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Printer Cartridges 101

Apr 12th 2021

If you’re in the market for replacement cartridges for your printer, you may be confused by all the options available from retailers and online sellers. Guess what? You’re not alone. Many shoppers find it hard to tell the differences between the products offered. The purpose of this brief tutorial is to arm you with the information you need to make educated decisions regarding the purchase of your replacement printer cartridges.

What Type of Printer Do You Have?

Laser Printers/Toner

Laser printers are typically found in high print volume environments (corporate and home offices). Shoppers can purchase color or monotone (black only) laser printers. 

“Toner” refers to the replacement cartridges used in laser printers. The high page yield characteristic of toner cartridges makes them the more economical option for high volume printing.

InkJet Printers/Ink

Inkjet printers are commonly found in homes where printing is done for personal or student use in low volumes. Inkjet printers are usually color printers.

“Ink” refers to the replacement cartridges used in inkjet printers. The cost of inkjet cartridges makes them a good option for lower print volumes.

What Are Your Options For Replacement Printer Cartridges?

Option 1: OEM - High Cost, Premium Quality

Original Equipment Manufacturer cartridges, referred to as OEM, are new cartridges produced by the same companies that manufacture your printer (HP, Brother, Canon, etc.). Most shoppers are very familiar with OEM cartridges, which are sold in retail stores (Staples, Best Buy, etc.) and online. OEM cartridges have strict quality control, are reliable, and use high end ink. In terms of cost, OEM cartridges are priced at a premium. The high price of OEM cartridges led to the creation of “after-market” products, which serve as lower cost options for shoppers. Those options include Remanufactured and New Build Compatible cartridges.

Option 2: Remanufactured - Decent Cost, Good Quality

Remanufactured cartridges, often referred to as “Remans” are OEM cartridges that have gone through an extensive “reconditioning process”. The reconditioning process involves cleaning, refilling, and testing the product to ensure that it is nearly identical in quality to the new OEM version. Reman cartridges are a reliable, cost-effective alternative to new OEM cartridges. Reman products are sold under many brands (ex. TRU RED and Supplies Outlet) and are readily available online. The one drawback to reman cartridges is that since they are recycled cartridges, their availability may vary based on market flow and demand.

Option 3: New Build Compatible - Great Cost, Good Quality, Best Value

New Build Compatible cartridges, often referred to as “Compatibles”, are typically manufactured in Asia and sold by many brands (ex. Supplies Outlet and Xerox Everyday). Compatibles ink and toner is new cartridges that have small, structural differences from their OEM alternatives to ensure the OEM patents are not violated. The quality of these is highly regulated both by the sellers and manufactured so they are in many cases just as good of quality as the OEM version. Compatible cartridges are priced significantly lower than OEM and Reman products and are sold online by many companies. If you choose to purchase compatible cartridges, make sure the company has positive customer reviews and offers a warranty. offers a large selection of OEM, Remanufactured and New Build Compatible ink and toner. Click here to compare options for your printer model.