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 user 2011-02-09 at 9:45:41 am Views: 46
  • #24054

    knows that buying new, brand-name printer cartridges from the original
    equipment manufacturer can be expensive. But are third-party
    alternatives really a better deal? As PCWorld’s Serial Refiller, I’ve
    set out to try third-party options–including remanufacturers, refill
    services, and do-it-yourself refill kits–and tell you whether the
    savings seem worth the hassle.Everyone knows that buying new, brand-name
    printer cartridges from the original equipment manufacturer can be
    expensive. But are third-party alternatives really a better deal? As
    PCWorld’s Serial Refiller, I’ve set out to try third-party
    options–including remanufacturers, refill services, and do-it-yourself
    refill kits–and tell you whether the savings seem worth the hassle.

    I use each refill for just a brief period of time, and with only one
    printer, my experience is anecdotal and does not test the durability or
    archivability of third-party inks, nor how the printer will fare after
    repeated use with them. Nevertheless, my hands-on trials will give you a
    taste of what to expect if you try a third-party alternative with your
    own printer.

    My test printer is an HP Photosmart e-All-In-One.
    For each evaluation, I start with a new set of HP cartridges, drain
    them, and then use them for the refill or for comparison with the
    remanufactured option. I use the standard-size HP 60 cartridges; the
    high-yield 60XL cartridges will last longer and usually save you more

    With both the HP and third-party inks, I print out a set
    of pages–ranging in content from plain text to a full-size color
    photo–over and over again until the ink starts to run out (blank
    streaks appear on the page). I count the number of pages that printed
    before streaks appeared, to get a sample page yield. These page yields
    will likely differ from those that HP or the third-party ink vendor
    quotes, just as your own mileage will vary depending on what you print. I
    also compare the print quality of the pages using third-party ink
    versus those printed with the HP cartridges.

    Costco Inkjet-Cartridge Refill Service: Quick and Convenient
    Costco inkjet refills ($8 to $10, plus sales tax where applicable; HP
    60 refill for black or tricolor cartridge, $8)Vendor URL: Costco Inkjet
    Refill ServiceWorth trying? YesHassle factor: LowPrint quality compared
    with OEM ink: Satisfactory, but not as good as OEMYield (mixed set of
    samples): 148 pagesCost per page: 11 cents (OEM: 27 cents)

    I have
    a Costco membership, mostly because I can’t the resist the warehouse
    chain’s free bite-size food samples. Scarf down enough burrito bites,
    pizza mini-slices, Louisiana hot links, and chocolate-coated almonds,
    and you’ve pretty much taken care of lunch–and your cholesterol count
    for the week.Recently I spotted a sign near the entrance of my local
    Costco advertising the store’s Inkjet Cartridge Refill Service. The
    price was right, and Costco promised to refill cartridges within 1 hour.
    An ideal test for the Serial Refiller–and I could take a leisurely
    tour of the food booths in the meantime.

    Informative and Painless
    refills dozens of specific Canon, Dell, HP, and Lexmark cartridges; you
    can get a list of the models in a paper brochure as well as on Costco’s
    Website. Prices range from $8 to $10 per refill, which is considerably
    cheaper than buying a new cartridge. In my case, the cost to refill HP
    60 black and tricolor cartridges was $8 each, or $16 total (plus tax).
    That’s less than half the cost of buying the HP 60 black ($15) and
    tricolor ($20) cartridges separately. (Buying the HP 60 Ink Cartridge
    Combo Pack saves a few bucks at $32.)

    To Costco’s credit, both
    the brochure and the Web pages offer a lot of useful advice to promote a
    successful refill. For instance, Costco recommends that you refill a
    cartridge as soon as its print quality begins to diminish. Costco also
    says that each ink cartridge is good for five to ten refills, depending
    on how well you care for it.The experience was painless. I brought a
    pair of empty HP 60 black and tricolor cartridges to my neighborhood
    Costco’s 1-hour photo counter. I caught a glimpse of the big machine
    they use to refill cartridges, tucked in the back of the workspace. The
    clerk asked how long the cartridges had been dry, as dried ink can clog
    printhead nozzles. The clerk even dabbed the printhead area with a
    tissue to see if it was still damp–and it was, as I had just run out of
    ink earlier that day.Costco generally promises to refill cartridges in 1
    hour, which proved true in my case. Pickup times may vary, however,
    depending on the number of cartridges you need refilled, and how busy
    the photo department is when you arrive.

    Big Savings
    Costco-replenished HP 60 tanks worked perfectly well. The printer filed
    the usual complaints once it detected the refilled cartridges, but I’m
    used to ignoring those by now.The prints that the Costco-filled ink
    cartridges created were adequate for everyday use. When I did a
    side-by-side visual comparison of the Costco and HP samples, however,
    the latter looked far better to me, with sharper text, brighter colors,
    and more realistic flesh tones. I dribbled a little water across both
    samples; each suffered some streaking and color bleeding, but Costco’s
    ink did no worse than HP’s.Costco promises to “closely match or exceed”
    the level of ink that comes in a new cartridge, and I found that to be
    true. I printed 148 of my sample pages with Costco ink before seeing
    streaks in images and text–that’s 16 pages more than I got with HP’s

    More Prints for Less Than Half the Cost
    Costco’s refills
    will save you money, but how much, exactly? In my tests, the cost per
    page with Costco ink was 11 cents. In contrast, printing pages using the
    HP 60 black and tricolor cartridges costs 27 cents per page (if you buy
    the cartridges separately). A significant savings, indeed.Now the
    caveats. It certainly doesn’t make sense to join Costco, which charges
    $50 or more for an annual membership, solely to refill ink cartridges.
    If you’re already a Costco member, congratulations: You could save big
    on ink refills. Or you could join for the ink and buy other stuff there,
    too.Another option: If you print often and insist on using HP ink,
    consider buying HP’s high-capacity cartridges, which hold more ink than
    standard tanks and can lower your cost per page. High-capacity
    cartridges don’t make sense if you print infrequently, however, because
    printers that sit idle for extended periods require cleaning cycles that
    consume ink.

    Best Refill Experience Yet
    A serial refiller
    will try anything to save money. Costco’s cartridge-refill service is my
    favorite option so far. The do-it-yourself refill kit that I tested
    offered the best cost per page and output quality, but entailed the most
    hassle. When I tried Office Depot remanufactured cartridges, they
    provided paltry savings and underwhelming output quality. The Costco
    ink’s output quality was also not quite as good as HP’s, but the
    refilling was so easy and so cheap that for me the trade-off was