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Compatible or Genuine?

Tuesday, 10 November 2015  |  CLO

Why - you might ask - is there a market for compatible ink cartridges at all?

The printer manufacturers make their real profits on the ink. Modern printers are sophisticated bits of electronic machinery with a remarkable technology behind them, and the makers are quite willing to sell them to us for cost plus a little. The kind of inkjet printer that most people have at home, and which are used by countless small businesses, are really as cheap as chips.  And the cartridges that come with them are often only starter cartridges with a few drips of ink in them.

After a few pages, with a printer crying out for replacement cartridges, the cost of new ink is usually accompanied by a sharp intake of breath. For that is where the manufacturers will make their money.  It has been estimated that printer ink can cost anywhere between £500 and £1,500 per litre depending on who is doing the maths.  With a litre of water or petrol just over the £1 mark, some commentators reckon printer ink is the most expensive liquid you can buy.

Printer ink is not a new, experimental - and therefore costly - formulation, and is easily produced by the chemicals industry without any significantly expensive component.   Whilst different in nearly every way technically, toner cartridges are equally cheap to produce.

And it is with these consumables that the manufacturers make their enormous profits. And it is because of this that the aftermarket exists, and that the production of compatible or remanufactured (refilled) products exists.

However, it is against the law (virtually globally) for the manufacturers to prevent us using non-original consumables.  All sorts of things pop up in life for users of non originals, but would we ever suggest that these obstacles are put in the way on purpose? !!

So what are the pros and cons?


a)  are original.  Well, some people like having a brand.
b)  are almost certainly going to work (but not always).
c)  are designed for the machine, and if used for high end photographic or textual finish, might have the edge.  For expensive colour prints, this is the case, for sure, and colour calibration is something ordinary users don't have to know about.
d)  are de facto more expensive, sometimes hideously so.


a)  can give "not recognised" problems, usually solvable.  (See other blogs on solving printer and cartridge problems).
b)  can be rendered useless by firmware updates.  (Never accept a firmware update change if you can avoid it).
c) can sometimes just be made so cheaply that they fail.  Never buy from a company that won't guarantee or replace.
d)  more often than not give exactly the same quality.  Ink is, after all, ink.

e) are SO SO much cheaper that you'd have to be pretty stubborn or pretty rich not to consider them. Many people are of course. But if you're not, don't be had by the clever marketing or warranty threats of the manufacturers - join millions of people saving money on their printer inks.