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Compatibles or OEM cartridges?

The basic difference

I’ve been asked this question several times before so I’d clarify what do I exactly mean by compatibles. These are cartridges produced by alternative manufacturers, other than the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer). These include toner cartridges made up of entirely new components or refurbished originals with a few components changed. These should not however be confused with OEM cartridges or duplicates as the compatible toner packaging are deliberately designed to be distinguished from the OEM toner packaging. OEM toners are generally perceived as superior quality products, which explains the significant price differential between OEM and compatible toners. In the toners market, OEM cartridges are of a set standard, i.e: you know what you can expect, and you’d always expect them to give a decent page yield. On the other hand, compatibles could be tricky! Saying that “all compatibles are the same” would be a hasty generalization. In fact, compatible toners could vary in quality extensively! Many might give you nearly half the page yield, and if you’re lucky then some could guarantee you just enough pages that could reach to comparable levels with the OEM cartridges. However, if you don’t mind changing the cartridges more frequently in exchange for a saving then most compatible manufacturers would prove satisfactory.

Looking into the context of the local market

Over the past 10 years in the United Arab Emirates, compatible toner sales have been on the rise, as consumers are becoming aware of this alternative, and firms are getting keen towards convenient cost-cuttings. Basically, if OEM cartridges are perceived as expensive, then compatibles become attractive. Its important to note that duplicates or fake cartridges are no longer participants of the game. I believe that the authorities have done a great job eliminating the market for counterfeit toners in the United Arab Emirates. A Gulf News report on 16th September 2018 mentioned that 460,000 counterfeit cartridges were seized in the United Arab Emirates during raids in the preceding month of April. Another report by the Gulf News dated 22nd June 2018 mentioned that ink cartridges worth AED 3.2 million were seized by the Dubai Police during a raid in an apartment. These fake cartridges looked the same as the OEM products and were identically packaged as well. Coming back to our topic, compatibles today seem to be an entirely different market segment, with its own sets of consumers, sellers, prices and even variations of qualities within. Now, most customers are aware of the alternative market, which wasn’t the case back in 2002, when Rite Imaging LLC became the first company to introduce compatible toners in the United Arab Emirates. The motive was to offer an affordable solution to SMEs in the Middle East, which was fully transparent. Today, Rite Imaging LLC has established its own trade-mark “RITE-IMAGE”, which is recognized as a premium brand for compatible toner cartridges in the MENA region.

How to figure out which compatibles are the best?

As discussed earlier, there is a great deal of variation in the quality of cartridges, which the alternative market has to offer. For consumers to find out which compatibles are the best, an easy way is to measure the page yield and compare it with the page yield of OEM cartridges. I have personally found out many compatible cartridges of “other” brands that have a significantly lower page yield, which mostly goes undiscovered if the customer is not paying attention. In that case, they tend to sell more as these compatible run out of toner faster than they should otherwise. However, when I measured the cost-savings when filling in less toner powder in these cartridges, the amount was not more than a Dirham, so it doesn’t really make sense. Why would a manufacturer reduce its quality for such an insignificant saving? After further research, I reached the conclusion that it wasn’t the toner powder where these savings were made, but instead it were the sub-standard quality components which were meant to last less, and if the toner was filled to full capacity then the later print-outs would be of poor quality. As a distinguished brand however, RITE-IMAGE toner cartridges provide a page yield similar to the OEM cartridges, with a print-quality indistinguishable from the originals. These compatibles can be purchased online at www.ritoners.com at competitive prices with deliveries all over the United Arab Emirates.

Conclusion

Whilst the market expands, both compatibles and OEM cartridges find their ways into its various segments. OEM cartridges are the benchmark and it is fair to expect the best quality out of them. On the other hand, whilst significantly cheaper, compatibles vary greatly in quality from one brand to another. It is therefore essential to do your page-yield test prior to making a firm choice on a compatible brand, if you’re up for it.

Moosa Yousuf
MSc. Economics
University of Nottingham

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