What’s the difference between compatible and original ink cartridges?
You will notice when you begin your quest for a new ink cartridge that there are a few different options available. With most types of cartridge you will be able to choose from an Original OEM branded cartridge or a much cheaper ‘compatible’ version. You may be wondering what the differences are and how the compatible cartridges are almost half the price! Despite the large number of compatible ink cartridge options available and the massive price difference, there is actually very little information out there fully explaining the differences. The main points you need to consider when choosing between the two are below:
1. What do you print?
2. Mainly text or mainly images?
3. How often do you use your printer?
The big question is … Are compatibles as good as the originals?
Manufacturers OEM cartridges used in the printers they have been designed for and using the manufacturer branded paper are unbeatable, the output you will get from this set-up will produce fantastic, sharp, vibrant and crisp images. But you get nothing for nothing in this world and OEM cartridges are anything but cheap!
The choice often boils down to money. A cheap compatible ink cartridge can be very tempting when you regularly print large amounts. You need to be aware as not all compatibles are equal; the cheapest option is often cheap for a good reason. These could be low quality inks in cheap plastic casing (leaking or affecting ink in storage) and the cheapest compatible inks can dry out which quickly leads to clogged print heads. You can buy cleaning cartridges to ‘wash out’ print heads or use the cleaning program on your printer, but the first costs money and the second wastes a lot of ink. Print heads can be replaced or repaired, depending on your printer model, but if you are outside of warranty then this will cost you. Although if you save enough money using very cheap compatibles this may not worry you.
For the average home user compatible cartridges are adequate. Independent tests have shown that black compatible ink cartridges give comparable results against OEM (original equipment manufacturer) cartridges.
If you require absolutely top notch photo prints, then it may be best to invest in an original OEM cartridge with matching paper. The big brands perform rigorous tests to ensure their own inks and paper together to get optimum results together.
An independent review site ran an extensive test comparing compatible ink print outs against OEMs, the compatible prints were preferred by their audience. Results were cross referenced on various OEM and 3rd party papers on a number of different printers.
What is the difference between an OEM cartridge and a compatible?
When you replace the cartridge in an Epson, Canon or Brother Printer model which has the print head built into the printer, all you are doing is changing an ink tank. These printers all use individual ink tanks for each different colour, so you could end up with up to 10 different cartridges in some models. This is the best idea as when one colour runs out you can easily replace the empty cartridge without having to replace all of them.
Lexmark, HP, Canon and Dell all produce a cartridge which as the print head integrated into the cartridge, so every time you install a new cartridge you are installing a new print head. These cartridges are a lot more expensive as they have all the technology of the print head built into them. This type of cartridge is the one that is worth recycling the most because the print heads can be used several times over without the degradation of quality.
Compatible ink cartridges are brand new cartridges that have been manufactured by third party brands, which are totally unrelated to the OEM manufacturers. You can buy compatible ink tanks for Epson, Canon and Brother Printers, but you can only buy refilled or remanufactured cartridges with an attached print head for HP, Lexmark and Dell printers.
Take one look at a HP cartridge and you can see that it is not going to degrade and decay in our landfill sites very quickly, in fact it has been estimated it would take 10,000 years for an ink cartridge to decay.
In conclusion, compatible ink cartridges are generally fit for purpose. If you are printing general office/home documents then save your money and use the compatibles. You can always run a set of originals through your printer occasionally to keep your print heads in good condition and you should have a cheap and good quality printing experience!