Is your printer wasting your precious pricey printer ink?

by , Technology Researcher Technology 20 November 2012
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If it seems like your printer is guzzling ink when you rarely use it, maybe that’s because it is. Our latest tests show that downtime between prints can massively increase the print cost per page.

Printer leaking colour ink

The cost of printer ink has many of you riled, but the outright cost of the cartridges is just the start.

Over the last year we’ve been running a number of tests on printers to look more closely at ink use. We’ve tested to see how much ink is wasted by head-cleaning cycles when you only print occasionally, and if this problem gets worse when you leave the printer off or in standby.

One print for the price of six

When we compared occasional printing (one page seven times a week for eight weeks) to continuous printing (50 pages in one day) we were shocked by the difference in ink use.

The most wasteful printer on test, the HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus eAIO, used 525% more ink printing colour pages over the longer period. It’ll cost you £2.50 to print 50 pages in quick succession, but this jumps to £17.48 if you only occasionally print and switch it off in between. If you keep the printer on standby between occasional printing, the cost drops to £5.92.

That’s not to say all printers behave like that. With the Canon Pixma MX885, continuous printing would cost £7 per 50 pages, £14.13 for occasional printing (switching the printer off), and a whopping £19.11 for occasional printing (leaving the printer on). You can see how both perform against the more modest Epson Stylus SX620FW in this picture:

Printer ink waste cost tested and compared

So, if you only use your printer now and then, you could be paying for ink that will never even make it on to the page.

Of course, the idea of saving up all your prints and running them all off in one go to get the lowest costs per page is lunacy. When you need to print, you need to print.

Ink costs are a minefield. There are a number of variables that may determine when your inkjet printer cleans its print head, and how much ink gets wasted along the way. At present, when you walk into a shop, there’s no way of knowing how much your prints are going to cost. We think that needs to change.

Printer manufacturers need to explain ink waste

What we need is some clarity from manufacturers around how ink is wasted by printers, and why some waste more than others.

We’re going to continue our printer ink tests use to find the biggest wasters and factor this into our printer reviews. In the meantime we’ll be speaking to manufacturers to get more clarity about the true costs of ink. So if your printer seems to get through ink really quickly, we want to hear your experiences so we can share them with manufacturers. Is your printer wasting ink?

Do you think your printer wastes too much ink?

Yes (79%, 823 Votes)

I don't know (18%, 183 Votes)

No (3%, 38 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,045

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213 comments

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Cliff

Does using a ‘continuous’ ink supply negate the problem regarding saturation of the absorbant foam pad? ie; does the printer still go through the usual cleaning proceedures?

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tenire

My approach to the printer is that I have little to lose but my time if I mess around trying to adapt it’s operation to what I want, not what Canon wants. It cost £35 to buy, so I learned that I could simply mop out surplus ink from the dump, I could reset the counter to reset the”error” [actually lockout codes], I could drill cartridges to take ink-supply tubes [yes I got covered in ink, until I realised I could do the whole adptation off the printer and in the sink], and I now don’t care about cleaning cycles or the cost of ink.

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banjo

No. What is primarily does is remove the need to buy ink in cartridges. You buy the individual colours in bottles of up to 1 litre at a time. Very cheap.

To stop the ink pads getting soaked you can add a waste tank which connects to the pipe that takes the waste ink to the ink pads and diverts the waste ink into an external liquid-tight container. The pads won’t get soaked but if you have an Epson printer it will STILL tell you that the pads are soaked (which is impossible) and that you need to visit an official Epson repair shop (which would be expensive and proves that they are liars).

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pureedfruit

Has Which? checked out the recently Adobe product “LeanPrint” which claims to reduce printing costs? It is currently on promo to the end of the year at £19.35.

If not please check it out and lets us know how long it will take to recover it’s cost.

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wavechange

I have had a look at this and believe that it is intended for use with laser printers rather than inkjet printers.

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chrisp

I have an old HP 850C which works fine for black/white and colour documents. However it’s poor at printing photos even on top quality paper.
So, I bought a Canon Pixma i4850 – which produces superb prints.
I recently installed new ink cartridges into all slots in the Canon. I then, over a period of about 10 days, printed a dozen or so documents in Greyscale and in the Business Document setting.
In theory I should have used NONE of the colour inks but I now find that because of the poor (or deliberate?) design the printer has EMPTIED the Cyan and Blue cartridges just in the ‘cleaning’ procedures and I am instructed to replace them!. I feel conned.
So I’ve reverted to the HP for documents and the Canon for photos.
However I use Windows 7 and HP, in their infinite wisdom won’t produce W7 drivers. I feel conned – again!
Bah.

