Frequently Asked Questions: Ink & Toner Cartridges

Every office and most homes have a printer, but finding the right solution can be exhausting and confusing.  We have a great Ink & Toner Finder on our online catalog to find the exact cartridge you need for your specific model of printer, but how do you know that you are getting the best solution?

We are always here to answer questions and to go over your situation to make sure that you are getting the right products and the right pricing to fit your office’s needs.  Below are some of the most often asked questions that we hear, with some information that we hope will help you out.

What is the difference between ink and toner?

Ink cartridges are smaller and contain a liquid ink.  Since printing with ink is a relatively simple process, inkjet printers are typically smaller, cheaper, printers used in homes and small businesses.  While ink cartridges are usually cheaper than toner cartridges they have a much lower page yield, causing them to be less economical for office settings.  Another drawback is that inkjet printers are usually not manufactured to be repaired, and getting replacement parts could be more expensive than buying a new printer.

Toner cartridges are larger and contain a powdered ink pigment.  LaserJet printers are typically larger and more expensive than inkjet printers because the complex process of transferring the powdered pigment to the paper you are printing.  Unlike inkjet printers, laserjet printer parts are readily available from manufacturers, making repairs easy and stretching the life of the printer.  Toner cartridges are typically more expensive than ink cartridges but they have high page yields, causing the cost to print to be much lower and more economical for office settings.

What is the difference between OEM, Compatible and Remanufactured toners?  Which is better?

Original Equipment Manufacturer (better known as “OEM”) cartridges are typically referred to as “new” cartridges because they contain all new components.  These are name brand inks and toners produced by the same manufacturer as your printer (for example – HP, Lexmark and Dell).  As you might expect, OEM toners are the most expensive, but they are designed to work flawlessly with your specific model of printer.

Compatible cartridges are produced by a manufacturer other than the maker of your printer.  Remanufactured (also known as “Reman”) cartridges are made using pieces of recycled cartridges that have only been used once before.  While compatibles are cheaper than OEM cartridges, quality can vary significantly depending on the brand and type of cartridge you buy.  Some compatibles may not work with your printer, or may reduce the information that your printer has about the cartridge.  Compatibles in general usually have a higher rate of defective cartridges than OEM cartridges.

Our owners have talked extensively with our suppliers of compatible cartridges and are very selective about what brands and cartridges we offer.  Our compatible toners are a great option for cutting costs without cutting quality, and each cartridge is backed by a factory warranty.

What does page yield mean?  Is it better to get the extended yield cartridge?

Page yield is used to measure the approximate number of pages (at approximately 5% coverage per page) that you should be able to print with one cartridge.  Just like average MPG in cars, page yield is important to consider when selecting a printer and subsequent cartridges, but your specific conditions will cause page yield to vary.  Higher quality prints and bold texts will result in a lower page yield, and printing pages with minimal coverage will result in a higher page yield.  Why worry about page yield?  Besides its use in comparing cartridge options, it’s important to know the average life of cartridges in your office so you know when to order replacements without running out first.

Some cartridge models have extended yield options that are bigger and have higher page yields.  Most customers choose the high yield option to save money, but it is important to verify compatibility with your model of printer since some printers are not manufactured to handle the size of high yield toners.

What happens when my cartridge doesn’t work?  How can I tell if my cartridge is defective?

Whether you buy OEM or compatible cartridges, there is a chance that you will receive a defective cartridge.  While some cartridges are clearly defective (arriving with broken parts or leaking), other defects in printing could be due to several other factors.  Because the process of printing toner is so complex, there are multiple parts that affect the quality of the printed page.  Usually error codes or warning messages will let you know if another part needs to be replaced (most often the drum, fuser or maintenance kit).  Marks and lines on the printed page can also result from a low toner.  To see if this is the issue, try taking it out and shaking it.  If this resolves the problem, it is time to order a new cartridge as your toner is simply close to empty.

In many cases, the toner may simply be defective and a new toner will resolve your problems.  We have a generous return policy and will replace defective toners as soon as possible.  Once we confirm the toner is defective, we will issue a full credit for the toner.

What is a drum unit? Where is it and how do I know to replace it?

The toner cartridge actually sits inside of the drum unit, and toner pigment is transferred from the cartridge to the drum, which is then transferred to the page being printed.  Since the drum is the part that actually picks up toner pigment to form the image, any defects or damage to the drum will show as errors on the pages you print.  Just like your cartridge, drums need to be replaced over time.  A good rule of thumb is that your drum should be replaced for about every three toner cartridges you go through.

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