Compatible Cartridges vs OEM Printer Cartridges


February 1, 2024  MIN READ

In the world of printing, the debate between using compatible ink and toner cartridges versus Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) cartridges has been ongoing. The aim of this article is to help you understand the pros and cons of both options so you can make an informed decision based on your printing needs.

Key Takeaways

  • Compatible cartridges, made by third-party manufacturers, are much more affordable than genuine OEM cartridges.
  • The print quality and yield of compatible cartridges can be comparable to OEM cartridges, but they may occasionally face compatibility issues with the printer firmware updates.
  • Using non-genuine consumables may void the printer's warranty.
  • The decision between compatible and OEM cartridges depends on individual needs, including print volume, desired quality, and budget.

OEM Ink and Toner

Genuine HP 920XL Black High Yield Ink Cartridge
Genuine Brother TN-3425 Black High Yield Toner

Genuine or Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) cartridges are produced by the same company that manufactured your printer. Think printer brands like Canon, HP, Brother, Epson, Fuji Xerox, OKI and Kyocera. The cartridges made be these manufacturers are specifically designed to work with their respective printers, ensuring consistent performance and high-quality prints.

Compatible Ink and Toner

Compatible HP 920 Black XL Ink Cartridge (CD975AA)
compatible brother tn3425 toner

Compatible toner and ink cartridges, also known as generic or aftermarket cartridges, are produced by third-party manufacturers, rather than printer manufacturers. These cartridges are designed to be low-cost alternatives to the cartridges from OEM brands.

In case you're not clear on the difference, ink cartridges are used in inkjet printers, while toner cartridges are for laser printers.

Here's a table showing how compatible and OEM cartridges compare:

Factor

Compatible Cartridge

OEM Cartridges

Price

Much more affordable, offering cost savings.

More expensive, contributing to higher printing costs.

Print Yield

Comparable yield to equivalent OEM cartridges

Depends on cartridge capacity. Standard, XL, and XXL options may be available depending on model. 

Print Quality

Quality can vary among manufacturers, but generally satisfactory for everyday use.

Exceptional print quality, delivering accurate colour and sharp text.

Compatibility

May have occasional compatibility issues with certain printers or firmware updates. (See recommendations below regarding firmware updates)

Specifically designed for the respective printer model, ensuring compatibility.

Availability

Widely available for various printer models, including older ones.

Availability might decrease for older printer models over time.

Advanced Features

Some advanced printer features (eg low ink level warnings or colour management for optimal print quality) might not be fully supported.

Designed to maximise advanced features provided by the printer manufacturer.

Print Longevity

Prints might fade faster over time compared to OEM cartridges.

Prints produced tend to have better longevity and resistance to fading.

Cost Difference

The key advantage of compatible cartridges over OEM ones clearly is price - compatible cartridges cost significantly less than comparable OEM cartridges.

To illustrate these price differences: the Genuine HP 26X CF226X High Yield Black toner cartridge has a recommended retail price of $470. At Good Egg, we sell it for $412.06, with free delivery thrown in.

Genuine HP 26X Black High Yield Toner
compatible hp 26x cf226x

We also offer an alternative compatible version of this high-yield cartridge which sells for just $64.69. That's 84% cheaper than the OEM cartridge! (All prices quoted here include GST and were valid at the time of writing).

Why Are OEM Cartridges So Expensive?

A key reason why OEM cartridges cost significantly more than compatible cartridges is because many printer manufacturers employ what's known as the 'razor and blades' business model.

This strategy involves selling the primary product - in this case, the printer - at a relatively low cost, sometimes even at a loss. The manufacturers then make their real profit on the recurring sales of the necessary complementary product - the printer cartridges. It’s akin to getting a bargain on a razor but then having to purchase the specific blades over and over.

But that's not the only reason for the price difference. OEM cartridges involve significant research and development costs. HP, the biggest player in the market, reportedly spends about $1billion annually on printing R&D. These costs, plus expenditure on marketing and distribution etc are then incorporated into the final price of OEM cartridges, along with a profit margin. To put that in context, according to this HP press release, in the 12 months to Oct 2022, HP's printing division revenue was $18.9 billion, most of which came from printing supplies at $11.7 billion. 

In contrast, compatible cartridges are made by third-party companies that don't bear the original development and research costs. Instead they 'reverse-engineer' (i.e. copy) OEM cartridges to ensure the ones they make are compatible with printers. This means they can produce cartridges at a lower cost than OEM manufacturers which allows them to sell cartridges at a much lower price.

Are Cheap Cartridges Any Good?

The significantly lower price of compatible cartridges begs the question, are cheap cartridges any good?

The answer is not always straightforward as it depends on the quality of the cartridges in question.

Certainly, there are inexpensive substandard compatible cartridges available in the New Zealand market that produce low-quality printouts or may even damage your printer.

However, “cheap” doesn’t necessarily mean low quality. The compatible cartridges we sell are not just budget-friendly but also meet high-quality standards. Print yield and quality are similar to genuine cartridges but at a fraction of the cost. In addition to being ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certified, the compatible cartridges sold by Good Egg come with a 12-month performance guarantee, so you can buy with confidence.

ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certifications are internationally recognised standards for quality management and environmental management respectively. This means these products are reliable and their manufacture is environmentally responsible.

Need Great Prints?

While compatibles offer a clear price advantage, if you require the highest quality printing from your inkjet printer or laser printer, then we recommend using genuine OEM cartridges. For this reason most business customers we supply cartridges to purchase genuine OEM cartridges.

Things to Consider with Compatibles

Should you decide to use compatible cartridges here are some important points to bear in mind:

Warranty

The warranty of your printer may be voided if non-genuine consumables have been used. For that reason, we recommend it's prudent not to use compatible products until after the warranty period of your printer expires.

Printer Firmware Updates

Printer manufacturers make a lot of money from genuine cartridges. As a result, OEM printer manufacturers (especially Canon & HP) are making it increasingly difficult for customers to use compatible inks and toners by pushing automatic firmware updates which prevent printers from recognising non-genuine cartridges.


This is seen as an unfair practice by many because it takes away people’s right to choose which products they use with their printer. (It's a bit like buying a car and then being told you can only use a particular brand of petrol).


The good news is that, in the event of a firmware update, the manufacturers of the compatible cartridges we sell quickly respond by updating their cartridge chips. This ensures cartridge compatibility with the latest firmware, allowing you to use them without any issues.

IMPORTANT

To ensure future firmware updates don't impact compatible cartridges you've already purchased, we STRONGLY recommend changing your printer settings so that automatic firmware updates (which are on by default) are disabled.

Making the Right Choice

In summary, the choice between using compatible printer ink and toner or genuine ink and toner cartridges ultimately comes down to your individual preferences and needs.

Whether you're a business owner or a home user in New Zealand, consider factors such as your printing volume, desired print quality, and budget constraints when making your decision.

While some cheap cartridges may not live up to expectations, purchasing affordable, high-quality compatible ink and toner from a reputable source like Good Egg can give you the print quality you need while saving money. It's all about finding the right balance between cost and quality, and we're here to help you achieve that.

About the Author Mark Sceats

Mark is co-owner of Good Egg - New Zealand's go-to for discounted printers and printer consumables.

Since his first computer in the early '90s, Mark has been scratching his head at one peculiar paradox: Why are we still so print-happy in the promised age of the 'paperless office'?

But instead of merely pondering this conundrum, Mark decided to channel his passion for technology and love for a good bargain into a solution. Enter Good Egg, where Mark and team work tirelessly to make sure that your printer doesn't eat up your wallet.

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