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Arthur Thomson

The ink tank racket is FAR worse than you have suggested. Eventually a message comes up that your ink tank is full and you need to empty it. This is extremely messy by do it yourself, and costs as much as a new printer to get it done professionally – if you can find anyone prepared to do it. However, chase the problem up on Firefox or whatever (US sources best) and you will find that there exist almost-secret codes you can enter by various combinations of the printer buttons that reset the “tank full” warning. That will keep the printer going for a couple of thousand more copies which is well worth doing.

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banjo

These days, most printers don’t seem to have ‘secret codes’ via the buttons. They all expect that official repair bods will plug a computer into the printer and run hard-to-get-hold-of utilities. Unofficial utilities are available but most of them are trojans/malware.

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Peter

Glad some one else has noticed this. I have an old Epson StylusDX4850 which works fine except I hardly dare switch it on as it seems to use large amounts of ink each time I do. I suspect it could be about 7/8 switch ons to empty the tanks at over £40 a set. I suspect leaving it on is better as it then drops into standby. But it still gets switched off when I go away and other odd times. Does not seem to use any ink printing as I only do the odd thing! So have now bought a set of refilled cartriges at less than a quarter of the cost.

Peter.

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Cliff

The general conclusion appears to be that the consumer is being ripped off by printer manufacturers. However, I think we need to accept that, from their point of view, the object of the exercise is to produce a product that will attract as much of our hard earned cash as possible in order to please their bosses & in turn, the shareholders. The consumers interest is of little consequence. Until a competitor produces a product which performs as well but uses less ink and/or has an accessible excess ink container, there is little anyone can do that will persuade them otherwise. I think the only way that ‘Which?’ can serve it’s members is to carry out a thorough & comprehensive test making a comparison with independent & OEM inks together with a test of Continuous Ink Supply Systems.

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Len M

I totally agree Cliff. But also, if we knew what triggers the cleaning cycle on the printer, we would be able to make an educated decision about whether to circumvent this, (and possibly risk blocked jets), where we consider unnecessary cleaning is being carried out.

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g.chase

Exactly so. That is what we need; a statement for each printer model of the list of criteria (and/or combinations of criteria) that triggers the jet cleaning process. Armed with this, we can as you say, devise our own procedures to minimise cost.

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Malcolm R

Cliff, this is a fair view of some printers, but not, I believe, a generalisation. I have a Canon MP600R that I use regularly for quite a bit of printing, both black and colour. I leave it switched on all the time and use Canon cartidges. I am very happy with the results, with the ink consumption, and it has worked totally reliably for 6 years. I was going to suggest that Which? does a printer survey looking at users’ experience over the years,like they do with cars, but as printer models seem to change so rapidly this may not be too useful. However it may sort out, from the few brands around, whether some are more frugal with ink than others; I presume the ink delivery engines changes less frequently than other features..

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Jane

I have an Advent W10 printer. Cartridges cost £13.99. I have to have new ones after 100 sheets. Cost works out at around 13p a sheet without adding the cost of paper! The printer ws a very reasonable price but the cost of cartridges has caught me out.

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CV

This is what I have just submitted to Advent about my AW10 printer:

“I am most disappointed with this printer because the ink cartridges empty so quickly. I replaced both colour & B&W cartridges (genuine Advent cartridges from Curry’s). I printed no more than 20 A4 sheets (eg boarding pass, ticket confirmation, a short letter) and only some of them have a very small amount of colour print. But already the ink is low in both cartridges.

This is nowhere near the number of sheets I should be able to print with each cartridge. Disgraceful.”

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greymare

Why does your survey not include Kodak ink & the Kodak printer? This has to be a SERIOUS omission. I asked a group of 12 people which brand came to mind when thinking of printer ink & they ALL said Kodak. Similar 100% Kodak response when asking about printer. This is because KODAK do heavy advertising Hclaim that their printer & ink are the most economical & that therefore you can print masses of stuff.

As a result I changed (from Epson & HP which have proved expensive in the past) to Kodak. But your survey is quite useless to me because it does not include Kodak & I cannot make a comparison.

Please explain why you do not include KODAK i your survey.

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banjo

Possibly because Kodak have announced that they pulling out on the printer business. The ONLY thing they will be selling is ink.

Yes, banjo’s right. Kodaks withdrawal from the market is why it wasn’t included in the study.

