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The Method To Our Madness

To test these all-in-ones, we obtained ink from each of the printer manufacturers and from four other suppliers: Cartridge World, InkTecShop, JetTec and StinkyInk. These are all substantial suppliers of cartridges from the Web or through high street shops. InkTecShop and StinkyInk are dealers and importers, who supply cartridges from a variety of different manufacturers, or re-manufacturers, while JetTec makes and fills its own cartridges. CartridgeWorld specialises in refilling empty cartridges that its customers bring to its chain of franchised stores.

One thing you need to realise when considering third-party ink cartridges is that those that are refilled, manufacturers’ cartridges are a bit of an unknown quantity. You don't know how many times the cartridges have been through the re-manufacturing process and, on cartridges with integral heads, how worn the heads might be. In this test, the HP and Lexmark devices use cartridges with integral heads.

Other printers use permanent heads – the Canon and Epson machines in this survey – and here there’s a different problem. If you use a third-party cartridge in these machines which doesn’t give the performance you want, you may have trouble flushing all the ink out of the print heads, so you can use the manufacturer’s ink again.

There are two parts to the printing process: the ink and the paper. The printer makers are keen to expound on how the two parts of the printing system are developed together. The chemistry of the ink is matched to the characteristics of the paper and most papers are built up from several different layers of material, some of which absorb ink, some prevent it spreading and others maintain the gloss in a photo print.

To test this claim of matched ink and paper, we brought in glossy photo papers from the four printer manufacturers and from Ilford, Kodak, PC World and Staples; papers which are designed to work with all the main brands of printer. To test the quality of prints on plain paper, we used multipurpose plain paper from the office supplier, Neat Ideas. This paper is designed to work satisfactorily with inkjet and laser printers, as well as with photocopiers.


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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