In the age of advanced electronics, incredible but everyday technological devices tend to go underappreciated. Still, as hard as it may be to impress someone surrounded by wireless chargers and 4K TV screens, the humble printer cartridge remains a strikingly complex piece of engineering.
The sophistication of a printer toner cartridge allows it to carry out incredibly difficult physical processes reliably, despite being mass-produced and delivered to virtually every office in the country. That’s one reason why knock-off toner cartridge replacements have proven so unsatisfying: They just can’t measure up to that type of quality control. It’s not just about print quality, though—it’s about getting the bang for your toner buck and minimizing potential harm to the environment.
It’s a cliché, but it’s true: When it comes to toner carts, you get what you pay for.
1. Toner cartridge quality equals enhanced print quality
If you compared the quality of a print job done with two separate cartridges, you’d likely see some obvious differences—the cartridge’s ability to provide a uniform stream of toner to the printhead is noticeably different between original and third-party toner. When nozzles remain clear and toner is mixed to be completely uniform in its chemistry, the result is more reliable print quality, both for simple text and high-fidelity colour images.
The quality of a first-party toner cartridge from a trusted company, like HP, has as much to do with the number of uses it can get as it does with the quality of any particular print job. Many companies might be willing to accept blurrier images or wavy text if it meant real, long-term savings, but the reality is knock-off toner cartridges tend to clog or run out more quickly than expected. Also, the number of pages printed per cartridge will more powerfully affect toner budgets than the price of each individual one.
When you need to replace your toner cartridges, it’s important to always either buy through an official seller or make sure you’re actually getting the real thing. The alternative is a subpar printing experience across the board.
2. Like all office supplies, better tech leads to improved reliability
Knock-off toner cartridges aren’t just less reliable in their print quality—they’re less reliable in their build quality, too. Companies that manufacture them often make dozens or hundreds of other knock-off products; they’re anything but specialists. When it comes to physical quality and inspection, they don’t have either the expertise or the commitment to their customers to ensure the best print quality every time.
On top of that, knock-off toner cartridges may say they’re compatible with your name-brand printer, but they’re prone to breakage. Not only are they less reusable, but when they reach the end of their lifecycle, they are more likely to physically break rather than simply stop working properly. Instead of an error message, third-party toner carts can release toner inside the printer itself—one of the more difficult fixes in the office.
3. Printer toner specialists design superior products
You’ll want to stick with a company focused on the printing space, because they have an incentive to always provide the best product possible. For example, HP’s printers and toner cartridges are its oldest major legacy business, and while the company has branched out significantly since then, it still makes up a huge proportion of the company’s business—and its reputation.
It’s not a coincidence that companies with a less profound dependence on toner carts also prioritize the tech behind them less highly. The association is clear: Companies with a reason to produce a top-quality product will do so, and those without that incentive won’t.
4. Responsible construction results in responsible disposal
Some major print vendors, like HP, also prioritize a green production cycle for their cartridges, including recycling for reuse and safe disposal for those that have already been used too many times. Recycling programs have vastly decreased the volume of cartridges entering landfills, helping to make the industry more sustainable overall. But third-party construction is often too flimsy to allow nearly as many cycles of reuse, swelling the numbers in dumps and beyond.
Printing will always be an inherently physical task—a physical deposition of ink or toner onto physical pages. That said, there will never be an “open source” toner option that can measure up to the true first-party line of products. The biggest challenge for IT is helping the higher-ups remember that fact.