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unclemort

Interested to hear about Kodak. I bought an ESP3250 as my first printer. Kodak’s advice was to leave the printer switched on to reduce printhead cleaning and conserve ink. I also did most printing using the black cartridge and in draft. I used the printer once or twice a week on average. When it worked properly it was fine and initially I got about 400 pages of print from the black cartridge. The little-used colour cartridge needed replacing after about 800 pages, mainly due to automatic printhead cleaning. But after replacing the second black cartridge it started to use both black and colour cartridges too quickly (I rarely did colour prints) and eventually warned that cartridges were empty and needed replacing even after I’d installed new ones. As a consequence the printer wouldn’t work. After 2 wasted weeks liaising with Kodak I paid for a new printhead (£40) but after using two more cartridges it started playing-up again, print quality was poor on start-up and I had to do printhead cleaning to restore flow of ink. Last week it was putting no ink on the paper at all even after two goes at printhead cleaning and it has now stopped completely because cleaning used-up what was left of the colour cartridge. I’m binning it and looking for a replacement, preferably one that’s quicker than the ESP3250 to set to ‘draft’ and one that doesn’t stop me using the black cartridge when the colour cartridge needs replacing. Or maybe I should just get a mono printer.

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Mark

Our experience of Kodak printers has been equally bad… as soon as it stopped printing and it was suggested we needed a new printhead after only a year we gave up and bought a Brother printer from a local independent supplier that sells refillable cartridges… fingers crossed – the Brother seems to perform very well… do Which include Brother printers in their survey?

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greynare

Thanks banjo

The other complaint I have is that one can buy either a cartridge 30, or a cartridge 30XL for my All-in-One Kodak printer. These supply the black ink. Both cartidges are exactly the same size – BUT the 30XL is supposed to contain more ink than the plain 30 one. Why on earth, if they are both the same size, cannot the 30 one be filled properly (with the same amount as the 30XL)? Why sell a cartridge which is (presumably only half-full)? – it strikes me as “rip-off”, or jolly bad value for money ….

The physical size of the cartridge has to be the same otherwise the cartridge wouldn’t fit in the printer, but yes, the XL cartridge is filled with more ink – there’s a kind of sponge in the cartridge that holds the ink and they put more in.

Standard capacity cartridges cost less and contain less ink. XL cartridges have more ink in them and cost a bit more. If you’re printing fairly regualrly, the XL cartridge should work out better value – the amount of extra ink should outweigh the additional cost. Cartridges aren’t completely air tight, so having the cartridge sitting open in the printer you may lose a little ink to evaporation etc but most people print at least once a week.

That said, the price of branded cartridges varies from retailer to retailer. If you get a great deal on standard capacity cartridges they could work out cheaper – we’ve experienced that once ourselves when testing ink as one retailer was selling standard capacity cartridges very cheaply at the time.

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Malcolm R

There seems not much price difference between the two, so go for the XL every time. The optimist’s view would be I get twice as much ink for not much more money!

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David

I’m sure there were more comments than those currently shown. Have some gone missing?

Hi David, there are now three pages of comments due to its popularity. You can go through the pages by clicking the page numbers below.

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wavechange

Patrick

Please could you ask if the website developers could link recent comments on the homepage to the relevant page of a Conversation, rather than the most recent page of comments. It can get a little confusing when someone goes through some of the older comments inserting replies. Thanks.

Hi Wavechange, we plan to do better than that – you should get a link directly to the individual comment you’ve clicked on. Thanks.

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wavechange

Thanks in anticipation of our Christmas present. :-)

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wavechange

My goodness. Not only the links but prominent Reply buttons that should mean fewer people clicking Report rather than Reply. And reply to replies – a possible opportunity for some of us to go completely off-topic. :-(

Meanwhile, back on topic. It would be good to hear from someone in or retired from the printer industry, who could make informed comment about whether manufacturers are deliberately having their machines waste ink to cost us money.

We aim to please Wavechange, sorry it wasn’t quite a Christmas present!

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John

Perhaps more users should consider buying a laser printer? OK it would be a higher initial cost but the ‘running’ costs would be much lower….

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David Bates

John. Don’t get one with a page counter micro chip or you will be throwing toner away see my comments 30.11.12 and 01.12.12 re Ricoh laser printer sp100e

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Len M

For Wavechange
I’ve been printing a little bit of colour almost every day, to see if my Epson Stylus Color 680 would clean itself less often, and so save on ink. I also left it switched on 24/7 in the hopes that not turning it off & on might negate a possible trigger for a cleaning cycle. Nothing positive to report though. It still did a couple of short cleaning cycles, and I watched with anger as the graphic showed the ink level going down! I think it would take a bit more dedication than I’ve got, really find the optimum m.o. for my normal print requirements.

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wavechange

Thanks for reporting back, Len. I really don’t understand why any printer needs to clean its heads if it is being used on a daily basis. If it was not being used then there is a good reason.

After our discussion I decided to check the consumption of my HP printer which I have been leaving in standby mode in the hope that this would save ink, even if it used electricity. This produced figures of 13 W or 6 VA, so I’ve been turning it off when I remember.

