When it comes to compatible cartridges, like everything else in life, it’s fair to say you get what you pay for. That doesn’t mean that because when compared to the prices of genuine OEM cartridges, compatibles are cheap and therefore poor quality, I’m referring to the quality within the compatible cartridge market.

As a user of printer consumables as well as working for a retailer of such items, I believe that should you so wish there’s no reason why you and your printer can’t get along just fine using 3rd party produced cartridges rather than forking out all the time for originals. Had I been the clever individual to have created a printer manufacturing company, such as Epson, it’s quite possible that I may have had a different viewpoint on the matter, but it rather pains me to line the pockets of a company whose ethics and profit-making strategies lie in selling me a product (a printer) at rock bottom prices, only to make me pay through the nose time and time again when I need ink!

Compatible cartridges are essentially produced to the same specifications as their genuine counterparts, but by a 3rd party company rather than the printer manufacturer, with the exception of the odd tweak here and there to get past patent violations. There are many articles written on the merits of compatibles versus genuine cartridges and detailing the essential make up of these cartridges, including my own ‘Compatible Ink Cartridges – Some News and Views’, so I’ll skim over more detail on this particular area of the subject, as I wish to concentrate more on the matter of ‘equality in the compatible market’ as it were.

To put it very simply, not all compatibles are created equal.

This is particularly evident when looking at the market for compatible Epson T1281, T1282, T1283 and T1284 range of cartridges as well as the Epson T1295, T1292, T1293 and T1294 cartridges. These being the latest batch of cartridges produced by the manufacturer for their most recent inkjet printer models. As tends to follow with new printers/cartridges it takes a little while for the compatible market to catch up and now these cartridges are being produced and are readily available, it’s surprising to find such variations just within these two ranges of cartridges.

The biggest selling point for compatibles apart from the initial price difference is that they are generally filled with much more ink, yet there are variations within the T1291-T1294 range alone of between 9ml and 19ml in each cartridge. There are even suppliers who don’t supply any information on how much ink their cartridges are filled with, so you could end up paying the same price for a 9ml cartridge as you would a 19ml one.

Retailers of better quality products will offer you as much information as possible about their cartridges, since this is an obvious and natural selling point. The sort of information you should want to see are:

• Manufactured under ISO 9001 certified conditions

• Ink formulated in USA

• Ink fill levels!

• Brand name (if applicable)

In addition to clearly advising the details of the products you’re being sold, I think it’s also worth mentioning that you should only really consider purchasing from an online retailer who is clear and transparent in their trading policies, refunds or returns and delivery schedules or costs.

In terms of the genuine Epson cartridges themselves the T1281-4 range and the T1291-4 ranges do vary in ink fill levels, since Epson consider the T1281-4’s to be a ‘Medium’ sized cartridge and thus contain 5.9ml in the black and 3.5ml in each of the colours. The T1291-4’s are deemed to be a ‘large’ cartridge and contain 11.2ml and 7.0ml respectively. Some of the new Epson printers will only accept the smaller cartridge notably the Stylus S22 and SX125, where as the SX420W, SX425W and Stylus Office BX305FW can accept both sizes – worth noting if considering a new Epson, so you aren’t limited to just these tiny cartridges, unless of course you find a reputable retailer of compatibles!