Business Buyers Guide – Toner Cartridges – Originals vs Compatibles

Basically you’ve got three options when stocking up on toner cartridges for your laser printer:

  1. Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) – made by the printer manufacturer
  2. Compatible toner cartridge – made by a 3rd party with all new compatible parts
  3. Remanufactured toner cartridge – a reconditioned OEM cartridge that is refilled

Pros and cons of using Original Toner

+ OEM toner cartridges have been designed by the manufacturer for their specific printers and without a doubt give the best quality prints with the lowest failure rates.

The costs can be higher than compatibles or remanufactured cartridges and they’re sometimes perceived to be less environmentally friendly than a reconditioned alternative.

Which option is right for your business?

On the face of it, it seems clear; if you’re not too fussed about quality go for the cheaper compatible/remanufactured cartridges and if you want reliable, quality prints opt for OEM.

HOWEVER, if you dig a little deeper you might just change your mind …

All of our office printers are HP, so out of curiosity I took a closer look at some of the key factors mentioned above to see if HP Original Toner did reliably produce better quality prints and if compatible/remanufactured cartridges were significantly cheaper, here’s what I found:


For reliability there are four main considerations:

–         Cartridges that arrive and are unusable

–         A cartridge runs out earlier than it should

–         Print quality so poor that the pages have limited use or are completely unusable

–         Print cartridges that leak or cause damage to your printer

We use original HP toner and I’ve never experienced any of the problems above, so whilst I can say that I believe HP toners to be extremely reliable, it’s hardly a great frame of reference. So the next time our HP rep came into the office I badgered her as to why HP Toner was better, after all their tagline is “Original HP Toner – It Pays You Back”.

I expected some facts and figures alongside marketing waffle but what I actually got was a comprehensive study that convincingly demonstrated why original HP toner is more reliable. I won’t go into all of the details here (you can read the full study for yourselves) but the summary concluded “HP LaserJet print cartridges exhibited no reliability failures in the study, compared to an average of 41.7% for the non HP toner cartridges tested.”


The same study mentioned above also looked at the quality of printed pages. They looked at a sample of pages taken at periodic intervals over the lifespan of each cartridge and found that “original HP toner printed an average of 97% of sample pages which categorised as acceptable for all uses, compared to an average of 61% for the non-HP toner

Printing documents for your own reference, or even for informal use internally, doesn’t require top notch print quality every time; but as we try and cut down on waste paper this kind of printing is becoming less common anyway. Printing invoices for suppliers, slides for a meeting or letters for customers all require consistent print quality and, unless you have a different printer just for these occasions or take the trouble to switch toners out, the best way to ensure consistent quality is with Original HP Toner.


I took a look at the HP LaserJet Pro 100 colour MFP M175nw, specifically for replacing the black cartridge. The required toner was the HP 126A. To buy the toner on its own on our website costs £34.21, to buy a compatible non HP cartridge cost on average £25.66*. So initially yes it did look cheaper to buy the compatible.


For me it has to be Original HP Toner every time as I often print documents that are going to be sent externally and that’s just for black and white printing. Colour lasers have even more going on inside, with four different toner cartridges mixing colours to print on the same page.

And if the reliability and quality studies weren’t convincing enough, the price  you can get the Original HP Toner for when you buy the dual packs and find a good offer make it an even easier decision.

The only point I haven’t covered here is the environmental aspect, I asked our HP rep about this too, and again I was bombarded by a mountain of information about the lengths that HP go to reduce their own and their customers ecological footprint, keep an eye out for a follow up post that will argue that HP Original Toner is actually better for the environment …

*Prices checked on uktonercartridges,, on 21st June 2012.

** Cost of dual pack is £61.32 ex VAT on 21st June 2012, multiply by 2 to give £122.64 ex VAT/£147.17 inc VAT . Less £15 cash back from HP to give £110.14 ex VAT/ £132.17 inc VAT, total for each toner is £27.54