I suggest you go for the b/w laser option, but check toner capacity and price. I may be wrong but I don’t think a laser printer wastes any more toner if it is switched off straight after use.

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Mick G

I often wondered why my Cannon printer ink was always showing low when i hardly ever use it. I now know why. Dont know of a way of stopping it though. I am not going to leave the printer on if i dont print for several weeks.

What a con

I wonder if i removed the cartridges before turning on whether the cleaning cycle would run with the printer empty. Then replace them before printing. Thinking aloud, so if its a stupid thought i am sorry

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prntzone2012

toner cartridges are really sensitive especially when being removed and installed. Proper maintenance is a must if you don’t want to buy another one when the old one still has a shell life of two years.don’t try to remove it and re-install a new toner cartridge if you don’t have experience. It’s a sensitive part of the printer and it may get damage. So if you want to avoid that then ask help from an expert.

Look for: printzone.com.au/hp-laserjet-m725-toner-cartridges-e-10277.html

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wavechange

I’m sure that many people have, like me, replaced a many toner cartridges without a single problem. If following the instructions is not adequate then the instructions should be improved.

Beware of experts who are keen to make out that we are all incompetent and should pay for help with simple tasks. :-)

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Stuart

Nearly every time I use my 3-yr-old Epson Stylus SX 415 printer I have to clean the clogged nozzles. Is it safe to use a nozzle-cleaning kit (@£12.50 on the web) & will it work? The high price of Epson ink has driven me to use ‘compatible’ ink: could this cause the problem?

Some third party inks work better than others, so if you’re using a third party ink and the nozzles are clogging, it’s likely to be a problem with the ink.You might want to try a different brand.
You don’t want to manually clean print heads regularly. Inkjet printers usually have an ink absorber which catches the ink used for head cleaning. When the absorber fills up the printer will probably stop working.
We’ve never tried the cleaning kits, so can’t comment on that score. It’s another expense though.

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Ed

We bought an Epson SX515W and we only ever used genuine ink. It was only used occasionally for school homework and a few photos. Basically by the time it was 18 months old, on about our 3rd set of cartridges, it became irreparably clogged. No amount of cleaning cycles would clear it, and in fact I read on the internet that cleaning could make it worse with this model. Another family member had a similar experience with an Epson clogging and becoming junk. I will never buy Epson again.

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Tony Clark

I have found printer loacation and surronding temperature affects ink usage. I once had a printer on a desk in the hall under a staircase opposite a radiator. This must have dried out or evaported the ink as I was forever replacing the ink carts, with very limited and infrequent printing.

I have also had recent experience of a printer in a corner of a hospital radio production studio with three PCs running 24 hours a day. Although air conditioned the heat generated by the PCs in a restricted area seemed to result in the ink carts being replaced too often for the volume of printing. We’ve overcome this problem by switching to a laser printer/copier!

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Mitch

Cannon Pixma640: Spends more time using up ink than printing. Never buy a Cannon ever again!
Brother DCP6690CW: Excellent! Spends little time in using up ink cleaning and very good reproduction. Best inkjet machine I have ever bought. Highly recommend it

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Jim

I have been refilling printer cartridges for some years now. The black cartridges are usually OK, but I have had variable success with the colour ones. The instructions which come with the ink give very detailed instructions as to where to inject the ink into the foam inside. It is necessary to drill a small hole through the plastic. No mention has been made of this in the magazine.

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banjo

Possibly because not too many refillable cartridges need to be drilled. For most printers the simplest way to refill cartridges is to buy special refillable cartridges (cheap and empty) which come with a little cap which you open, squirt the ink inside, then re-seal.

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J.

I have bought a HP Photosmart 6520 (very similar to 6510 best buy). Does anyone know the most efficient way to save ink? Is it best to: a) turn off at mains after use b) keep on but put on standby c) leave on? I am using genuine HP inks. Thanks!

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Baz

I have a Photosmart all I One B110, and have had for almost 3 years. It is never turned off. Other than to replace the original cartridges ( demo spec) I always use non HP ink, with no Chips, and it seems not to do the printer any harm. My copy count is at present around 9900. Maybe this is unusual, but I don’t know. I am considering resetting the counter, to forestall any problems with waste tank showing full, but the jury is out on that one.

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colin donaldson

I have just had to reset the waste ink counter on my Epson Stylus Photo 1400 because it deemed the waste ink pads were full. I followed this by installing a waste ink tank which is quite easy to do on this printer. On restarting the printer I decided to do a head clean in order to see (a) that the tube to the tank was clear and (b) to measure the ink used for the cleaning. Approximately just over 3 mls of ink were used for the cleaning. This is not an insignificant amount as I think the cartridges only contain a total of between 60 and 80mls of ink. I am now even more convinced that once the ink supplied initially with the printer had been used the gamble to invalidate the 1 year warrantee by using refillable cartridges and a reputable ink was worth it.

