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Cartridge: Original vs Compatible

We’ve all experienced that feeling of dread when the ink in our printer runs out in the middle of printing something important. You’ve likely grabbed at it, gave it a good shake and prayed that it will print those last few pages, peeking through crossed fingers, only for it to give up the ghost.

Then comes the mad dash to the local supermarket or computer shop because you have to get it printed right NOW! Stood there, in front of the wall of doom (cartridges), eyes crazily scanning the different options available to you, you um and ah over the prices and question why it costs nearly the same as the printer did in the first place, just to replace a few teeny tiny ink cartridges.

There, in the far distance, is the allure of the compatible ink cartridge. But is it really worth the discounted price?

The differences between original and compatible

To determine the worth of the compatible ink cartridge, you have to explore the main differences between them and the deemed to be ‘more expensive’ original. You’re probably already aware of this but:

  • Original cartridges are those produced by the printer manufacturer i.e. HP, Brother, and Canon.

  • Compatible cartridges are those produced by a third-party manufacturer or contract manufacturer and are not affiliated with the printer manufacturer. These include those own brand ones you tend to find at your local supermarket.

But what is the real difference between them we hear you cry! The biggest difference is in the ink itself. Genuine original cartridges produced by the printer manufacturer use oil-based ink, whereas, compatible third-party manufactured cartridges typically use water-based ink.

What does this mean? The quality of the printing differs and the print quality you get from an original cartridge tends to be better, and some would argue, worth the extra cost. Depending on your printing needs, you might decide that this is not too much of an issue but if you are printing photographs on photo paper or images on plain paper, it is worth spending that little bit more to get the best quality out of this type of printing.

Printing an important document like your CV? You also might want to spend the little bit extra as first impressions are extremely important and you don’t want to be remembered as the person whose CV was hard to read.

Other differences and drawbacks of purchasing a compatible ink cartridge include:

  • The chip not being recognised – all cartridges, whether they’re original or compatible, should have a chip on them which speaks to the printer and tells the printer how much ink is left in the cartridge. As the compatible cartridge is not produced by the printer manufacturer, sometimes these chips are not recognised, meaning your printer is unable to tell you when the ink is about to run out — not the biggest risk in the world but one you might not be willing to take.

  • The cartridge not fitting properly – again, as the compatible ink cartridge is not produced by the printer manufacturer, the size can differ and you can end up trying to force your new compatible ink cartridge into your printer or even find it is too small and it won’t stay in place — eek!

Your final decision …

It’s completely up to you, you need to outweigh the risks involved in buying original vs compatible and whether, in that mad dash moment of needing to get your document printed ‘right NOW!’, you can afford to buy an ink cartridge that will potentially not be recognised by your printer or maybe even fit, leading you to have to go back and buy the original — big waste of money?

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