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 user 2008-11-03 at 10:47:06 am Views: 26
  • #20639
    How Much Ink Is Left in That Dead Cartridge?
    probably had this experience: Your printer tells you it’s time to
    change the cartridge, but you dismiss the message and keep printing.
    Days or weeks later, you’re still using the same cartridge and thinking
    to yourself that rumors of its death were greatly exaggerated.Or
    perhaps your printer simply shuts down when it decides you’ve gone deep
    enough into its ink well, refusing to operate until you replace the
    cartridge, though you suspect there’s plenty of ink left.PC World
    decided to do some real lab testing on this issue; and the results
    confirm what you may have suspected: Many manufacturer-branded (OEM)
    and third-party (aftermarket) vendor cartridges leave a startling
    amount of ink unused when they read empty. In fact, some inkjet
    printers force users to replace black ink cartridges when the cartridge
    is nearly half full, PC World has found.

    We tested
    using multifunction printers from four major manufacturers: Canon,
    Epson, Hewlett-Packard, and Kodak. (For the top-rated models, see our
    chart of top-rated multifunction printers.) PC World Test Center
    results show that models from Canon, Epson, and Kodak reported ink
    cartridges as being empty when in some cases the tanks had 40 percent
    of their black ink remaining.The quantity of unused ink ranged from
    about 8 percent in an Epson-brand cartridge to a whopping 45 percent in
    an aftermarket cartridge for a Canon printer. After posting low-ink
    warnings, those printers wouldn’t let us resume printing until we
    inserted a new cartridge.Our test printers typically left more unused
    ink–in some cases significantly more–when using third-party or
    aftermarket print cartridges than when using the printer manufacturer’s
    own cartridges.

    When using ink their own manufacturer’s
    cartridges, the printers displayed several low-ink warning messages
    before finally shutting down due to low ink. Our HP printer, the
    Photosmart C5280, was the only one that continued to print even after
    displaying several low-ink messages, and those messages appeared only
    when we used an HP print cartridge. When we paired the C5280 with an
    aftermarket cartridge from LD Products, the printer provided no low-ink
    warning at all.It’s important to note that our results show the
    performance of a clutch of single printers, each paired with just one
    cartridge. Since OEMs and their aftermarket competitors sell dozens of
    ink cartridges for a wide variety of printer models, you should
    consider our results as a kind of snapshot of the way each particular
    unit deals with “remaining ink.”

    Why So Much Leftover Ink?
    are valid reasons for not draining an ink cartridge completely,
    printing experts say. “Many inks, if they run dry, can cause
    significant damage to the printer,” says Brian Hilton, a senior staff
    engineer at the Rochester Institute of Technology who holds 29 inkjet
    patents. “You always want to leave a buffer in the tank so that the
    printer never runs dry. There should always be a factor of safety
    included.”Other observers point out that the quantity of leftover ink
    is often only a few milliliters. “Printers have generally become more
    efficient over the years,” says Andy Lippman, a printing analyst with
    Lyra Research. “In the past, you might have seen 40 milliliters of ink
    in the black cartridge. Today you’re going to get the same amount of
    pages out of 7 or 8 milliliters.”Other people, however–both
    journalists and independent researchers–have reported very different
    experiences with ink cartridges. Judging from these findings, printer
    owners are probably throwing away a lot of usable ink. And that’s a
    problem, when you consider how expensive the precious fluid is. An
    average black-ink cartridge contains 8 milliliters of ink and costs
    about $10 which translates into a cost of $1.25 per milliliter (or more
    horrifyingly, $1250 per liter).
    Liquid Gold?

    If you bought a
    gallon of the stuff over the life of your printer, you’d have paid
    about $4731 for a liquid that one aftermarket vendor told us was
    “cheap” to make. For some perspective, gasoline costs about $3 per
    gallon (at the moment), while a gallon of Beluga caviar (imagined as a
    liquid) costs about $18,000–surprisingly, only about four times as
    expensive as good old printer ink.”I personally think that consumers
    are getting ripped off,” says Steve Pociask, president of the American
    Consumer Institute, a nonprofit educational and research institute in
    Washington, D.C. Pociask recently coauthored a 50-page study on the ink
    jet printer and cartridge market. “In some cases, we found that [the
    price of] the printer could be 1/8 of the total cost of printing,” says
    Pociask. “Over the life of the printer–and by that I mean three
    years–you can easily spend $800 for the printer and ink.”

