help me save 50 bucks
September 20, 2008 7:16 AM   Subscribe

Is there any reason not to buy the $37 "compatible" toner cartridge for my Lexmark E210 printer from rather than the $87 Lexmark one from Amazon?
posted by pipti to Technology (12 answers total)
I buy "compatible" toner cartridges from Meritline for my Samsung printer all the time. Haven't had any problems, and can't tell the difference.
posted by chez shoes at 7:24 AM on September 20, 2008

I've been buying off-brand compatible for all of the various printers at work (5 different makes of printers, 5 different ink cartridges) and I haven't had a problem with any of them not working, not fitting, or somehow ruining the printer. I use them at home as well....definitely worth the savings.
posted by iconomy at 8:06 AM on September 20, 2008

I have tried to buy "compatible" toner for my Samsung printer and in order for it to work I have to change a fuse. That seems like more work that I wanted.
posted by k8t at 8:24 AM on September 20, 2008

My former office had lots of HP printers, each department bought their own toner, but I had to support them. In general the 'compatible' cartridges ended up being nosier (rattling and even some 'squealing' as paper passed through the printer), and about half the time we could clear a recurring paper jam by using HP cartridges instead of teh aftermarket ones. These were high-volume printers used a lot, so YMMV, but I wouldn;t buy more than one, just in case.
posted by pupdog at 8:58 AM on September 20, 2008

I've had only perfect experiences with non-name-brand cartridges (in low-volume HP and Samsung printers).
posted by kalapierson at 9:16 AM on September 20, 2008

I have a Lexmark E240 and use off-brand high-capacity toner toner cartridges with no ill-effects. For laser printers, toner doesn't matter as much as it does for color inkjets. I get mine from for about $55 that does about 6,000 pages. Highly recommended.
posted by cgomez at 9:21 AM on September 20, 2008

Our print fleet management company provides us with remanufactured cartridges... they cover all service, so its in their interest not to screw up our equipment. We do ~50k/pages/month combined, and have had 0 service issues with reman'd cartridges.

I run all of our low end hp's off $8 cartridges I bought on Ebay (50 of them!).
posted by SirStan at 9:41 AM on September 20, 2008

I have gone through a few dozen brands of remanufactured toner cartridges for various HP printers. Many salesweasels claim they produce brand new to spec cartridges, but upon receipt of them, they are always remanufactured from original cartridge shells. Never has a remanufactured toner cartridge been worth it my opinion. The toner doesn't stick to the paper as well (perhaps because they are reusing heaters and the heaters are growing old), or the toner leaks, or the cartridges are nosier, or you don't get anywhere near enough pages out of them. The only time it was sort of worth it was when we were paying a service company to provide all toner and service (with SLA) for a period of time. That way when individual cartridges proved bad, we called them and they ate the cost. I will note however that when we went through 20 cartridges in a year and we should have only gone through 6 the company wouldn't renew our service agreement the next year.

Whenever buying a printer, always consider the cost of the ink/toner/drum/other expendables. If that means you need to pay more initially so that you aren't paying unreasonable per page ink costs, so be it.
posted by fief at 11:20 AM on September 20, 2008

Bear in mind that when you buy a new "print cartridge" for a cheap inkjet, you are essentially buying a new printer. The plastic case and paper feed mechanism that a lot of people think of as "the printer" costs less than a buck; the print cartridge is where all the technology is.

When evaluated with this understanding, a lot of questions about inkjet replacement cartridges should become easier to resolve.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:43 PM on September 20, 2008

For our workgroup Samsung laser printer at work, we used to use the compatible toner cartridges. But the ink never stuck to the paper as well (particularly for letterhead paper), and it started having recurring paper jams. All the problems we had were instantly solved by getting the Samsung toner cartridge, so we have never gone back.

If I was printing things for home use rather than business correspondence, though, I think it would probably be worth the lower cost.
posted by gemmy at 5:02 PM on September 20, 2008

There's no heater in a toner cartridge. Lots of other stuff, but not the heater. (Or fuser)

Does the e210 use a separate drum or photoconductor unit? If it does, you should be much more successful with compatible carts. But you have to use brand name photoconductors.

There are two reasons why "compatible" cartridges are quite often bad.

1- The toner (ink) itself is just wrong- different printers use different toners, and most compatible carts use a generic toner. Usually works ok, but not always. You may have to play with toner density settings each time you replace the cart to get good results.

2- Poor remanufacturing practices. I've never seen a "compatible" cartridge that wasn't remanufactured in some way or another. Worst case, they just dump more ink in and send it on it's way. There are components in there that will last much longer than the rated life of the cartridge, but there are others that won't. At a minimum, the waste toner receptacle needs to be emptied- if it's not, you will get toner leaking and eventually those dark scallops along the edges of the page. Other pieces begin to wear after a few generations and you get background scatter, residual images, light print, etc.

So, if you're willing to go through this trouble, and your cartridge reseller will exchange faulty cartridges free of charge, it might be worth it to you.

(I fix printers. Half of what I do is caused by bad print carts. They don't "break" the printer usually, they just leak all over the place and cause bad image quality. People place service calls, costing them anywhere from $50 to $100, for me to vacuum the machine out and show them that the "new" cartridge they just installed was the cause. But there have been cases where the cartridge leaked so badly it got into the gears and caused wear. $100 in labor and $200 for the part. Doesn't seem like a good way to save money. Maybe in raw dollars, it might save money over the life of a printer. But not when you account for how much time is wasted by the users when their printer is down.)

ikkyu2- In theory you're correct, but I'd call it half a new printer. The printer mechanism is not cheap, however. They are manufactured to quite high tolerances and have a lot of technology in them. The mechanism controls where the dots are placed. The printhead controls how well they are formed. They usually are sold at a loss or break even, though, because the manufacturers know (hope) you'll keep buying cartridges.
posted by gjc at 7:44 PM on September 20, 2008

Also, Lexmark is notorious for working hard at being as incompatible as possible with non-Lexmark supplies. I have been annoyed by this often enough that I would never, never, never buy another Lexmark printer.
posted by flabdablet at 8:13 PM on September 20, 2008

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