The Advantages and Disadvantages of the Different Types of Printer Cartridges

December 28, 2009 6 Comments

With all the different alternatives for printer cartridges available in the market today, consumers often find themselves thinking twice and unable to decide as to which type or brand they should choose for their printers.

Just consider this scenario: you are an owner of a printer that has served you well for some time. However, you have recently discovered that you had run out of ink or toner. What will you do? You would probably answer “Easy, just remove the empty cartridge and replace it with new ones.” If you think it is that easy, think again. Try going to a physical or online store and you’ll find out there’s more to it than meets the eye.

For one, as in the case of professional color inkjet printers, your printer may be using several cartridges. If it’s a monochromatic printer, then it uses only one printer cartridge but if it’s an inkjet printer, the number of cartridges it uses may range from two (black and color) to four color cartridges. The rate of your consumption of inks or toners depends on how you use your printer or on the printouts that you need. Most probably, the inks or toners in your printer cartridges are not consumed evenly so you don’t have to replace the whole set of cartridges at once.

A visit to the local computer or online store will make your realize that there is a wide range of printer cartridges available in the market. To help you make sure that you are making the right choice in selecting the ink or toner cartridge for your printer, it is important to mention that there are currently three types of printer cartridges in the market namely OEM, compatible and remanufactured printer cartridges.

OEM Cartridges

OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. In short, OEM cartridges are what you would call as genuine or original. These are made by printer manufacturers. For example, HP OEM toner cartridges are manufactured by HP for use in specific HP printer, fax, or copier models.

The main advantage of buying or using OEM printer cartridges is you get exactly the same cartridge as the one you got with your printer. Somehow, this assures that you get a printer cartridge that will surely work with your printer and that you will get exactly the same print quality as you did when you first used your printer.

However, buying or using OEM printer cartridges can be disadvantageous because they are the most expensive in the market. In fact, it may cost you more to buy replacement printer cartridges than to get a new printer. Printer manufacturers often justify the costs of OEM cartridges by citing that they have invested heavily on technical know-how, expert manpower and technologies in order to produce high quality printer cartridges.

Compatible Cartridges

If OEM printer cartridges are genuine and original, compatible printer cartridges are the so-called “off-brand” or “generic”. This is because compatible printer cartridges are manufactured by third-party companies. These are companies that do not manufacture printers. For example, Fullmark, TonerBoss and Color Toner Expert are three of the trusted compatible printer cartridge manufacturers. They do not manufacture or produce printers, they only manufacture and sell ink and toner cartridges.

The main advantage of compatible printer cartridges is that they are brand-new but they are less expensive than OEM cartridges. You can save up to 50% or even more when using compatible cartridges instead of OEM. The price difference does not sacrifice the high quality of compatible printer cartridges. No, they are not simply imitations of the original cartridges. In fact, compatible printer cartridges have different designs to avoid any copyright issues that might arise with printer manufacturers. In spite of this difference, users are assured that compatible printer cartridges are 100% compatible to the printer model mentioned in the box or label. They are designed to fit the designated printer brand or model.

Buying or using compatible printer cartridges assure consumers that they are fully compatible with the printer brand or models. This is because there are cases in which printer models of different brands are manufactured using the same equipment, process or engine. For example, the early models of HP LaserJet printers were produced using the same engine, process or devices as those used by Canon. As such, some HP and Canon printer cartridges may be compatible and can be used in place of one another. The same is true for third-party manufacturers who produce compatible printer cartridges. They make use of the same engine, processes and devices as some of those used by printer manufacturers.

In general, compatible printer cartridges give the same print quality as their OEM counterparts. However, one disadvantage to this is that the print quality varies from one manufacturer to another. Also, some manufacturers may not be keen on the sealing of the cartridge shell. In some cases, there are certain brands of compatible cartridges that spill toner or ink so the printout exhibits minor differences in color and print quality.

With compatible printer cartridges, it is important to have a keen eye for a brand that you can trust.

Remanufactured Cartridges

As the name implies, remanufactured cartridges are used cartridges that have been cleaned and refilled with toner or ink for reuse. Third-party manufacturers that produce remanufactured printer cartridges also replace the parts or components that are no longer fit for reuse.

The main advantage of remanufactured printer cartridges is that these have been remanufactured and produced to provide cheaper printer cartridge alternatives for printer brands like HP, Epson, Lexmark, and Okidata which cannot use compatible printer cartridges for legal reasons. Also, these printer manufacturers are known to produce printer cartridges that have complex design. All the printing technology and components like the print head are built inside the printer cartridge instead of installing them as parts of the printer. These complex design and technology are copyrighted and cannot be copied legally.

Remanufactured printer cartridges also allow you to contribute to the conservation of environment and to decreasing waste volumes especially in landfills. Instead of throwing away empty or used cartridges, these may be refilled for reuse.

However, the main disadvantage of remanufactured cartridges is that they cannot be mass-produced. The volume of remanufactured printer cartridges in the market is determined by the number of re-usable empty or used cartridges. Admittedly, this is not a main concern right now since there are tons of used printer cartridges being discarded per year.

Just like compatible printer cartridges, the quality of remanufactured printer cartridges depends on the manufacturer. For some, they simply drill a hole and refill the ink or toner. Although the drilled hole is covered and sealed, some manufacturers do not make use of efficient quality and reliability measures so that the print quality and overall quality of the cartridge suffers. Most of today’s printer cartridge remanufacturers (e.g. Toner for Earth) observe a full quality control process for every stage of production such as cleaning, refilling, reassembling and testing of the end products.

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