OEM vs Compatible - What's The Difference?

The battle continues to rage over the differences between genuine brand name cartridges and the non genuine (generic or third party) printer cartridges. So many articles have been written on the subject and still the average consumer seems to be undecided as to which is the best in regards to both print quality, overall costs as well as making sure their beloved printer is not compromised.

Definition of a Compatible Cartridge

A compatible or Generic ink cartridge is basically a copy of the genuine brand name cartridge which has been manufactured by a third party. Although there are hundreds of companies producing compatible cartridges some of the more common generic brands include Q-image, Calidad, Print-Rite and Q inks.

We (Cartridges Unlimited) have ran extensive tests over the years with all major brands of non genuine or third party inks and we believe that our own brand that you can buy right here, on this site is by far the most reliable and highest quality cartridge on the market today.

The main areas of concern with generic cartridges are compatibility, print quality, page yield and the actual quality of the cartridge moulding. If any of these qualities are not there then problems of one kind or another will occur. These problems include ink leakage, poor print quality and yield, jamming or not fitting correctly in the printer and cartridges “Not being Recognised”.

An example of one of Cartridges Unlimited’s many Brand compatible cartridges. 

The Advantages of using non genuine cartridges

The obvious advantage of a compatible cartridge is the low price. On average a non genuine cartridge is between 40 – 90% cheaper than it’s brand name equivalent. Not only are they cheaper but almost all of the time the generic cartridge will contain considerably more ink than the genuine brand name cartridge.

Compatible ink cartridges are mostly water based and consist of pigments or dyes to achieve the individual colours as well as the black. Genuine inks on the other hand are oil based. This can be a problem if you are printing invoices etc as water based inks dry immediately where as oil based inks can take considerably longer to dry and they tend to smudge easily if the documents are handled before they have time to dry.

In saying this the print quality is still extremely high and it is almost impossible to tell any major difference in print quality between the two. This is as long as the non genuine third party cartridges are high quality ones and not some of the low grade rubbish that many online shops are still selling.

Disadvantages non genuine Ink Cartridges

The only disavantage of a generic ink (to our knowledge) is when it comes to high levels of UV exposure. We have performed stringent tests between the brand and non brand cartridges and exposed them to full sunlight (taped to a window) over a period of several months.

There was a greater deterioration in the prints using compatible printer ink as compared to those using brand name inks. This however wouldnt be an issue for the majority of consumers as most printed images and documents recieve minimum UV exposure.

In an independant study done on print quality between genuine and non genuine cartridges the Generic cartridges actually rated higher for certain printer brands. Yes you read correctly that the cheaper non genuine inks actually rated higher in some instances for print quality than the more expensive name brand cartridges.

Will Compatible Cartridges damage my Printer?

We wish we had a dollar for every time we’ve been asked this question. The answer is a definite NO! Unless you buy a cheap, low grade third party cartridge which has been really poorly moulded then it’s almost impossible for a generic cartridge to damage your printer.

The next most popular question is “Will compatibles void my printer Warranty?”. Once again the answer is a definite NO. It is illegal for any company to void your warranty for using a generic cartridge.

With many years of dealing with generic cartridges we are yet to hear of any instance of a generic cartridge damaging a printer. Unfortunately many sales people that sell printers will be quick to point the blame at a non genuine cartridge if an issue occurs. Most sales people however have very little idea of what causes a printer to fail and so it is easier to simply blame the cartridges rather than the cheap and nasty printer.

Let us make one final point which I believe is very relevant. The modern Inkjet Printer no matter what brand is no longer a quality product but a throw away item. Dont believe us? On average, most modern Inkjet Printers have a lifespan of 2 years at the most. We are talking about 2 solid years of printing and that is about all you will get from them regardless of the initial cost.

The actual printhead is usually the first component to fail and once this occurs simply bin the printer and grab a new one. The modern printheads are made to a very low standard and due to their delicate nature they rarely last more than a few years. Often they fail sooner.

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