With computers and printers becoming widely spread in the workplace and home alike, a large quantity of information that is not so easy to understand emerges, and there are a lot of questions asked. Toner cartridges, as the most often replaced component of a printer, can quickly accumulate unexpected costs and, if not chosen properly, reduce printing quality to unacceptable levels. Differentiating between various types of printer toners is important in order to optimize the printing quality of your documents and photographs, and knowing when to buy and use a specific type of toner is a valuable skill which will help you save money and time and help avoiding damage to the printer.
Companies that created a specific printer also manufacture toner cartridges for those printers, called brand or Original Equipment Manufacturer Cartridges (OEM). Each company always recommends their toners for their printers. There are many shops and websites that are offering toners as well as the rest of spare parts for each specific brand, such as Epson or Xerox spare parts. OEM cartridges are usually more expensive than alternative brand cartridges, but provide high quality toner, resulting in high quality printing results. Of course, recommendations are party based on the desire to earn more money, but it is a fact that OEM cartridges are the best cartridges on the market.
Generic cartridges, also called alternative brand or compatible cartridges, are those coming from third party sources –meaning that the company that had manufactured the printer was not involved in their production. Generic cartridges are created after original OEM cartridges, but with using new parts which differ from the OEM cartridges due to copyright laws and legal restrictions. However, most of them can produce decent-quality prints – especially those bought from high rated and well known sellers, some of which even offer warranties. Smaller sellers do not offer warranties and in some cases manufacture cartridges that are below quality standards, resulting in the need for reprints and damaging the printer. All generic cartridges are cheaper than OEM cartridges, and even though they are not recommended by the printer’s manufacturer, most of them can provide good quality prints.
The tendency to cut down costs has even led to the production of remanufactured cartridges. Remanufactured cartridges are already used (empty) cartridges which are then disassembled, cleaned and refilled for further usage. These cartridges usually do not produce quality prints and are prone to leaking, which can make the documents unusable and damage the printer. In the worst case scenario, it could lead to costly reprints and printer repairs. Remanufactured cartridges have a significantly lower price and are considered environmentally friendly, because of their recycling component. Depending on the manufacturer, they differ in quality – some productions are crude and basic with manufacturers drilling a hole in an empty cartridge, refilling it and putting back on the market, others are more sophisticated and often involve the customer giving the empty cartridge to the manufacturer who will then refill it for a price.
Choosing the right toner cartridge also depends on what are you planning to print. Printing high resolution quality photos, especially on expensive kinds of paper, is safest when using OEM cartridges, due to their reliability and low risk of leaking. Other color documents which do not necessarily be in high quality can be printed with alternative brand cartridges. As for most simple text documents, even remanufactured cartridges can be used since printing text usually does not require high quality toner, and in most cases the only color needed is black.
There are even toner refill kits which allow users to refill empty cartridges on their own. Although they do come with detailed manuals and instructions, they are sometimes tricky to use, but are environmental friendly (due to the recycling nature) and will save their users a lot of money.
A common misconception regarding toners is that printer warranty is no longer valid after using the toner that is not recommended by the printer’s manufacturers, whereas this practice is actually illegal. If the company that made the printer does not recommend a certain cartridge that does not mean that it is required to use the manufacturer-authorized cartridges to maintain the warranty. If, however, the unauthorized toner causes damage to the printer, the manufacturer does not have to repair it, but such cases are rare and unlikely.