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Toner Buying Guide

Toner is the dry powder used in laser printers, laser fax machines and photocopiers that forms the text and images on the paper.

Info About Toner

The term toner refers to the dry "ink" plastic powder used to print by printers, copiers and fax machines that use a laser printing process. Unlike the ink used in inkjet printers, which is liquid sprayed onto the page and allowed to dry, toner is put on the page then run through a heating process that melts the plastic onto the paper. Since toner is not a liquid, it does not experience the "bleeding" that ink can if the paper gets wet after printing.

As you shop for replacement toner and toner cartridges for your printer, copier, fax machine or multi-function device (MFD), you may have come across terms you were unfamiliar with, or may have had questions about what type of toner you should buy. We hope this buying guide helps make your toner shopping experience a little easier. This section is a brief overview, and for more detail, browse through other sections, especially Attributes.

  • Get the toner for your model: Usually, the easiest way to find your toner is by the manufacturer's part number of the toner (sometimes printed on the cartridge/bottle or on the printer/copier/fax itself). If the part number isn't available, most vendors will have a way to browse to the exact product you need (for example, our Quick Finder or Browse Our Catalog page) using the manufacturer's name and the model number of the printer/copier/fax.
  • Get the appropriate type of toner: Many vendors will offer the original manufacturer's (OEM) brand and a less expensive compatible brand. (see the Attributes section for more information)
  • Choose the best option: Some toner cartridges are available with higher-yield options. If one is available, the longer-life, higher-yield cartridge will generally cost less per copy, saving you money and time.
  • Don't forget to order all colors: Generally, color laser printers use a different toner cartridge for each color. If one cartridge runs out, you may wish to order the other colors to have them on hand when they are empty, too.
  • Order ahead: If not exposed to heat or excessive moisture and kept in the original, sealed packaging, toner cartridges have quite a long shelf life. Keeping an extra on hand (of each color if your printer is a color device) will help you be sure that when the current cartridge is empty, you will not have a delay waiting for the new one.
  • Think carefully about refill toner: Refill kits are not recommended except by technicians who are trained to use refill kits properly. It’s typically not just a 'fill and forget' process. There are sometimes many steps involved which vary depending on model and manufacturer. If not done correctly, refilled cartridges can result in quite a mess in your printer or copier.

Once you receive your new cartridge, there are a couple of other points to be aware of:

  • Before installing your cartridge, shake it to loosen toner that has compacted during shipping. The best method to do this is to hold the cartridge level with one hand on each end of the cartridge and shake it gently from side to side.
  • Check the old cartridge before disposing of it. On some models, the toner and drum units appear to be one unit; however, the toner is actually a seperate unit, and requires re-use of the drum cartridge. Be sure what you are disposing of is the same as what you purchased.
  • Install carefully; never force the cartridge into the machine.
  • If print quality is important, use high-quality paper. This is often overlooked and can improve your print quality whether you are using OEM or compatible toner.

For more detail, continue to the Attributes section.

Toner Attributes

Types of Toner - There are several terms to describe the types of toner, but they generally fall into three categories: OEM, compatible, and MICR. Following are explanations of each type:

  • OEM Toner
    OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) Toner, also called genuine or original, is toner or a toner cartridge that has been manufactured by the company or by a factory authorized by the company who produced your specific device.
  • Compatible Toner
    Compatible Toner, which is another term for a generic, refurbished or remanufactured cartridge, is toner that was manufactured by a company other than the OEM. In some cases, these use 100% new parts designed as closely as possible to the original. In others, the toner cartridge may be built from a combination of new and recycled parts. Our new compatible toner cartridges use all new parts, and are indicated on our site by the phrase '100% New Compatible' in the product description. Our remanufactured compatible toners are built using cores (original assemblies) that have only been used once, with new drums (the part that experiences the most wear and tear) installed when applicable. Because quality of a compatible toner cartridge can vary between different manufacturers, we use only high quality suppliers, and continually monitor the quality of the cartridges and toner we provide in our compatible line. They are comparable in quality to the OEM cartridges and are rated to perform just as long as OEM toner cartridges.
  • MICR Toner
    MICR (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition) toner is a specialized type which can be magnetized by a reader machine and then "read" by the machine with complete accuracy. For bank reader machines used in North America (and many other countries worldwide), the bottom line of a check must be printed in this magnetic toner. Routing numbers on checks provided by your bank have been printed using MICR toner. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is responsible for developing the standards we use today for all MICR toner, which include standards for MICR fonts, toner adhesion, MICR registration, toner signal strength, moisture content and paper grain. MICR toner is used in specialized printing applications only, such as check and automatic draft printing.

