The Great Debate: Genuine OEM vs OEM-Compatible Printheads

OEM printer manufacturers often make claims why only Genuine OEM printheads should be the choice for your thermal printers. These statements certainly have the manufacturer’s interests at heart, but are the consumer’s interests at heart as well?

This article talks about viable options for Genuine OEM replacement printheads. Some companies market these products as OEM-compatible, OEM-equivalent or OEM-quality.

These terms are generally used interchangeably and, for the purpose of this article, we will refer to these products as OEM-Compatible products.

What are OEM-Compatible printheads?

These companies reverse-engineer the Genuine OEM printheads and develop a compatible, equivalent or OEM-quality printhead.

Oftentimes, these replacement printheads will often perform the same with your current labels and ribbons at the same temperature settings and print speeds you’re using today.

OEM’s like to point out the following points why you should only buy Genuine OEM parts:

OEM’s liken OEM-compatible printheads to “knock offs” or counterfeit products to paint a perception that they are lesser quality than the original

Here’s the thing. There are many reputable companies that reverse-engineer and develop OEM-compatible printheads. Many of these are led by former R&D engineers and operations leaders who worked at the OEM printer manufacturers earlier in their careers.

We are talking about veteran thermal transfer industry professionals who have spent their careers developing, marketing and producing high-quality products for their customers. It makes little  sense to tarnish their reputation in this industry by producing non-functional or even substandard products for a buck.

The claims that these printheads are “knock offs” or counterfeit are unsubstantiated. Like after-market automotive parts manufacturers, these products are engineered to fit and perform similar to Genuine OEM parts.

There is no OEM branding on these products and no such claims are made that you are being sold Genuine OEM products. OEM-Compatible manufacturers are not trying to pass their products off as Genuine OEM products.

Cliche comment #1 “looks can be deceiving”

Photo by Jorge Fakhouri Filho from Pexels

As mentioned previously, OEM-Compatible printheads are reverse engineered to work with your specific printer models.

By this very nature, the OEM-compatible products should look pretty darn, if not exact, to the Genuine OEM products.

There is no deceit here.

You want your OEM-Compatible printhead to look like your Genuine Printhead and you want it to fit the same as well. If it didn’t look the same, you would immediately send it back where you bought it.

Cliche comment #2 “you get what you pay for”

I personally love the “you get what you pay for” comment. But before we dive into this one, let’s tip the cap to the OEM’s here.

OEM’s have spent an inordinate amount of R&D, sales, marketing, production, etc to bring great printers that help automate, track and trace and keep our supply chain running smoothly. Honestly, they do a fantastic job and should be commended.

That’s where the praise stops.

“You get what you pay for” is the OEM’s attempt at equating price to performance. That is, if you don’t buy the considerably more expensive printhead that has the same logo as your printer does, it’s not going to work, or, at least, it’s not going to be as good or that’s  what they would like you to believe.

We have our own case studies showing OEM-Compatible printhead performance compared to the Genuine OEM printhead. But there’s an easier way to prove out the price equals performance argument.

Buy an OEM-Compatible printhead and compare with your Genuine OEM product.

Drop it in and run the same labels at the same settings and test it yourself. Do a time study and see how many days, weeks or months of life you get out of OEM-Compatible printheads.

I guarantee you, this side-by-side comparison will cost less than your current OEM printhead and you can truly see if “you get what you pay for”. Based on our repeat customers, I would think price does not necessarily equal performance.

Shop OEM-Compatible printheads for Zebra ZT410/ZT411 Plus 203 dpi models – save big compared to OEM part numbers: P1058930-009

Using OEM-Compatible printheads may void your warranty

After your Genuine OEM pal is done being your buddy and giving you heartfelt reasons why you should stay with them, they usually offer one final scare tactic to keep you with them.

If you don’t buy our Genuine OEM printhead, we may not honor any warranty claims.

Whoa, talk about a 180 degree turn on the relationship front here.

On one hand, I get it. The OEM invested so much and they developed the printhead to work in tandem with the printer. It makes sense that they would protect their business and would only protect that combination.

Ultimately what they are telling the customer is you don’t have a choice. You as a consumer have to buy their product and theirs alone.

As a consumer, I hate being told what to do and what not to do. I’m sure I am not alone.

You have a choice with OEM-Compatible printheads in the market. Read the fine print in your printer warranty. You can make the final decision if you want to lock yourself into buying Genuine OEM or if you want to see how OEM-Compatible printheads could work for your business.

In Conclusion

Photo by Polina Kovaleva from Pexels

I can’t fault the OEM printer manufacturers here. They make a great product and they want to retain your business with every printhead that you buy afterwards.

The challenge for the consumer, however, is the OEM printer manufacturers are charging a hefty sum for the privilege of getting a branded box complete with fancy OEM logo.

The OEM will make untrue claims knocking the quality and performance of the OEM-Compatible printheads and even use scare tactics to keep your business.

The truth is you have choices. Real, viable choices that offer you high quality print and can keep up with your demanding print environments.

These OEM-Compatible printheads are reverse engineered and designed to work with your printers by veterans of the thermal printing industry.

I can go on and on about how OEM-Compatible printheads will work for you, but the best way to convince you is for you to buy one. Put it through all the paces and see for yourself how OEM-Compatible printheads compare with Genuine OEM printheads.

If you would like our help to see if we have an OEM-Compatible printhead for your printer, please feel free to reach out to us on the Contact Us page or sending an email to us at

Shop OEM-Compatible printheads for Zebra ZT410 & ZT411 300 dpi models – save big compared to OEM part number: P1058930-010

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