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banjo

It is worth it.

You could also try my favourite trick which is to buy your next printer WITH a Continuous Ink Ssystem and waste tank and use them from the first unboxing. Don’t use the official ink that comes with the printer, sell it on ebay. I sold the six Epson originals that came with my Stylus Photo R360 and they more than paid for the CIS and waste tank.

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Paul

I have an HP Photosmart Premium C309g printer, which turns out very good b/w and colour prints (with the standard HP inks), but suffers the common problem of frantic and prolonged activity every time it is turned on. To save ink, I left the printer on continuously, but suffered a power pack failure soon after. I noted several comments re power pack problems on a website I visited looking for a reasonably priced replacement. Any other similar experiencesout there – I am wondering whether to stay with the always-on regime, or whether to turn on/offevery time, and Which does’nt have enough evidence yet to give a positive recommendation.

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wavechange

Which? has demonstrated that how we use a printer can greatly affect running cost but working out what is best for individuals because usage patterns differ so much. You can easily measure the power consumption of leaving your printer on continuously using an inexpensive meter. Mine cost £10 from Maplin and has helped me find out the cost of keeping printers, etc. on standby.

I was disappointed to learn how much my HP inkjet printer was costing to keep on standby but the convenience of wireless printing, forgetting to turn it off, and the thought that it could be saving ink have jointly caused me to leave it on.

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christhompson

I have always thought that the older models of Epson ink Jet printers waste a lot of ink and tend to perform a cleaning check far too often. If a head becomes blocked it could often take 3 or 4 attempts to clear the problem and one could see from the print manager that this was wasting a lot of ink. I have also found in the past that actually replacing the cartridge has been the only way of resolving a blocked head despite the fact that the head is separate to the cartridge.
I now own a Epson Stylus Photo PX730WD which is left on standby due to it being wireless and used by all of the family who have their own PC’s or laptops and this rarely goes into cleaning mode and when it does is for a very short period of time. The ink seems to last longer, despite using a similar size cartridge to my old photo R300 so perhaps Epson is finaly realising that unless they improve, people will switch to other brands of ink or even printer. It can cost as much to refil a budget priced printer with ink as it cost to buy the printer. I do think that at the moment ink is too expensive but I will always stick with the manufacturers ink as I know that Epson follows strict quality process controls within its ink manufacturing process.

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Ken Lillig

Hi. Once again Which bang on the dot! My Cannon MP210-home use only- ink use came to a head last month. I’d been using Tesco ink at £36.47 (always keep a pack spare) Changed to Inkredible 13th Sept. at £34.72,then 6th Nov. 2 x pack special at £64.51. Always showed ink low!! RAN OUT!!! So staggered I rang Inkredible and voiced my despair with product. They said “count the printed sheets”!! Told them going back to tesco!! Your article Feb. issue perfect, on order now from Currys an
HP Deskjet 2510 at £29.99 inc. cartridges! Cost with a connection lead and spare cartridges (less 10%) £55.46!! On Amazon HP cartridges are £16.38 a pair. Being a non technoweenie and pensioner I feel cartridges are a rip off!! Please keep up the good work!!

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wavechange

HP cartridges often come in two different sizes, so take care when comparing prices. The larger ones can be better value for money

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Ken Lillig

Hi wavechange
Many thanks for info on HP cartridge sizes, will watch out! Any thoughts re leaving HP2510 printer on all time; can it be set for “drafts” etc etc to save ink? Ken

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wavechange

Most inkjet printers can be used in draft mode, I believe. Just explore the options you are offered when you are preparing to print a document.

I am not sure whether it is best to switch off my own printer (a different HP model to yours) off when not in use. All I have done is to measure the power consumption in standby mode, and it was 13 W or 8 VA according to my meter. I had guessed it would be less. I’m still leaving it on standby unless I know the printer is unlikely to be used for a couple of days, mainly for convenience.

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ric

It seems that most (all?) of the comments refer to piezo inkjets. My experience of inkjet printers suggests that a thermal printer might be better for light users.

I have a Canon iP4850 that drains all of its 5 ink tanks in a couple of months even though I rarely print colour. I have printed less than 200 pages (nearly all black) and bought 3 sets of cartridges before getting some refillable ones, which I have refilled a couple of times. Printing is therefore still pretty expensive. I’m wondering when the waste ink absorber is going to be full (time to throw the printer away). The printer stays connected to the mains except when I go away. If I ever disconnect it, it churns away for several minutes when it is reconnected – in fact it does it periodically anyway.

