Buying the Right Ink & Toner
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Buying the Right Ink & Toner

Depending on the type of printer you have or are looking to purchase, understanding the basics about ink and toners will help you in the long run. The safe approach is to take into consideration the manufacturers recommendation based on the type of printer you have or are considering buying. Most of the printers sold today are color inkjet or black-and-white laser printers. Both create sharp printouts and offer a variety of options for cartridge replacements. But know that you have options and the more you know, the smarter the shopper you will be.

All About ink and toner cartridges

Ink cartridges are usually less expensive and offer color printing at an affordable price. Ink cartridges are designed to spray ink on a sheet of paper, producing high-quality text and graphics. Depending on the manufacturer and model of the printer, ink cartridges come in a variety of combinations -- some use a single, four-color cartridge that includes black, some use a tri-color cartridge and a separate black one, and still others use totally separate tanks for each color (an economical choice if you do a lot of color printing).

Toner is a special type of ink used by laser printers. Housed in a metal container, it consists of a dry, powdery substance designed to stick to a piece of paper. Most toner comes in a cartridge that you insert into the printer. When the cartridge is empty, you can replace it or have it refilled. Toner cartridges that once used to be primarily in black are now in color as well.

Do you know what CYMK stands for? If you guessed Cyan (Blue), Yellow, Magenta and Black, you're right! You'll see those colors often when buying inks and toners. The right combination of all four colors produces every possible color imaginable!

Brand name, generic, or remanufactured?

While your options are varied, before purchasing your cartridge replacement, always make sure it is compatible with your printer. Whenever possible, it is best to have the brand and model number handy to ensure compatibility. People often don't think about replacing their cartridge until the ink or toner runs out, so it's always a good idea to plan ahead and purchase extra cartridges to keep you from running out when you need it most.

  • Brand Name ink and toner cartridges - As the name implies, these cartridges are manufactured by the original makers of your printer and are a safe bet for quality and compatibility.
  • Generic ink and toner cartridges - These are brand-new cartridges that are not made by the original manufacturer of your printer but meet the same standards. These cartridges are often lower in cost and can sometimes be refilled. However, be sure to read the compatibility information before purchasing.
  • Remanufactured or Recycled - Ink and toner cartridges are units that have been refilled with ink by the re-manufacturer. Ink cartridges may also given a new print head at the time of service. If environmental conservation is your goal, remanufactured/recycled ink cartridges are an excellent option. When purchased from a reputable company exercising quality control, these cartridges can perform as good as new ones, often at a more affordable price.

Commonly asked Questions about Ink & Toner

How much printing will I get from a typical cartridge?

  • "Yield" gives average number of pages per cartridge - a page is defined as a business letter
  • Photos, charts, and graphics use much more ink than basic business letters
  • "High Yield" cartridges cost more up front, but typically last longer and may be cheaper in the long run

If I buy extra cartridges now to save money, how long can I store them?

  • Shelf-life can vary, depending upon storage conditions and each make/manufacturer
  • Typically, original, sealed packages last about 12-24 months
  • Typically, opened packages last about 3-6 months

Is there any harm in running completely dry on Ink?

  • Yes. Inkjet print heads can overheat and be ruined, and nozzles can dry, causing actual machine damage
  • It's best to replace the cartridge while there's still some ink left

Are remanufactured cartridges substantially equivalent in quality to originals?

  • Yes, once purchased from a reputable dealer - such as Office Depot
  • They are existing cartridges that are taken apart, rebuilt, and freshly refilled to ensure performance
  • These cartridges also help conserve the earth's resources

What kind of remanufactured cartridges should I look for?

  • Always choose cartridges sold by reputable dealers who guarantee product quality
  • Poorly-made cartridges can damage machines: be wary of suspicious "bargains" from companies you don't recognize

Will my machine warranty be voided if I use generic or remanufactured cartridges?

  • No. Manufacturers do not require you to use their brand-name cartridge
  • You can use any brand and still keep your warranty intact

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