Discount Toner Cartridges - A Real Bargain?
Discount toner cartridges for your laser printer, photocopier, or fax machine offer tempting savings over the manufacturer's cartridges. But are discount toner cartridges just as good? Let's look at some of the pros and cons of those inexpensive toner cartridge deals...
Should You Buy Discount Toner Cartridges?
Before you start counting the money you'll save on those cheap no-name replacement toner cartridges, consider these questions. Will they print as many copies? Do they leave streaks or spots in your printouts? Will they leak, damaging your expensive device? Will they work at all in your late-model device?
Printer manufacturers make most of their profits off toner cartridges, just as safety razor vendors make most of their money from sales of replacement blades. So manufacturers go to great lengths to protect their monopoly on replacement toner cartridges. But that hasn't stopped discount toner cartridge makers.
Recycling is the key to making affordable toner cartridges. Third-party remanufacturers take in empty toner cartridges (often paying consumers for them), clean them, replace worn parts, and refill them with dry toner. This recycling is good for the environment and excellent for your pocketbook; a recycled toner cartridge can cost as little as 20 per cent of a new OEM (original equipment manufacturer) cartridge's street price.
OEMs have tried legal means to stop refurbishing of their empty toner cartridges. Lately, they've tried adding programmable microchips to toner cartridges and charging recyclers with unauthorized circumvention of copy-protection under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The chips are programmed to detect toner levels and tell the printer that a toner cartridge is "empty". Then the printer will refuse to print from the "empty" cartridge. (Incidentally, it is not uncommon for such a chip to read "empty" when up to 15 per cent of the cartridge's toner still remains.) Recyclers have to hack the chip to reset it to "full" when they refill a cartridge. That is the DMCA violation that OEMs have tried to claim; fortunately for consumers, it has not worked in many cases. But some toner cartridges are not available through recyclers for this reason.
Making it hard to open, refill, and properly reseal a toner cartridge is another OEM trick to discourage competition. The plugs that fill the hole through which toner powder is poured may be designed to go in once and not come out without destroying the fitting. Recyclers find various ways around such barriers, with varying effectiveness. If a refilled toner cartridge leaks it will create a mess in your printer that is difficult to clean up, at the least. At worst, it can damage the printer beyond repair.
All discount toner cartridge makers offer a guarantee, but it typically covers only the replacement cost of the recycled cartridge. Damage to the printer is your problem.
Exceptionally cheap toner cartridges may not be properly refurbished. The care with which a recycler cleans the toner cartridge can have a large impact on printout quality. Uneven dispensing of toner through blocked nozzles can leave white streaks through text or dump blotches of grey or black on your pages. A good refurbishment job includes replacement of several springs in the cartridge that control toner distribution. Ask a discount toner cartridge supplier what is done to bring the used cartridge up to original OEM specs.
My advice is to do your homework before buying a discount toner cartridge. Search online forums to see if others have successfully used third-party cartridges with your specific printer, copier or fax machine. Look for cartridge suppliers that have an excellent online reputation, and don't forget that there may be a local business that offers cartridge refills. Dealing with a real person who has knowledge and experience in this field might save you time and trouble in the long run.
Have you purchased a discount toner cartridge? Post a comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 25 Feb 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Discount Toner Cartridges - A Real Bargain? (Posted: 25 Feb 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved