Genuine vs Compatible Ink Cartridges

Written by on

The battle continues to rage over the differences between genuine brand name cartridges and the non genuine (generic) cartridges. So many articles have been written on the subject and still the average consumer seems to be undecided as to which is the best in regards to both print quality, overall costs as well as making sure their beloved printer is not compromised.

Definition of a Compatible Cartridge

A compatible or Generic ink cartridge is basically a copy of the genuine brand name cartridge which has been manufactured by a third party. Although there are hundreds of companies producing compatible cartridges some of the more common generic brands include Q-image, Calidad, Print-Rite and Q inks.

We (Ink Hub) have ran extensive tests over the years with all major brands of non genuine inks and we believe that our own brand that we have been retailing since 2007 is by far the most reliable and highest quality cartridge on the market today. 

The main areas of concern with generic cartridges are compatibility, print quality, page yield and the actual quality of the cartridge moulding. If any of these qualities are not there then problems of one kind or another will occur. These problems include ink leakage, poor print quality and yield, jamming or not fitting correctly in the printer and cartridges "Not being Recognised".

The Advantages of using Generic Cartridges

The obvious advantage of a compatible cartridge is the low price. On average a non genuine cartridge is between 40 - 90% cheaper than it's brand name equivalent. Not only are they cheaper but almost all of the time the generic cartridge will contain considerably more ink than the genuine brand name cartridge.

Compatible ink cartridges are mostly water based and consist of pigments or dyes to achieve the individual colours as well as the black. Genuine inks on the other hand are oil based. This can be a problem if you are printing invoices etc as water based inks dry immediately where as oil based inks can take considerably longer to dry and they tend to smudge easily if the documents are handled before they have time to dry. 

Disadvantages of using Compatible Ink Cartridges

The only disavantage of a generic ink (to my knowledge) is when it comes to high levels of UV exposure. We have performed stringent tests between the brand and non brand cartridges and exposed them to full sunlight (taped to a window) over a period of several months.

There was a greater deterioration in the prints using compatible inks as compared to those using brand name inks. This however wouldnt be an issue for the majority of consumers as most printed images and documents recieve minimum UV exposure. 

In an independant study done on print quality between genuine and non genuine cartridges the Generic cartridges actually rated higher. Yes you read correctly that the cheaper non genuine inks actually rated higher for print quality than the more expensive name brand cartridges. You can see the results here - Comparisons between compatible and genuine cartridges.

What to look for when shopping online

One thing I still find amazing is the number of people who shop online and never bother to check the reputation of a retailer before making a purchase. It takes literally minutes to Google a companies "Reviews" and see what past customers experiences have been. This is especially important when purchasing any "Generic" product as the quality differences can be massive.

Other important factors include the Guarantee which comes with the product as well as the security of the website. Does the website have a phone number and a physical address? No, then be warned as any legitimate online store will have no reason to not supply these details. 

In more recent times a crucial factor to consider if you own a Brother, HP or Epson printer is wether your supplier keeps up to date with printer firmware changes. Firmware updates are common practice nowadays and once they are installed your printer most likely will not recognise your generic cartridges. We recommend turning OFF all printer software updates to stop this from occuring. Also if your cartridge supplier is reputable they will always stock the very latest chip updated cartridges to avoid compatibility issues from occuring.

Will Compatible Cartridges damge my Printer?

I wish I had a dollar for everytime I've been asked this question. The answer is a definite NO! Unless you buy a cheap, low grade cartridge which has been really poorly moulded then it's almost impossible for a generic cartridge to damage your printer.

The next most popular question is "Will compatibles void my printer Warranty?". Once again the answer is a definite NO. It is illegal for any company to void your warranty for using a generic cartridge.

In over 8 years of dealing with generic cartridges I am yet to hear of any instance of a generic cartridge damaging a printer. Unfortunately many sales people that sell printers will be quick to point the blame at a non genuine cartridge if an issue occurs. Most sales people however have very little idea of what causes a printer to fail and so it is easier to simply blame the cartridges rather than the cheap and nasty printer.

Let me make one final point which I believe is very relevant. The modern Inkjet Printer no matter what brand is no longer a quality product but a throw away item. Dont believe me? On average most modern Inkjet Printers have a lifespan of 2 years at the most. I am talking about 2 solid years of printing and that is about all you will get from them regardless of the initial cost. 

The actual printhead is usually the first component to fail and once this occurs simply bin the printer and grab a new one. The modern printheads are made to a very low standard and due to their delicate nature they rarely last more than a few years. Often they fail sooner.

It makes no difference whatsoever to the printheads lifespan as to wether you use generic or brand name cartridges. My advice when shopping for an Inkjet Printer is to NEVER spend more than $100 on one as you can buy a fancy $200+ unit which still uses the same fragile printhead and will still fail after the same amount of use. 

Take a look at this video to learn more about the operation of an Inkjet Printer and how to maintain a healthy printhead.  

Last update: Oct 10, 2016

Dean Michael

Owner of Ink Hub Australia Dean has been in the printer consumables industry since early 2007. In a competitive field such as print consumables many companies have come and gone but Ink Hub continues to grow and provide quality products and service. Dean's hobbies include fishing, web design, ham radio, travel, the beach, fast cars and family.