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A guide to buying printer toner cartridges

desk business printer
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If you’ve got printers at your office or home, you’d know about the importance of selecting suitable toner cartridges. Your printer may not work properly if you get the wrong cartridge. Irrespective of whether you’re getting a new printer or need to buy a toner cartridge for your existing printer, you must know how to select the right one.

This guide explains how to find the correct printer toner cartridges either at office supply retail or online stores.

Ink vs. toner cartridges

The first thing to check for is whether you need an ink cartridge or a toner cartridge. Most people think both are the same, but there’s a difference between the two.

Ink cartridges primarily contain black or dark-colored liquid ink and are exclusively used in inkjet printers. On the other hand, toner cartridges have a dry powder consisting of microplastic particles used in laser printers.

Hence, before buying a cartridge, you need to check what type of printer you have. If you have an inkjet printer, then you’ll be purchasing the ink cartridge. If you’ve got laser printers, pick toner cartridges.

An inkjet printer costs less than a laser printer, but the latter offers better picture quality and faster printing.

Know your model

Before buying the cartridge, you must know about the printer manufacturer and model. Suppose you’re using an HP printer; you must have information about the model because each printer is designed to work differently. The printer and the print head designs are sophisticatedly different.

For example, thermal inkjet printers heat the nozzles before blowing out the ink into the surface. This working mechanism is different from Piezo-electric inkjets that use electric current to crystal for printing purposes.

Therefore, you cannot use the cartridges interchangeably without running into printing errors. In some cases, a cartridge of a different model won’t even fit into the printer because of varying shapes.

OEM or compatible or remanufactured

When you’re in the market for buying toner cartridges, you will find two types. One is the OEM, and the second type is compatible. OEM or Original Equipment Manufacturer is developed by the company that made the printer. So, if HP makes a toner cartridge, it’s an OEM.

On the other hand, compatible cartridges are developed by a third-party vendor. These toner cartridges should be compatible with the printer model. The difference, however, is in price.

Compatible cartridges cost less than their OEM counterparts. But you must ensure that the manufacturing company approves these compatible models. If not, then you’re at risk.

The last type is the remanufactured toner cartridge. These are made from discarded or old cartridge parts. In other words, they are refurbished. Because of this, they might be of lower quality with no warranty.

Check quality

When buying toner cartridges, you should check the quality of the toner. While it’s impossible to gauge the quality of a toner cartridge without using it in a printer, you can read the reviews. Users who have already used the cartridge leave a review about it. You can go through these to get a good idea of the quality.

As a rule of thumb, OEM toners offer better quality than compatible toners, and they’re priced higher. But the difference in quality, for the most part, is impalpable.

Inspect page yield

Another factor you should consider when buying toners is the page yield. It is an estimate of the number of pages you can print out with the cartridge. If the page yield is 50 pages, then you can print on 50 pages before refilling it for further use. Most manufacturers label their toners as “high yield” or “low yield.” Ideally, you should purchase high-yield cartridges that are cost-effective.

When to refill toner cartridges

If you work with laser printers regularly, then you should know when to refill the toners. You’ll get the information in the label or the printer manual. Based on the volume of the toner, you’ll have to refill them accordingly. You can either refill the cartridge yourself or get it done by a refilling service provider.

In some cases, it’s better to get a new cartridge than refilling it. That’s because the print quality might be lower after refilling. Users have also complained of leakages. Moreover, it’s a mess to work with microscopic powder. That’s why it’s worth spending a few dollars extra and getting a new cartridge instead.

If you’re buying printer toner cartridges from online vendors, it’s essential to check the reputation. Since you have no way to examine the toner’s authenticity when purchasing online, you must buy from a reputed company. Check for their return policy and ensure they accept returns if you receive a faulty or incompatible toner cartridge.


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