My first printer was a Dell all-in-one thermal printer that cost about £15. It didn’t do nozzle cleaning unless I wanted it. My first cartridges lasted a couple of years of occasional printing and I never had a clogged nozzle. It was fast, and photo printing was, to the naked eye, as good as the Canon. Text printing was better than the Canon and the Epson that I had in between, and the ink cartridges could be refilled quite easily. If a nozzle had packed up (which never happened) I would onl have needed to buy a new ink cartridge. I would still have my first printer if Dell hadn’t persuaded me (via Microsoft Update) to load a new driver that sabotaged the printer ( to stop me from refillling the cartridges) and could only be removed by wiping the hard disc.

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wavechange

As far as I know, piezoelectric print heads are used only in Epson and some Brother printers, of the type likely to be used in the home. The others use heat to drive tiny ink droplets out of the print heads. What we normally regard as a thermal printer is typically a small device, such as those used to print receipts. I guess that you are referring to a dye sublimation printer, Ric. These are most commonly small printers used to print photos, but bigger ones are available.

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Oldcodger

Hi. My Cannon MP 210 cost me a fortune in cartridges. I thought it was because Inkredible were poor quality, costing me £102.50 in some two months (i’m only a light home user) So after complaining and being told to count pages I’ve taken action.01/02/13 Bought an HP 2510 (which good buy!!) with extra cartridges from Currys at about £30!! So far still on original cartridges and works very well! I’m no technoweenie and don’t understand all this technical “stuff”; but being a pensioner I understand a financial rip off with cartridges!! Looking forward to seeing where all this goes!

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ric

Wavechange

I’ve already been checking up and realise that I typed quite a lot of rubbish. Somebody who I thought was an expert told me that Canon and HP used piezo heads. I therefore assumed that the use of automatic cleaning cycles was confined mainly to piezo printers because most of the posts referred to Epson, Canon and HP. Obviously that is not the case. Oddly, Canon don’t say anything in their literature about which printhead technology they use.

I wasn’t referring a dye sublimation printer or a “real” thermal printer, though I can see why you might have thought that I was.

The fact remains, though, that I had a low-cost, A4 thermal inkjet printer that didn’t waste any ink. The nozzles were built into the cartridges, so didn’t limit the life of the printer. The printer’s specification stated a life of 17,000 printed pages. The print quality for text and drawings was noticeably superior to my newer, more expensive Canon and Epson printers, and it was quicker. Photo quality looked about the same unless you used a magnifying glass, but I think that my old printer was slower. It might still be possible to get a printer like that. I believe that mine was a badged Lexmark. I haven’t heard of them lately.

Oh, and I’ve just remembered something else. When I used my Canon to print about 60 pages in one go, it stopped printing and went through a nozzle-cleaning cycle after every few sheets, so it will be expensive even if you ae a heavy user.

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wavechange

At one time, Canon branded their printers ‘Bubblejet’ because heat in the print head produced a bubble of solvent vapour and this propelled tiny droplets of ink onto the paper. That’s little different from what printheads on HP and other non-piezo printers do. All of them will ‘waste’ ink to keep the printheads operating correctly.

I would be interested to know how your old inkjet printer functioned without head cleaning, Ric. I presume that normal operation was sufficient to keep the head working correctly. It that’s the case, using this sort of printer could save us a lot of money.

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Philip Hodges

We’ve had a Photosmart B210a printer for two years for home use. It has cost us around £2,000 in printer cartridges and now the printhead is failing. Buying a printhead is 50% of buying a new printer. Worse still, the online and phone support is rubbish. It’s a con. Directed my complaint to HP (CEO) – they didn’t have an answer.

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Jean

I have an HP Deskjet F4400 that absolutely gobbles ink! I just installed a black cartridge a month ago and it is nearly empty already after printing out only 200 copies in “ink-saving” mode. This is outrageous!

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David Bates

Just had a warning light on my Richo 100SP to say my toner cartridge was running out – usually turns off when red light comes on permanently. A new toner cartridge is now £59 from E-Buyer and a new printer is £36 presumable with a short run toner cartridge. How mad is that? This cartridge has a chip with four metal contacts which counts the copies and turns it off even if the cartridge has toner in. I have just connected a 9 volt battery across the contacts at random and it’s working again – albeit I have to press the form feed button sometimes to kick it into life. I have just ordered a new cartridge for my old HP 1100 at £15. What is Which doing about this other than just reading these emails?

Hi David, that’s an ingenious workaround you’ve found for your Ricoh.
There are so many quibbles around printer ink and manufacturers aren’t always forthcoming with information. We can’t tackle every angle at once, but we’ve started by adding the ‘occasional printing’ test to our main printers test. It’s turning out some interesting results, but it’ll take a while to gather a good bank of data. Ink is a subject we’re going to continue chipping away at, but all of these comments are really useful to help us going forward.