Toner Page Yield - Toner page yield refers to approximately how many pages a toner cartridge can be expected to print. The manufacturer typically calculates these numbers based on the industry standard of 5% coverage as specified by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO/IEC). To understand the amount of print that makes up 5% coverage, imagine 1-2 paragraphs of text on a page. Pages with more text or pages that include images have more than 5% coverage, and will use more toner when printed.

Toner Colors - Printers and copiers fall into two classes: monochrome (black and white) and color. Color printing (also known as CMYK printing) uses 4 colors in total. These colors are:

  • Black
    Black toner is the most common color used and is abbreviated as K. It is used in monocrome printers and copiers, as well as full color machines.
  • Cyan
    Cyan toner, used in color printers and copiers, is abbreviated as C. Cyan is often referred to as Blue.
  • Magenta
    Magenta toner, often referred to as Red, is abbreviated as M. It is used in all color machines.
  • Yellow
    Yellow toner, another toner used in color printers and copiers, is abbreviated as Y.

Frequently Asked Questions About Toner

Can using a compatible toner cartridge damage my machine?

No. We buy our remanufactured toner cartridges from very reputable suppliers and they are designed to perform just as well as the OEM cartridge.

Can using a compatible toner cartridge void my machine's warranty?

No. Your printer’s manufacturer will encourage you to use genuine brand supplies with your device, of course. Some manufacturers will even go so far as to imply that you will void your warranty if you use compatible products. However, it is not legally possible for a manufacturer to void your warranty because you don’t use their products. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975 protects consumers by prohibiting a manufacturer from putting a “tie-in” provision on the warranty, which means the manufacturer cannot void the warranty just because the owner purchases a properly-functioning component from another company. That said, some printer owners still feel more comfortable using supplies that were designed by the same company that made the printer, and are willing to pay higher prices for that. For others, the dramatic savings compatible toner cartridges offer make the decision for them.

Does OEM toner get a better yield than compatible toner?

No, both OEM and Compatible toner will get the same yield.

What is MICR toner?

Magnetic Ink Character Recognition toner is the type of toner that can be magnetized so that a specialized reader machine used in places such as banks can translate the magnetic information in to characters.

Is Toner the same thing as Ink?

No. Toner is a dry powder that uses heat and pressure to bond it to the paper, used in laser printers, laser fax machines and digital copy machines. Where as ink is a liquid used in duplicator machines and inkjet machines.

Why is one toner cartridge more expensive than the other for the same machine?

In most cases this is because one is OEM and the other is Compatible. The OEM will be the more expensive of the two.

Toner Glossary

black - One of the four colors used in dry toner printing, or one of several colors used in inkjet printing. Abbreviated as K.

bleeding - In printing, the term bleeding is used to describe the spreading of a color beyond it's designed outline.

compatible - Often referred to as generic, remanufactured or refurbished

consumable - Items, such as toner, developer, and sometimes to include drums, cleaner rollers, PM items. These are designated by the manufacturer as having a specified life.

cyan - One of the four colors used in dry toner printing, or one of several colors used in inkjet printing. A bluish shade of green. Abbreviated as C.

magenta - One of the four colors used in dry toner printing, or one of several colors used in inkjet printing. A dark purple-red. Abbreviated as M.

MICR - Magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) toner is the type of toner that can be magnetized so that a specialized reader machine used in places such as banks can translate the magnetic information into characters.

OEM - Original equipment manufacturer. The company whose name is on the product.

toner - Resin particles which produce image on paper.

yellow - One of the four colors used in dry toner printing, or one of several colors used in inkjet printing. An intermediate between green and orange. Abbreviated as Y.

General Questions
For all other general/miscellaneous inquiries such as: account information, ordering (including rush processing), shipping, or assistance with a recently- placed order, please direct your correspondence to our customer service or fill out our online contact form. If you prefer, you may email us through your default email handler at .

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