Go back

A Little Thing That Does A Lot

A Little Thing That Does A Lot
By Simon Williams
May 10, 2018

The printer cartridge is such a little thing that we all take for granted. Until it needs to be replaced.  Then you have a choice; take the safe route and replace it with an Original Printer Cartridge or go for an alternative.

To help you with your vital decision we’ll take a look at the Pros and Cons of each for both Inkjet Cartridges and, later, Toner Cartridges. Let’s start by looking at an Inkjet Cartridge, and how it works.

How An Inkjet Cartridge Works

Although an Inkjet printer cartridge may look like little more than a plastic box it is, as you have seen, a wonder of high technology resulting from intensive, and expensive, research coupled with precision, miniaturised manufacturing. With tolerances measured in microns, any deviation means that the cartridge will fail to work properly and can ruin your printer.

With nozzles, and thousands of them in a printhead, smaller in diameter than a human hair, the ink must be matched exactly to the printhead to avoid clogging or leaking. It’s a very fine balancing act indeed.

When it’s time to replace an inkjet cartridges you have three choices; an Original Printer Cartridge, a compatible printer cartridge, or refilling an existing printer cartridge. But before we start looking at the strengths and weaknesses of each choice a quick word of warning.

Some printers are sold new with a set of inkjet cartridges already installed. These are usually setup cartridges and produce only a relatively few pages before they need to be replaced. A replacement cartridge will always print far more pages than a setup cartridge. To think that replacing a printer rather than a cartridge is very much a false economy.

So let’s look at the strengths and weaknesses of the three options.

The Original Inkjet Printer Cartridge has a lot of strengths.

If you want to print the most number of pages before it needs to be replaced then this is your first choice. Independent tests have consistently shown that the page yield from an Original Inkjet Printer Cartridge is higher than that of compatibles.

All Original Ink Printer Cartridges are manufactured and tested to meet the ISO/IEC Standard 24711. This International Standard measures the page yield of Inkjet Printer Cartridges and any cartridge must meet that standard. This means that you are assured that the Original Inkjet Printer Cartridge will print at least the number of pages specified.


This chart from UK based Compatible Cartridge and Original Printer Cartridge supplier Stinkyink, shows the independent test results of Compatible Printer Cartridges against Original Cartridges. It shows clearly that, in many cases, an Original Printer Cartridge will outperform its equivalent Compatible Printer Cartridge.

Developing ink cartridge technology is expensive and ongoing. HP, for example, spend nearly 5% of their total annual printer consumables revenue on R&D. This has resulted in huge advances in print quality and longevity. HP has come a long way since its first ink jet printer came out in 1985. At that time that state-of-the-art unit had 12 nozzles in the print head and fired droplets at a rate of 10,000 per second. Today’s print heads use thousands of nozzles and produces ink drops at the rate of over 150 million per second.

If you want to use a cartridge that is guaranteed to work with your printer, then it makes sense to buy a cartridge that is made by the same company that made your printer. The ink formulation used by Original Inkjet Cartridges is specifically formulated to meet the technological demands. In the highly unlikely event of a cartridge failing it will be replaced under the guarantee. The ink formulation is oil based which has two advantages. An oil based ink has a longer life span than a water based ink. Your prints will remain more vibrant and the colours brighter than a water based ink. Any ink remaining in the cartridge when its printing days are over can be recovered with Ethical Recycling and re-applied to other uses. This makes them more environmentally friendly than its rivals.

Talking of environmental friendliness most new Original Inkjet Cartridges contain ethically recycled plastics made from old printer cartridges, plastic water bottles and other plastics that have been ground down to make new plastic. This reduces the dependence on non-renewable resources and gives the planet a longer lifespan and makes far more sense than just burying it in landfill where it will remain for between 500 and 1000 years.

Ethical recycling is a more complex process than ordinary recycling as a printer cartridge contains a number of different materials that need to be separated. A Waste Transfer Station is not equipped to do this work. With that complexity in Ethical Recycling comes additional costs however, but the Original Printer Cartridge Manufacturers pay that additional cost to improve the environment.