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Aine

I replaced my black ink cartridge in my kodak colour printer. It then printed out a page, half of which was saturated in black ink where a photo shoould have been It then said my black ink cartridge needed replaced.

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ric

Wavechange

Re head cleaning on my old Dell (Lexmark?) printer.

It didn’t clean the heads automatically. There were functions in the software for nozzle-checking, nozzle cleaning and head alignment. They had to be run buy the user.

At first I used the nozzle-checking function every few weeks to keep the nozzles clear, but after a while I stopped doing it. I never had a blockage, even after leaving the printer idle for a couple of months, so I never needed to do a nozzle-clean. For high-quality photo printing, the black cartridge had to be temporarily replaced by by a photo one (pale magenta, pale cyan and photo black). There was a special container for the removed cartridge. I only used the photo cartridge a few of times because the results with the ordinary cartridges were good enough for most purposes, so that one went for ages without being used.

Paper was used during nozzle-checking (obviously) and nozzle cleaning, so there was no ink absorber pad to become saturated.

As I said in my original post, Dell sabotaged the printer with a new driver that slowed the computer to a the speed of a very slow snail when it decided that I had used enough ink. It could not be uninstalled. If Microsoft System Reset was used, the driver re-installed itself from some unknown location. The damn thing even notified me that it was happening. I gave the printer and driver disc to a friend and told her never to update the driver. I presume that, if this type of printer is still available, it will come with the nasty driver. Any old printers will have to have a new driver if a new version of windows (later than XP) is installed.

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wavechange

That’s very interesting, Ric. Perhaps the manufacturer could argue that it needed to do this to prevent complaints from those who did not use their printer frequently or would understand how to cope with problems. Even if this is the case by default, it would be good if experienced users could choose how to use their own property.

I certainly take your point that it is better for ink used in cleaning to go onto paper than risk having a full absorbent pad for waste ink. I have never had a problem but was amazed about the amount of ink collected when I dismantled a faulty Canon monochrome printer, many years ago.

This discussion is making me increasingly suspicious of printer manufacturers and I’m now keeping my HP printer on all the time, even though I’m wasting electricity.

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ric

Wavechange

I’m not sure what you are referring to in your last post. Is it the “sabotage” driver. If it is, let me explain myself.

I’m pretty sure that the updated driver that makes the computer unuseable is intended to stop anyone from refilling the cartridges. Each cartridge has a serial number that the driver reads. The driver remembers the number for ever, even if the driver is re-installed. That is the only information that passes from the cartridge to the driver. The driver tots up the ink demands that it sends, and decides when the cartridge is empty. It gives a warning but allows a bit more printing. Then the warning changes and, if it is ignored, the computer stalls. The computer can only be recovered by a hard switch -off and restart. This happens even if the empty cartridge will not be used in the printing operation. In fact, my printer was an all-in-one and I couldn’t even use it for scanning. The problem disappears when a new cartridge is installed. From the manufacturer’s point of view it is a brilliantly simple and versatile system and very hard to circumvent, and that’s probably the reason why I have never seen a proprietary refillable cartridge for Dell printers.

I only installed the damn driver update because it was on the Microsoft Update site, with the recommendation that I should install it because “your printer does not appear to be working properly”. Before that I could refill the cartridges without any trouble.

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wavechange

Ric – I can’t really relate to this because I use Macs rather than PCs and mainly laser printers rather than inkjets. In fact, my current HP multi-function printer is the only one that has been capable of recognising refilled or non-HP cartridges.

Laser printers record page counts and sometimes number of jams, pages mis-picked, etc. Some will stop printing before the output shows and evidence of a problem, presumably after a certain number of pages and before the toner is exhausted. It’s not unreasonable to expect a modern inkjet printer to be capable of doing the same.

I am not impressed that Dell (or whoever makes the control software) should allow it to freeze a computer. I wonder if that is intended or just something has been corrupted. It’s not good to have to save open files before risking printing a document. You cannot be the only one to have spotted this problem and you might find some interesting information about the effect of the Microsoft update on Dell printers by searching online discussion forums.

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dead eye dicky

If it is becoming a common practise for own-brand cartridge manufacturers to use serial numbers in some way to enable them to sell more cartridges this may be a very good reason to buy ‘compatibles’. It can’t be beyond the ingenuity and is certainly in the interests of compatible manufacturers to design chips that can over-ride any ‘dirty tricks’ that printer manufacturers can dream up. It should surely be possible for ‘others’ to write drivers that enable printer users to get the results they deserve. As an aside, my first laser printer (an Epson costing £1100) came with a hefty manual with all a programmer needed to know to write his own drivers for any computer or operating system so how about the nice guys who produce Linux and other freebee software taking on the challenge?

