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 user 2005-08-15 at 7:49:00 am Views: 50
  • #12760

    Cheaper ink cartridges proliferate but
    might not be a bargain

    It’s hard to imagine that you
    could spend more on inkjet cartridges in just one year than on the printer that
    consumes them. But it’s a painful fact of life for digital-camera buffs who
    regularly shell out about $50 to $70 for a set of inkjet cartridges from the
    printer manufacturer

    CR Quick Take

    Off-brand cartridges often cost much less than brand-name
    cartridges, but you’ll probably find they’re saving you little or no money when
    you calculate per-photo costs. And most off-brand cartridges haven’t matched the
    excellent quality and fade resistance we’ve gotten using brand-name ink. But
    some off-brands are worth considering when very good photo quality is good
    enough and economy is your top priority.

    Alternative suppliers are coming on strong
    with ink cartridges that sell for much less than brand-name products.

    Major chains such as Staples and Office Depot sell off-brands and their own line
    of cartridges, as well as brand names.

    • Hundreds of retail outlets
    popping up nationwide from franchise operations such as Cartridge World and
    Island Ink-Jet will refill your empty cartridges or sell you low-priced

    • Online suppliers such as Carrot Ink and Printpal offer
    mailers, sometimes postage-paid, for sending in your empties for refill.

    While low-priced cartridges might seem like the answer to your prayers,
    don’t give thanks just yet. They’re not the bargains they appear to be when you
    calculate per-photo costs, and they rarely match the excellent photo quality you
    can get with brand-name ink.

    Some off-brands produced very good photos
    at a slightly lower per-print cost than the brand names. They’d be smart choices
    when economy is more important than excellent photo quality. Off-brands have
    more to offer for printing text. With some off-brands, you can get excellent
    black text at a good price.

    These and other findings are the results of
    a four-month study for which we bought more than 500 inkjet cartridges across
    the U.S., and produced more than 35,000 prints on printers from three of the top
    inkjet printer brands.

    The bottom line: Use your printer’s brand
    of ink and its best photo paper for excellent photo quality with minimal fading.
    When top quality and longevity aren’t critical, or when printing black text,
    some off-brands are worth trying.

    • For Canon printers, Canon BC1-3e and BC1-6 cartridges did best, with Carrot
      ink close behind. For good, low-cost black text, consider Amazon Imaging.
    • For Epson printers, Epson T048 cartridges produced excellent photos with no
      visible fading. Also consider Printpal, which costs less per print and produced
      very good photos and text.
    • For HP printers, HP 56, 57, and 58 cartridges yielded excellent photos with
      no visible fading. Off brands we tested resulted in lower quality, with no