To some the higher price of an Original Inkjet Printer Cartridges may be a downside, but when you add up the benefits of an Original Inkjet Printer Cartridge they minimise the price differential. Although some top price Compatible Cartridges offer a guarantee, most don’t. The lower in price you go – the lower the quality. A No-Name brand means no responsibility either.

The Compatible inkjet printer cartridge may look tempting at first because of its lower price. Compatible cartridges vary enormously in price with some being very cheap at first glance. But, as usual, you get what you pay for. The more you pay the better the result. But no matter how much you pay for a compatible cartridge it will not perform as well as an Original Printer Cartridge. Some resellers will say that their compatible cartridges are made to ISO Standard 9000. Don’t be misled by this. This standard applies only to their internal quality control programs. It has nothing to do with the performance of the product. The measure of performance is ISO/IEE 24711 and I have never seen a Compatible inkjet printer cartridge that quotes this standard as their measure. They merely make the claim that it “will print the same number, or more pages, than the Original”. But they produce no evidence that this is true, merely pointing to the page yield of the Original Printer Cartridge.

I know from personal experience that Compatible inkjet printer cartridges do not perform as well as their Original counterpart.

An example of the problem we're looking at is the aftermarket cartridges for the HP Officejet 8600. These printers have print heads built in which are not available to purchase.  The print heads have been designed to last the life of the printer and will work perfectly when used with genuine cartridges. However, I used a set of compatible inks a couple of years ago to test them. The first couple of pages seemed to work OK. Soon after this though the colours started washing away, they were nowhere near as vibrant as before. After several more pages the black was the first colour to go, it soon became grey and had empty lines through the print. When I tried to clean the print heads it didn't seem to work at all and after a few more goes the printer stopped working all together. I then ran a report to see what life was left in the cartridges and was shocked to see that the yellow/ black print head had stopped working and needed to be replaced.

A call to HP to ask about these print heads and was told very quickly that they couldn't be purchased. The printer was now junk.

Where the Original Cartridge manufacturers spend billions of dollars a year to continually enhance the performance of their cartridges, the Compatible Cartridge manufacturers spend virtually nothing. They are always playing catch up and their products can be several generations behind the Original Cartridge when it comes to performance.

When it comes to preserving the environment there is another huge difference. Whilst all the Original Printer Cartridge Manufacturers pay to have their products ethically recycled, no Compatible cartridge manufacturer pay for this service. Some resellers make a token effort to promote the service but all they are doing is taking a free ride on the coat tails of the Original Cartridge Manufacturers.

Refilled Inkjet Printer Cartridge is the cheapest option, especially if you have the time, and are prepared for the mess it can create, to refill it yourself. The primary reason is that all you are getting is an injection of ink into an existing cartridge. If you buy a refilled cartridge you have no idea of the state of the donor cartridge. You have no idea of the quality of the ink either. You can be certain that it is not produced to the quality of Original Ink and possibly not even to that of compatible ink. This makes it the most risky of all the options.

Should you decide to refill it yourself be prepared for the amount of time it takes and the mess it creates. It is, at best, a twenty step operation with most steps giving scope for error. I have seen videos that give hacks to rectify any errors and they take, at best, hours, or at worst, days to complete. If they are not rectified and the cartridge put back into the printer, you will have one trashed printer on your hands.


So there you have it. These are your three options when it comes to replacing an inkjet printer cartridge. You can but an Original Printer Cartridge and know exactly what you are getting; a cartridge that is guaranteed to work with your printer that is backed by solid research and innovation, that performs to a set of international standards and that its Ethical Disposal is provided for when it finally runs out.

You can save a few dollars by using a Compatible Printer Cartridge that is not as technologically advanced as its counterpart, that may or may not perform to the expected level and that makes zero contribution to its ethical disposal. Or you can take the extreme risk of buying a refilled printer cartridge that has ink mof an unkown quality and poses a threat to your printer.