    How We Tested
    researched both online and brick-and-mortar tech outlets to find
    printers that are being used now by high numbers of consumers. We
    didn’t test color inks because that would have introduced too many
    variables that might skew the results. For instance, some printers use
    separate cartridges for each ink, while others use single, tricolor
    cartridges. A standardized test might not drain the colors evenly,
    which might give one printer an unfair advantage.Tony Leung,
    Senior Data Analyst in the PC World Test Center, weighed each black ink
    cartridge (to an accuracy of 0.001 gram) to determine the cartridge’s
    initial weight. We then printed pages until the printer, in response to
    the low level of ink in the cartridge, prevented us from
    continuing.When each printer stopped printing, we removed and weighed
    its black ink cartridge to determine the cartridge’s out-of-ink weight.
    Then we removed all of the remaining ink from the cartridge (including
    the small sponges found in some cartridges), put the cartridge on the
    scale again, and measured it’s true-empty weight.This method allowed us
    to identify the weight of the ink when the cartridge was full, when the
    printer announced that it was empty, and when it truly was empty.

    Using this method, here’s what we found.
    tested Canon’s Pixma MP610 multifunction printer with black ink
    cartridges from Canon and from G&G, an aftermarket brand owned by
    Ninestar Image. The differences in performance between the OEM ink and
    the aftermarket ink were striking. With the Canon cartridge installed,
    the printer stopped printing when 24 percent of the ink remained in the
    tank. Specifically, the full tank of ink weighed 27.333 grams, and the
    unused ink in the tank at nominal empty weighed 6.459 grams.Canon
    didn’t dispute our results, but the company pointed out that its
    printers do allow users to print after the initial low-ink warning.
    “There are typically a series of warnings before the ink is out,
    alerting users to ink status,” spokesperson Kevin McCarthy wrote in an
    e-mail message. (We calculated the remaining ink weight at the point
    when the printer actually shut down, which was after the preliminary
    warnings appeared.)

    When equipped with the aftermarket G&G
    cartridge, the Canon printer shut down with nearly 45 percent of the
    ink left. The full tank of ink weighed 27.320 grams, and its remaining
    ink weighed 12.277 grams.G&G responded by running its own tests
    with a different Canon printer, the Pixma iX4000. (The vendor says the
    model that the PC World Test Center used wasn’t available in its
    workshop at the time of testing.)G&G told us that it tested three
    of its color cartridges–magenta, blue, and yellow–and found that the
    amount of residual ink ranged from 5.5 percent (for yellow) to 17
    percent (for magenta). (Again, PC World limited its testing to black
    ink cartridges only.) Canon declined to comment on our test findings
    with the G&G print cartridge.

    With an Epson
    black-ink cartridge installed, the Epson RX680 printer shut down with
    just over 8 percent of its ink remaining. The weight of the ink in the
    full cartridge was 11.700 grams; the weight of the residual ink at
    printer shutdown was 0.969 gram. In an e-mail response to PC World, an
    Epson spokesperson wrote: “Eight percent remaining ink measured in your
    testing is a normal amount. This reserve assures print quality and
    printer reliability.”But the story was quite different when we printed
    pages on the RX680 using an aftermarket cartridge from LD Products.
    This time the printer shut down with a whopping 41 percent of the ink
    still in the tank. The full quantity of ink weighed 12.293 grams; the
    unused ink weighed 5.0005 grams.Why the huge gap between OEM and
    aftermarket? “Epson cartridges have an ink-level sensor to more
    accurately report ink levels, and to reduce the amount of ink in the
    safety reserve,” the company spokesperson wrote. Third-party products
    don’t have these sensors, according to Epson, and the printer
    manufacturer “cannot guarantee the performance, quality or longevity of
    these cartridges.”

