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  • 2013 HP Ink Challenge

    HP Ink ChallengeThis fall, I was invited to join the HP Ink Challenge, which concluded last week. HP sent each participant 2 HP 3510 printers, Original HP ink, empty ink cartridges to be refilled, a ream of HP ColorLok Paper, a ream of generic printer paper, a pack of HP Brochure Paper, and a gift card to pay for the refilled cartridges.

    One printer was set up with Original HP ink, and the other printer was set up with refilled ink cartridges. The purpose of the HP Ink Challenge was to compare the experience and results of printing with Original HP ink versus printing with refilled ink cartridges.

    Going in, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the challenge. The new HP printers I received replaced an HP all-in-one that was over ten years old, and had served me extremely well. Approximately five years ago, I refilled ink cartridges at Walgreens, and had a bad experience with them. Since it was so long ago, I don’t remember the exact details, but I do know that I vowed never to take my chances with refilled cartridges again.

    So I was very interested to see what the results of the HP Ink Challenge would be.

    Right off the bat, some of the participants struggled to get their refilled cartridges. Many of them couldn’t find a store that refills cartridges – for example, Walgreens used to do it and now they don’t. Some of the participants had to order refilled cartridges online and then wait for them to arrive. Others had to drive a long way for their refilled cartridges.

    I was one of the lucky ones. I simply got both the black and tri-color cartridges refilled at Costco for less than $25. It only takes an hour, but I just went back the next day to get my refilled cartridges. Unlike some of the other participants, I had no trouble setting up my two printers, and no trouble installing both sets of ink cartridges. (Some of the participants had to end their challenge before they could do any printing comparisons, because the refilled cartridges they’d obtained just wouldn’t work!)

    My first set of printed documents didn’t reveal much difference, although the Original HP ink prints were slightly crisper and more vibrant than the refill ink prints. That trend continued throughout the five-week challenge, and my conclusion at the end of the challenge was that the refill ink is good enough for most, but not all, of my purposes. Below is a shot of the same page from each printer:

    HP Ink Challenge comparison

    I would want Original HP ink and HP ColorLok paper for printing documents when putting my best foot forward is crucial. I know it’s hard to see, but I believe there is enough of a difference in vibrancy and crispness to justify the price difference. But for everything else – especially coupons – I’d be satisfied with the refill ink.

    However – and this is a big HOWEVER – the challenge showed me that you are taking a big chance with refilled ink cartridges. If you are lucky, like I was, you’ll find a place that is reliable at refilling the cartridges at a very reasonable price, and everything will go smoothly.

    But for every person in the challenge who was satisfied with the refilled ink, it seemed there were at least four or five people who: 1) couldn’t get the refilled cartridges to install properly {possibly because they weren’t refilled correctly}; 2) couldn’t find a place to obtain refilled cartridges; or 3) had to pay nearly $50 for refilled cartridges.

    For these participants, the time/effort and/or money required to purchase refilled ink cartridges was overwhelmingly wasted. They would have been far better off just purchasing Original HP ink cartridges and being able to print without any problems {none only a couple of the participants reported having trouble with their Original HP ink cartridges}.

    The bottom line: Unless you have a reliable, reasonably priced source for refilled ink cartridges, stick with Original HP ink so you know what you’re getting.

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