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A Brief Guide to Print Cartridge Terminology

When shopping for printer ink you may come across some unfamiliar terms. The three main cartridge types you’ll find are OEM, remanufactured and compatible. In this brief terminology guide, we’ll give you an overview of each of these product types and what to expect from them in terms of product performance and price value.


OEM, or Original Equipment Manufacturer, is a print cartridge that was produced by a printer manufacturer and designated to operate with one of their specific printers or printer series. For example, if you own a Canon Pixma MX870 printer then the Canon ink cartridge the company has designated as being compatible with that printer would be the OEM cartridge.

What Kind of Performance Can You Expect?

There’s no denying the consistency of performance you receive with an OEM cartridge. If you purchase a cartridge from a reputable printer manufacturer you are usually going to receive error-free prints and the full page yield. Major printer manufacturers also warranty their products so you can print with peace of mind, knowing that any defective cartridge you might receive is covered by way of a replacement or refund.

What’s the Damage?

OEM ink and toner, as you probably already know, isn’t cheap. In fact, with most printers, if you print regularly or even semi-regularly you can expect to spend more on consumables than you did for the machine. The suspiciously high price of OEM cartridges have, understandably, sent many customers to look for alternative solutions for their printing needs. Many third-party vendors sell aftermarket cartridges designed to work for a particular printer or printer series. These cartridges generally fall into two camps: remanufactured and compatible.


Remanufactured cartridges are print cartridges that, after one lifecycle, have been rebuilt or “remanufactured” to provide like-new results. Remanufactured equipment is similar to refurbished, only remanufactured entails a more thorough rebuilding process, with most of the product’s components replaced with brand new ones. Also, unlike some refurbished equipment, remanufactured products (depending on the provider) are thoroughly tested for quality and performance.

What Kind of Performance Can You Expect?

Remanufactured print cartridges can deliver results that rival that of the OEM. I say “can” because it depends on the vendor you buy from. Some companies put more money into the remanufacturing process and quality control than others. A good rule of thumb is to avoid aftermarket vendors who don’t offer a warranty on their cartridges. These vendors, more times than not, simply refill an old cartridge with some ink, without taking the time or care to check the circuitry and replace any worn parts.

Warrantied cartridges from a reputable vendor, however, will provide you with results comparable to the original cartridge. Your images may not be quite as sharp and vibrant, but if you’re printing primarily text-only documents you shouldn’t experience any noticeable difference in quality whatsoever.

What’s the Damage?

Remanufactured cartridges typically cost only a fraction of what you’d pay for its original counterpart. There are several reasons for this. The main reason is that the cost to create these cartridges is minimal since the outer shell and some internal components are reused, drastically reducing the cost to manufacture the cartridge. As a result, the savings can be passed directly to the buyer.

Professionally remanufactured cartridges aren’t just an option worth considering for those looking to save printer supplies, but are also a smart choice for anyone looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Every year copious amounts of plastics and oils from used print cartridges end up in our landfills, taking upwards of 1000 years to decompose. Remanufactured cartridges prevent hundreds of thousands of used cartridges from arriving in landfills, and helps to reduce greenhouse emissions by preventing the need to manufacture virgin materials.


Compatible cartridges have a two-part meaning in the aftermarket world. Compatible, as its name suggests, not only indicates that it will work with your given printer, but also means a brand new cartridge. Compatible cartridges are print cartridges that have been reverse-engineered by a team of product experts. The goal is to replicate the print features and print quality of the original while selling it for a much lower cost.

What Kind of Performance Can You Expect?

Compatible cartridges will give you strong performance results. They contain all new parts, so there is less of a chance of receiving a cartridge that is defective due to mechanical failure. Also, unlike most remanufactured cartridges, they contain ink indicator chips that communicate with your printer when its ink supply is running low.

What’s the Damage?

Since they use all new parts, compatible cartridges may cost you a little more than remanufactured cartridges. However, some customers prefer a brand new item to one that has been semi-used and that is completely understandable.

The Bottom Line

All of these cartridges can deliver solid results. When it comes to remanufactured and compatible cartridges, you should stick with a name you trust as not all third-party vendors put the same emphasis on quality. If you print professionally, you may want to pay the extra money for the reliability and solid image output OEM cartridges afford the user. If you’re printing mostly text, or don’t depend on high-resolution images for presentations or reports, a remanufactured and compatible cartridge is by far your best bet as it will offer you like-new quality for a far lower price.

123inkjets is proud to offer both discounted OEM cartridges as well as professionally remanufactured and compatible ink and toner cartridges. Our remanufactured and compatible cartridges are backed by a 100% guarantee and will provide excellent results for a fraction of the cost of the original. To check out our unbeatable selection, check out 123inkjets and stay on top of future newsletter drops for 123inkjets coupons, deals and discounts.