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ric

Wavechange

When my Dell driver problem arose, I looked at a couple of forum web sites. Somebody had indeed reported the problem. He contacted Dell. They did not say that the problem was accidental. They told him that he could remove the driver by using Dell System Restore, which resets the hard disc to the state in which it was originally delivered. This means that all files saved and all software installed by the user are lost. I decided not to take that route. It would have been a real pain. However, with hindsight I think I should have done it.

As with my two subsequent printers (Epson and Canon) and, I suspect, all inkjets, the Dell gave a two-stage warning: first that ink was running out, then that it had run out. The second warning normally stops the printer but can usually be overridden and, with some printers, can be switched off altogether (cancelling the guarantee). The change to the Dell driver stopped the PC from working. I think it was the only change. As the Dell’s print heads are in the ink cartridges, it doesn’t matter if they get overheated and fail (as long as you don’t intend to refill them.

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ric

Dead Eye Dicky

The serial-number method of ink cartridge control is not new, and as far as I know it was only ever used by Dell and, by inference, Lexmark. I haven’t heard about it becoming common.

Writing a printer driver takes a lot of specialist man-hours. An ex-colleague was interested in free operating systems and tried Ubuntu, which I think is the most popular Linux didtribution. Apparently, there are plenty of good programmes around that it can run. The big problem that he had was finding drivers for any peripherals, particularly printers.

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tenire

Really Wavchange!? It most certainly does not mean that all files are lost. It only restores system files, which I have found very useful when a memory chip corrupted the system. All other files are unchanged, and it works well. It would pay you to look at this, if you ever have a corrupted system it’s the only way to help yourself.

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ric

Dear tenire,

I think your last comment (re: Dell System Restore) might have been directed at me, not Wavechange (‘coz I put his name at the top of my post).

First, I must say that I seem to have got the name of the tool wrong, leading you to assume that I meant Microsoft System Restore, which failed to remove the offending driver. I think I should have called it Dell PC Restore.

I have checked out Dell PC Restore as far as I can without actually running it. There are various versions, depending on the age and model of the PC and the version of Windows. For my Dimension 5000 running Windows XP, It seems to do what I said. That is, it restores the hard drive to the state that it was in at delivery. Everything else is wiped, including hundreds of Windows updates. I could back up all the data files, but not programmes other than Office because the nasty driver will be hidden somewhere in there and will re-instal itself automatically just as it does now.

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Ben

Using Linux (Mint) based on Debian linux – I actually found it better to put more RAM in my machine and dedicate a few GB of that to running Windows in a Virtualbox.

The beauty of doing this is that you can take snapshots – when you got it right, you can delete unwanted snapshots…. Now it takes me 15s to load Windows if I need it (mostly to run iTunes and sync/backup stuff)… It also encourages me NOT to keep any personal files in the system drive (which is actually a vdi image…) making the whole installation easily copiable, movable, and similarly disposable.

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Lighthouse

I have a Kodak 3250 bought purely because the ink is much cheaper than other printers. However my last black cartridge lasted just six weeks a d didn’t even manage one hundred sheets, no photos, just standard letters

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Mike Evans

I’ve found that it’s much cheaper to get a printer that has separate ink tanks to the print head.
My canon pixma mp780 lasted 12 long hard years before it wore out but never gave me any trouble.

I used either used a generic refill set or bought aftermarket inks, so wasn’t not bothered by the amount of ink. The cost was very low.

When I had a big print run on, I would frequently top up the cartridges while they were still in the machine – as I had access to the little rubber bung.

I’ve just bought an a3 brother printer to replace my canon, and I can get a bulk ink deeded for it for the same price as a set of brother inks – that’s what I’ll be doing…

I think that many cheaper machines are only suitable for occasional use, because the print head is integral with the ink tanks, and are very expensive – often costing as much as the printer.

Also, if you don’t need colour prints, consider a laser. They are very quick, and pretty cheap now.

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Neil

I have an Epson PX800FW which seemed incredibly expensive in ink for all the reasons you suggest (with occasional use, it spent ages making chuntering noises before it would start printing). Then I got the message that the ink pads needed replacing – go to an agent. I did so and was quite annoyed to find out that all the chuntering had been “cleaning the heads” by pouring my expensive ink into the pads which now had to be thrown away. However, the engineer showed me how to turn off cleaning. Now it starts printing straight away, much better ink consumption. That was a couple of years ago and I’ve noticed no down-side to abolishing the cleaning. (Maybe it does it when I change a cartridge.)

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