Dean Herr

Printer Cartridges | OEM vs Compatible vs Recharge

Understanding the various types of Printer Cartridges

When buying a new printer cartridges for your color or B&W printer the choices seem endless and the price ranges are at both ends of the spectrum. So what’s the right choice? Does it really matter which printer cartridge you choose? Won’t they all print on my paper?


Let’s first take a look at what exactly makes up a printer cartridge so we can better understand the philosophy of what the choices involve. Most people think that the printer cartridges are the toner or ink that you need to actually get writing on the paper. Although this is certainly true, there is so much more to a printer cartridge then meets the eye. The toner or ink is the part of the component that gets “expended” and what usually triggers the “add toner” light. Some of the other components involved are a photoconductive drum, charge corona (wire), drum cleaning blade (squeegee), and of course the toner.

Now that you understand the collective pieces that make up the printer cartridge, let’s take a look at the three options that one could chose when seeking a replacement.

  1. OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer’s) Brand

    – This is the printer cartridge that the manufacturer of your printer makes. This is the cartridge that has been designed specifically for your printer and all the parts and components are issued brand new. Choosing this option involves the least amount of risk and almost 100% of the time will keep your printer running at its best. It is the most expensive option, however if you are looking for the best possible quality from your printer, there is no better choice.

  2. Compatible Brand

    – Remember when we talked earlier about all of those parts that make a printer cartridge? Well a quality compatible manufacturer will take the time to replace each one of those parts and at the same time fill the toner reservoir. The only piece of this printer cartridge that is not rebuilt is the “body” itself. These are a good choice! However, do your homework and make sure that the manufacturer rebuilds to the highest quality and uses the best available spare parts. Not as expensive as an OEM cartridge, a solid mid-range solution.

  3. Recharged

    – This is just a fancy word for purchasing a used or expired printer cartridge, drilling a hole in the toner/ink reservoir, filling it up, and putting a rubber plug to cover the hole. There are no real quality standards and usually these types of cartridges come with a very high fail rate. They are cheap; however you will have to deal with poor performance from time-to-time.

My advice is always to measure your particular circumstances and determine what the best value for your business truly is. If the highest quality output with no downtime and keeping the manufacturer’s warranties intact is most important, then OEM is the way to go. If you can find a quality company that produces a compatible cartridge and you can live with a 1 -2% fail rate, then compatibles are for you! You’ll save 35-45% over OEM. Using recharged printer cartridges is risky; they are cheap and sometimes do the job.  The fail rates are high (20-30%) and they more often than not create service issues for your printer.  Be careful!

One final note to purchasing printer cartridges and this is more of a personal preference.  When it comes to color toner/ink I always choose OEM. There are some really good compatibles out there, they are just not 100% perfected at this time. Since color print jobs tend to be more critical it pays to spend the extra money.

If you are in need of a good source for OEM and compatible printer cartridges, you may visit this site.

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