Generic Toner vs Genuine Toners

By: Dane Johnson

Due to the high cost of genuine printing supplies, cheaper generic products are becoming an increasingly attractive alternative for people and organisations with high print volumes.

With printer companies stressing the importance of original manufacturer toner and the dangers of generic toners, can consumers safely use generic consumables or should we stick with consumables from the printer manufacturer?

With financial pressure at every organisation, it's important to know you're getting good value for money on your printing, and that you're not frivolously throwing money away on unnecessarily expensive toner. It's also important to make sure your printer is running at peak performance and that you don't void your equipment manufacturers warranty using inferior consumables. This article is intended to be a quick assessment to help you decide if you and your organisation should be using generic or genuine toner.

There are three things you need to know when using generic toners with your laser printer.

1. Generic toners often cannot produce the same quality you can get from genuine toners.

It's a common misconception that the quality of a print output depends on the printer itself and that the toner cartridge is simply a container that holds the liquid, or more correctly, the carbon polymer powder used for laser printing. This is simply not true. The printer is an important part, but printing technology also relies heavily on the individual cartridge and the quality of the toner.

Major printer brands spend years researching and developing their printing technology. This research involves designing the printer itself, engineering the cartridge and choosing the right toner compounds – and it’s the combination of all three of these factors that makes for brilliant printed results.

Often the manufacturer will patent components in the printer and the cartridge, and this can make it very difficult for generic cartridges to match the performance of original cartridges. Generic cartridges are unable use the same patented components without infringing the original equipment manufacturer’s registered intellectual property - and facing a potential lawsuit. This means legitimate generic cartridges will be forced to be engineered differently to the original equipment manufacturer’s patented cartridges and may not operate as efficiently. Some generic cartridges that have been designed poorly can lead to toner leaks and printer malfunctions; often these faults brought in by inferior parts will also void your manufacturers warranty and leave you responsible for all repair costs.

A genuine toner compound is also complex. It's both chemically and physically formulated by the manufacturer to be compatible with every part of the printer, including the cartridge and other components of a printer.

2. Generic toners can cost more in the long run.

Reliability matters a lot in managing your overall printing costs. When you click print, you want a smooth operation that results in a correct print, first time every time. This avoids the time and hassle of needing reprints.

A study commissioned by HP and conducted by PSB Test found that one in four remanufactured or refilled cartridges are dead on arrival or fail prematurely. Another study, the QualityLogic Monochrome Toner Reliability Study conducted in 2008 found almost 30% of pages printed from remanufactured toner cartridges were of limited or no use due to poor print quality, which lead to reprints.

This is just one of the hidden costs of using an inferior quality toner – increased paper usage and paper costs will erode any cost benefit of cheaper toner. Generic toners are also more likely to cause problems with the printer when they cannot effectively emulate patented printer technology – resulting in increased printer downtime and repair costs. And these repair costs will not be covered by the printer manufacturer warranty or support programs – as printer manufacturers may limit after sales support or warranty programs if they suspect you've been using generic toners.

Printing with generic printer consumables can be hit and miss. Printer blockages, unusable messy printouts and increased print tests are common side affects from generic toners. These are problems that are much less likely to occur using the original manufacturer's toners. Genuine toners mean you save time, use less paper and are less likely to have printer downtime and costly repairs.

3. Genuine toners help the environment.

The unsurpassed print quality that comes from genuine toner cartridges is pivotal to lower print wastage, and helping the environment. According to a HP LaserJet Cartridge Environmental Comparison study, published in October 2004, seventy percent of the environmental impact of printer cartridges comes from their use phase – and the greatest benefit comes from quality printing. A QualityLogic Monochrome Toner Reliability Study found that remanufactured toner cartridges incur a carbon footprint six times larger due to reprints.

Major printer manufacturers also all offer recycling programs for used printer cartridges, paying to dispose of your genuine toners and printers responsibly.

When print quality, overall running costs and the environment all matter, genuine laser toner cartridges made by the printer manufacturer are the best option. With genuine consumables you know exactly what you’re getting - quality, reliability and more value for your money.

If you opt to use generic ink, you not only compromise the quality of your printouts, you also end up spending more on both ink and paper. In addition, you can also forfeit the warranty attached to your printer.

Generally speaking, you're better off shopping around for cheaper genuine toner than risking a gauntlet of problems imposed by inferior toner supplies.