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The Inkjet Investigation

The single biggest complaint that customers have against manufacturers of ink-jet printers and all-in-ones is the cost of consumables. While hardware prices continue to drop, the costs of ink and paper stay pretty much the same and, each year, can well add up to a good proportion of the purchase price of a machine.

This is why third-party ink and paper has proved so popular. At a fraction of the price of manufacturer's own products, you can buy look-alike consumables which appear to do exactly the same job as the originals. But there's a nagging doubt in the back of the mind that the quality of the resulting prints won't be up to the original manufacturers’ standard – a doubt which is played upon by all the main printer makers.

The four big names in printers and all-in-ones – Canon, Epson, HP and Lexmark – all suggest you may damage your machine by using unbranded consumables and that, even if they work, the print quality won't be as good.

We set out to answer this question: Are prints produced using third-party inks and papers as good as those produced with manufacturers’ own products?

We borrowed samples of current, mid-range all-in-one machines from the main four printer makers: Canon’s PIXMA MP600, the Stylus Photo RX640 from Epson, the HP OfficeJet 6310 and the X5470 from Lexmark. These are the kind of multi-function printing devices that are selling in great numbers for general home and home office use. They represent a good cross-section of the kind of devices that customers may consider using with third-party inks and papers.


January 6, 2012, 9:32 am

Thanks. Very information and great charts. Maybe the models are a bit old, but definitely give me some thoughts for how to choose a cost-effective printer.


January 23, 2012, 6:09 pm

i would never again choice stationary to buy my printer cartriges again as they said that my delivery would be delivered in 2 days 3 days later no cartriges have arrived so not a good place to buy cartriges so this review has a big 0 from me for so if anyone is reading this then be prepared for really bad customer service and prepare for a long wait for printing cartriges


July 20, 2012, 10:24 pm

Purchased replacement compatible inks for my canon mg6250 from ink jungle via amazon,very cheap deal and was pleasantly suprised at the results on my photo,s.quite acceptible.

Paul Hurford

November 30, 2013, 4:14 pm

Fascinating stuff. I'm pleased to see that the best option for my Canon printer is to use Cartridge World. So that's what I'll do! The only bad point about this article is that it needs proof-reading, but the content and the experiments seem very thorough.

Anne Wigan

March 26, 2014, 10:16 am

Totally disappointed and frustrated with compatible cartridges I bought from printerinks for my epson printer. Got messages 'cartridge not recognised', cartridge showed empty after only a few days. It took a lot of fiddling about to get the cartridges accepted then the quality of print was appalling, cleaned heads, no different, impossible to use. Eventually went back to Epson's own. Printerinks did not want to know; they would not allow me to return the 5 cartridges I still have as over 6mths has elapsed (I have been in hospital and unwell). I probably just had a bad experience but I would advise against printerinks.


February 17, 2015, 8:09 pm

I don't know…So, all the prints were made with the same settings? I think you have to apply less ink to cheap, copy paper than you can apply to glossy photo paper. And, shouldn't we load in color profiles for the papers? Do the 3rd-party inks have color profiles? If so, how would we load them?


January 3, 2017, 12:33 pm

Would have been a more helpful review if a data sheet was produced - I would like to know whether the printer head was integral to the cartridge as well as a grid of results. All this writing is worth less without it.....

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