    LD Products has a different theory. “The ink
    itself is cheap, so we refill to more than the original level,” says
    Ben Chafetz, vice president of marketing for LD Products. The Epson
    printer bases its low-ink message on the printing capacity of the OEM
    cartridge, but since the LD cartridge contains considerably more ink
    than the OEM version, it is bound to have more ink remaining when the
    printer shuts down, according to Chafetz. In other words, if Epson
    supplies enough ink in its cartridge for 120 pages plus a margin of
    error, say, while LD adds enough ink to print 200 pages, and if the
    Epson printer shuts off at 120 pages anyway, the percentage of leftover
    ink in the LD cartridge will be considerably higher than in the Epson
    cartridge.Chafetz points out that regardless of the percentage of
    unused (and unusable) ink in the nominally empty cartridges, the page
    yields of the LD Products cartridges and the high-capacity Epson
    cartridges should be the same.

    Testing the
    HP printer was difficult because HP takes an unusual approach toward
    diminishing ink supplies in its cartridges: The HP Photosmart C5280
    multifunction printer we tested didn’t shut down as ink levels
    approached exhaustion. With an OEM cartridge installed, the printer
    displayed warning messages as the ink level dropped, but it never
    forced us to replace the cartridge.As a result, we continued printing
    until the pages began showing telltale signs of low ink, such as banded
    text. The HP printer will continue to print until the cartridge is
    completely dry–but since the print heads are part of the cartridge in
    HP’s design, running out of ink does not damage other parts of the
    printer.When using an aftermarket cartridge from LD Products, the C5280
    failed to post any low-ink warnings–either on our test computer or on
    the printer console. Does that mean HP’s warning system works only with
    house-brand cartridges? Not necessarily, but HP suggests that you are
    better off with its OEM cartridges. “Most aftermarket cartridges do not
    signal ‘low-on-ink’ alerts, giving customers no advance warning that
    ink is running low,” wrote HP spokesperson Katie Neal in an e-mail

    LD Products’ Chafetz disagrees. He says that LD’s
    Photosmart C5280-compatible products are actually refurbished and
    refilled HP cartridges. One possible explanation for the lack of a
    low-ink warning is that the printer wasn’t reading the refurbished
    cartridge’s chip code correctly, he says.Chafetz says that the results
    from PC World’s tests mark the first time that LD Products’ technicians
    have heard of their cartridges’ not posting a low-ink warning.

    Kodak EasyShare 5300 was the only printer that lasted longer with an
    aftermarket cartridge than it did with the manufacturer’s cartridge.
    Equipped with a Kodak cartridge, this printer shut down with 43 percent
    of the ink remaining. Its full quantity of ink weighed 16.857 grams,
    and its unused ink after shutdown weighed 7.272 grams.Kodak doesn’t
    dispute our findings, but the company argues that our results don’t
    tell the whole story. Roderick Eslinger, Kodak technical marketing
    manager, says that Kodak’s in-house tests in 2007 indicated that 65
    percent of its cartridge ink was used for consumer printing, while 35
    percent was used to “protect/maintain optimal Kodak printer performance
    and document quality.” Eslinger says that the remaining ink is “already
    factored into our industry advertising claims for consumers, and that
    Kodak cartridges offer “low costs and high quality yields as compared
    to competitors.”With a G&G cartridge, the Kodak printer shut down
    with 36 percent of the ink remaining in the tank. The leftover ink
    weighed 5.360 grams. Kodak chose not to comment on the aftermarket

    Watch the Page Yield
    Some vendors and analysts
    advise consumers to make sure that they get the correct page yield (the
    total number of pages produced with a single cartridge), rather than
    focusing on the amount of ink left unused in a cartridge that must be
    discarded. “This is the most reliable way to understand the life of a
    cartridge, rather than the amount of ink, or what might be left over,”
    says Lippman.

    But vendor page-yield estimates don’t always match
    reality, as we discovered when testing printers for another PC World
    article, “Cheap Ink: Will It Cost You?” Using a different set of OEM
    cartridges and printers, we found that one HP black cartridge exceed
    its projected page yield (810 printed vs. 660 projected), while page
    yields from Epson and Kodak cartridges fell short of expectations.
    Specifically, Epson printed just 209 pages, far less than the 335 pages
    the company estimated it would produce; and Kodak generated 480 pages
    versus a projected page count of 540. Page yields aside, we have yet to
    hear a satisfactory and persuasive explanation from a vendor as to why
    so many printer cartridges leave so much ink behind. Even if the waste
    amount is only a few milliliters, that unused liquid could have printed
    a lot of pages.