In many cases, you are advised to use the genuine original ink cartridges that come from the device’s manufacturer.
Such cartridges are advertised as being of higher quality and in some cases even have better ink yields.
The problem with original ink cartridges from the device manufacturers is that even though they do offer several benefits to the user, they are usually very expensive.
Users may sometimes need to save some money, especially when doing bulk printing which can be very costly with genuine cartridges.
Luckily, some alternatives to costly cartridges are available to the users.
Compatible ink cartridges are different from original ink cartridges in one very obvious way, the manufacturer of the product.
Compatible ink cartridges are usually manufactured by third parties. These are cartridge manufacturers who design their products to work almost like genuine cartridges from the original manufacturer of a given printer.
Given that compatible ink cartridges are not manufactured by the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), they may work just as well, but in some cases, there may be subtle drops in the output quality of the prints or you may face some other issues.
In most adverse cases, they can even damage your printer if not chosen right.
Nevertheless, these cartridges are not always a bad idea and some can serve you well if you are careful.
Advantages of Compatible Ink Cartridges
They may not be the intended products to use on your printer, but compatible ink cartridges have several benefits.
1. They Are Affordable
One of the main reasons why people buy compatible ink cartridges is because of their affordability. Just as they are cheap to buy, they are usually easy to find too.
OEMs tend to charge a high price for their products and, for good reasons. They take a lot of time in research and development to come up with cartridges that are durable and deliver quality that is expected from the printer models they build it for.
On the other hand, some third party manufacturers may use cheaper components in the construction of their cartridges. This can result in cost savings which will benefit the user.
2. Good Printing Quality
While an original cartridge will more often produce better results, some people would argue that the difference in quality is almost negligible.
If you manage to purchase a high-quality compatible ink cartridge, chances are you will not notice the difference in quality from an original cartridge. You will be able to print documents at a reasonable quality, just as you would with an original cartridge.
This is not to say that you will consistently get good quality work across the board. If you go for the cheap low-grade cartridges then you will notice the poor performance.
3. They are Reliable
The simple fact that some compatible ink cartridges are very cheap can give you the impression that they are ticking time bombs. On the contrary, with good products, you can get to use the printer normally without any major issues.
Many compatible ink cartridges are just as reliable as the OEM products and can be used without major risks.
If you buy a high-quality compatible ink cartridge, not only can you expect it to last long, but you can also get more ink inside than you would with an original cartridge. You’ll get to print more pages before you need to replace it.
4. High Output Volume
Compared to OEM cartridges, compatible ink cartridges are on average much better at printing high volumes. What this means is that with a compatible cartridge, you can print about 500 or more pages per toner whereas many OEM cartridges are usually rated at 500 pages.
For this reason, we find that a compatible ink cartridge would be more suited for use where large volumes of prints are constantly made.
High cartridge yields in themselves can equally result in even more savings thus making it preferable for many users looking to print more pages before having to buy a new ink cartridge.
Disadvantages of Compatible Ink Cartridges
1. They are Less Durable Than Original Cartridges
While you save on cost when you buy a compatible ink cartridge, you end up sacrificing other things such as longevity.
Compatible ink cartridges are fairly durable. However, compared to the original ones, it is easier to damage a non-original cartridge after prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures than it is to damage an OEM cartridge.
This degradation can result in deterioration of prints and subsequently low-quality work.
Since originals are made from higher quality materials, they tend to be better at withstanding the elements and can, therefore, last much longer.
2. They Can’t Rival the High-Quality Photos from Original Cartridges
High-quality compatible ink cartridges can produce very good prints. However, compared to the original manufacturer’s cartridges, these are not as great. This can be seen with photo prints.
For a user with a keen eye for detail in photos or other high-quality graphic prints, a compatible ink cartridge just won’t do.
Since third party manufacturers cannot legally replicate the technology that goes into making the cartridges the way the original manufacturers do, it is only likely that they will use inferior technology in some areas.
This may not significantly affect monochrome prints, but with highly colored pictures, you may notice some degradation.
3. They May Damage Your Printer
A great advantage of OEM cartridges is that they are designed specifically by the printer’s manufacturer to work with their device. This is sadly not the case with a compatible ink cartridge.
With a compatible ink cartridge, you do not always get the strong manufacturer’s guarantee that the product you’re buying will work seamlessly with your device.
Hence, you run the risk that when the cartridge encounters some problems it may cause damage to your printer.
Due to improvements in technology, damages to printers from faulty ink cartridges are not a common occurrence.
Nevertheless, you may need to consider this in case you’re thinking of buying a very cheap one.
When to Use Compatible Ink Cartridges
Most high-quality compatible ink cartridges can perform almost as well as the original but cost more than half the price.
You may consider a compatible ink cartridge if you do a lot of prints and you notice that the price is a little too steep.
These cartridges are also good for basic use where the overall quality of the prints is not the biggest priority.
Good quality compatible ink cartridges can be used for basic text and photo printing.
The key with compatible ink cartridges is to be as careful as possible.
Since it is still a risk to install third party ink cartridges in printer no matter how good the compatible ink brand is, you should still be careful.
However, once you find the right compatible ink and you have used it for some time then you can relax and continue on using it.
Read the Reviews
The best way to choose a certain third party cartridge is to read the reviews. The reviews should highlight the important factors such as compatibility as well as the quality of the ink cartridge.
If you cannot find the reviews on a certain particular cartridge, then read the overall reviews of the brand or the manufacturer of the chosen product.
If you’re wondering whether it is safe to use compatible ink cartridges then the direct answer is yes. Compatible ink cartridges can be used with little to no issues as long as you get a good product.
Poor quality cartridges can impact your prints and the printer itself, therefore if you opt for a compatible ink cartridge over the original manufacturer’s cartridge, then consider a high-quality one that is supported by strong guarantees and many good reviews.
Compatible ink cartridges come with their fair share of pros and cons. The final purchase decision should be based on how much in terms of quality you aim to get from your prints and the price you are willing to pay for that.
Andrew White is the founder of TechGearoid, a leading technology review & information website that is designed to help consumers make better decisions when it comes to their IT purchases. As a specialist tech writer (nerd) with over 10 years of experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern technology & the newest market innovations. When he isn’t providing value for his readers, he’s usually drinking coffee or at the beach. Andrew lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife and family.