Toner Cartridges – Genuine OEM vs. Compatible vs. Remanufactured

toner cartridges

Most printer owners and toner cartridge consumers have seen the names “genuine”, “original”, “OEM”, “compatible”, “generic”, remanufactured”, “refilled“, ect. being used to describe toners being sold across the internet. However, most aren’t completely clear on what each of these descriptions really means. They know that genuine/OEM/original toners are priced higher than compatible/generic and remanufactured/refilled toners, but why? 

There are three main types of toner cartridges- genuine OEM, compatible/generic, and remanufactured/refilled. Each type of toner cartridge carries different strengths and weaknesses. Before we dive into the specific strengths and weaknesses of each type of toner cartridge, the following is a brief description of genuine OEM, compatible, and remanufactured toner cartridges:

Genuine OEM toner cartridges are manufactured by the original brand manufacturer of the printer they are being used for. OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. For example, genuine HP toners are manufactured by HP and genuine Canon toners are manufactured by Canon. Genuine toners are designed specifically for the printer model they are used for and the paper type used by that printer model and are original and brand new. 

Compatible toner cartridges are toners manufactured by a third-party manufacturer. Compatible toners are also referred to as generic toners. Compatible toners have no affiliation with the original manufacturer of the printer. Compatible toner manufacturers essentially attempt to replicate the original toner design without infringing on the original manufacturer’s product patent. The process is similar to pharmaceutical companies manufacturing generic prescription drugs that are meant to mirror the original brand name drug. Like generic prescription drugs, many compatible toners are very close replicates of the original toner model, however many also are very far off from the original. 

With compatible toners, although many compatible toner manufacturers are able to produce toners that tightly mirror the original model, the fact remains that you are putting a product into your printer that was not manufactured by the same manufacturer of the printer and problems can and often do arise when using compatible toners. The quality of the toner is inconsistent across different compatible models and you never truly know what you’re getting.  

Remanufactured toner cartridges are toners that have been used and refilled. Remanufactured toners are also referred to as refilled toners. Many companies will purchase empty cartridges, clean them, and refill them. On average, about 90% of old toner cartridges are able to be kept and used in the remanufacturing process, with 10% of the cartridge typically being broken down for recycling.

Similar to how the quality of compatible toners is inconsistent, the quality of remanufactured toners is also inconsistent because the remanufacturing process fluctuates between remanufacturers. The quality of the toners being remanufactured also fluctuates- some companies remanufacture genuine toners and some companies remanufacture compatible toners and many companies remanufacture both. Again, as a consumer you never truly know the quality of the product you’re putting into your printer. 

Page Yield

Genuine toners typically have the highest page yields. Except in rare cases, compatible and remanufactured toners do not last as long as genuine toners and print far less pages. Genuine toners are more durable and are able to maintain print quality while printing more pages. Many genuine toners have page yields of up to 20,000 pages, which cannot be matched by compatible and remanufactured toners.

Print Quality

toner cartridges

Toner cartridges are a pivotal component of the printing process and directly influence the print quality of a printer. If you want your printer to deliver its highest potential for text and image quality, it is important to use the highest quality toner. When it comes to print quality, genuine toners are in a league of their own when compared to compatible and remanufactured toners. Genuine toners deliver crisper text and image quality that is brighter and sharper with more accurate coloring. When using compatible or remanufactured toners, the print quality is often lacking and the colors are often inaccurate. 

Another important factor of print quality is how long the print lasts over time. Print produced from genuine toners typically maintains its integrity over time and does not fade. Print produced from compatible and remanufactured toners does not have the same longevity and typically fades at a significantly faster rate. 

Risk of Malfunctioning

“Brother strongly recommends that customers use only genuine Brother drum units and/or toner cartridges. Each Brother laser printer is designed to work at pre-set temperatures that are matched exactly to each of our individual toner formulations. Each individual component is designed to work with the other to ensure quality and reliability. Using non-Brother supplies may affect the hardware performance, print quality, and machine reliability. The Brother limited warranty does not apply to any problem that is caused by the use of third party drum units, toner cartridges, or toner.”- from the official Brother website.

With compatible toners, the problems that can arise are caused by several factors such as variation in electrostatic qualities, melting points, pigments and particle sizes. These factors can and often do result in the toner leaking and damaging the printer.

With remanufactured toners, waste toner and paper debris can be left in the cartridge from each print job, which often leads to backgrounding issues and the remanufactured toner becoming contaminated.

Genuine OEM toners are manufactured by the manufacturer they are used for and as a result do not carry the risk of malfunctioning that compatible and remanufactured toners carry.  


As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Genuine toner cartridges are higher quality products and come at higher price tags as a result. However, when you factor in the improved durability and higher page yields of genuine toners, they often turn out to be more cost effective over time. Also, when you factor in the legitimate risk of damage to your printer that comes with using compatible and remanufactured toners and the potential repair costs, the higher initial price of genuine toners is often well worth it. TonerDen narrow this price gap by offering genuine OEM toners at significantly lower prices.


Nothing beats the original. Genuine toners are higher quality products that perform at a higher level than compatible and remanufactured toners. In summary, genuine toners produce superior text and image quality that does not fade over time, more accurate coloring, higher page yields, and carry no risk of malfunctioning and damaging the printer whereas compatible and remanufactured toners carry significant risk. However, due to being higher quality products, genuine toners come at a higher price tag.

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