then saving 20%-60% means a lot of money in your pocket. We should also mention that it has less environmental impact but let’s face it, the latter really justifies the former rather than it being a real tangible benefit that’s at the forefront of someone’s mind.
Is it worth buying a compatible laser toner?
The jury’s out on which is best, because it all depends on your usage, so there’s no single definitive answer. Some people argue that the printing results they get from compatibles are substandard to those from the OEM. And this is a justifiable argument (especially with full colour printing) because the OEMs spend millions in ink development to improve the adherence to the paper and all the other techie stuff that techies like to talk about. That said it all depends on what you want. If you’re looking for the crispest printing whether it’s from your inkjet or laser or you want to print out photos to the highest quality possible then buy OEM. If you want ink to put in your cheap inkjet or laser printer and just churn documents out as is, or for the kids to print everything out that they find on the web then go for the cost savings of compatibles. You can see our range of Original and Compatible inkjet cartridges and toners for HP, Lexmark, Canon, Brother, Samsung, Kyocera, Phillips and Olivetti on our main website, just click here. We also have a Printer Supplies finder that will let you search for your toner or ink by printer type or you can search by ink or cartridge to find the right one. Click here to find the ink you need.