Frequently Used Terms

Cartridge Capacity:

The amount of printed pages you can expect from a toner cartridge based on average page fill (ink used on a printed document) as determined by the cartridge manufacturer (see Page Yield).

Combo Pack:

Multiple cartridges of the same toner or ink packaged together at a reduced cost per each unit. The most common combo packs are 2 and 4 cartridges. Combo packs are an effective way to stock up and save money.

Compatible Cartridge (or Compatible):

Toner or Ink cartridges that are produced the same way and to the exact specifications of OEM cartridges but lack the name recognition. Countless tests over more than a decade have shown compatibles to be as good or better than branded OEM products. And, they cost a lot less. The compatible share of toner sales has increased every year. Warning: All compatibles are not the same. Buy from reputable companies.


The amount of ink that is expelled onto a page during printing. 5% coverage means that 5% of the page is covered in ink. Surprisingly, the average printed page has 5% coverage.


A component that determines that the toner powder is allocated and heated properly on the paper. Some cartridges have the drum built in. Others have a separate drum. Drums usually last for 4 to 5 toners so having a built in drum is not cost effective but it is convenient as there is one less component to worry about.

High Yield:

A higher capacity toner cartridge that holds more ink and gives more printed pages before running out of ink. High yield cartridges provide as much as double the printed pages as regular cartridges at significant per page savings.

Imaging Unit:

To print, an image of the text and/or visuals must be transported to the drum. The imaging unit is the component that affects the transfer.

Ink Cartridge:

A plastic container that holds liquid ink and is used by ink-jet printers to put ink on paper. Ink-jet printers do not need a drum to distribute ink. Ink cartridges are cheaper and have less problems and defects than toner cartridge but do not produce the same print quality, although ink-jet quality is good enough for the majority of business printing.

ISO:Refers to the International Organization for Standardization, which certifies that products meet certain performance standards. An ISO certification gives purchasers anywhere in the world confidence that the product will perform as specified.

Maintenance Kits:

Some moving parts in printers need to be replaced periodically. Maintenance kits consist of a fusser, the heating unit that bonds toner to paper, a transfer roller, which helps transfer toner onto paper and other rollers and pads that are part of the printing process.


A printer that performs other functions as well, copying, scanning and/or faxing, is a Multi-Function Printer. Many businesses like the convenience and space savings offered by MFPs. They cost more and do more.

MICR Toner:

MICR stands for Magnetic Ink Character Recognition. MICR Toner is a mix of ink, plastic powder, lubricants, enhancers and iron oxide. The iron oxide makes the toner machine readable. Banks and businesses that deal with checks and other sensitive documents use MICR Toner to facilitate processing and reduce fraud.


The latest big new idea in printing efficiency is Managed Print Services. Ideally, MPS allocates your printing more efficiently, insures you have the right printers for your workloads, eliminates underutilized equipment and reduces the usage of overworked machines. MPS systems also report on toner usage and signal when toner is low. In reality, MPS is only practical if you use 20 or more printers and the results thus far have not lived up to the promise.


A cartridge with the name of a printer manufacturer on the box (Lexmark, HP) that suggests it was manufactured by the Original Equipment Manufacturer. That was true in the past but not necessarily true now. Most manufacturers contract their toner and ink cartridges to other companies, often the same companies that manufacture compatible cartridges. You always pay a lot more for a brand name cartridge but you can get the same performance and reliability from a compatible.

Page Yield:

The number of printed pages you can expect from the cartridge you are purchasing if your pages use the average amount of ink coverage (See Cartridge Capacity).

Photo Conductor:
See Imaging Unit

Print Head:

The movable part of a printer that applies the ink to the paper. A print head will print about 200 million characters before it needs to be replaced.

Remanufactured Cartridge:

While all of the major components of a compatible or OEM cartridge are new, remanufactured cartridges (remans) reuse the major components of recycled cartridges. This is good for the environment but might not be good for you. The components are cleaned and checked by reputable re-manufacturers and some remans are good. But most aren’t up to the standards of compatibles and OEM cartridges. And the more you reuse components, the worse they perform. Remans cost less but they are risky.

Starter Cartridge:

The toner or ink cartridge that is included when you purchase a printer or MFP is not a regular cartridge. It has only a small amount of ink and will run out after a small amount of printing. It may look like a regular cartridge but it is intended to give you just enough ink to get started.

Toner Cartridge: 

A plastic container that slides into your printer and locks in place. The container holds the toner powder particles that, in conjunction with a drum, will be applied in the proper quantity and heated to provide printing on paper. Some cartridges contain the drum. In others, the drum is a separate unit. Ink is dispensed as required until the toner is used up. Then, the cartridge is removed and replaced with a new one.

Transfer Unit :

After an image is placed on the drum, the toner particles must be transported to the drum by the transfer unit. The toner particles stick to the appropriate areas of the image, allowing it to be fused onto paper.