Five Ways to $ave on Ink – We Analyze Ink-Saving Programs, Strategies, Technology, and Printers

We’re big fans of inkjet and firmly believe that it’s the imaging technology of choice for the new millennium. It’s economical, consumes minimal energy, and minimizes manufacturing and disposal waste, and there’s less harmful emissions. On the other hand, we’re well aware of the lingering resentment resulting from users who feel that they’ve paid too much for ink in the past (deservedly or not), exacerbated by the fact that many early inkjet printers used ink cartridges with very low page yields. Even though the ink Cost Per Page was comparatively cheap, and in most cases was far cheaper than toner-based laser printers, this resulted in the perception that the cost of ink “is too damn high,” a misconception that we’ve been fighting. It’s also resulted in us continually advising our readers, viewers, and commentors both here and on our YouTube channel on the various ways to save on the cost of ink, as well as through multiple testing and analysis campaigns that further attempt to set the record straight.

That said, what follows is yet another attempt . . .

About New Ink Programs and Technology

Not only have we been preaching about how you should recognize the fact that you can save considerably on the cost of ink, many vendors have also responded with new programs and technologies in order to convince you to do so.

HP Instant Ink Program – We’ve extensively reviewed this money-saving program that supplies ink on demand, so that you don’t have to run out of ink at the worst possible moment. Basically, you must own an HP printer that’s eligible for the Instant Ink program. Next, you subscribe to one of three Instant Ink monthly plans based on your expected printer usage (how many pages you expect to print per month). Once you subscribe, you receive special Instant Ink cartridges that hold far more ink than even HP’s XL high-yield ink cartridges. Your printer communicates your usage over the Internet to HP’s servers that then determine when it’s necessary to mail you discounted replacement ink cartridges with free shipping. You’re billed each month for the plan you select, and of note is that you don’t pay a higher price when you purchase an HP Instant-Ink capable printer.

Three subscription programs are available: $2.99 per month for printing up to 50 pages per month; $4.99 for printing up to 100 pages per month; and $9.99 per month for printing up to 300 pages per month. Un-used pages are automatically rolled over to the next month, overage charges are extremely reasonable and you can cancel at any time.

HP also sells two Officejet All-in-Ones that come with pre-paid Instant Ink subscriptions – visit HP here for more info.

Epson CISS-Equipped Printers – Epson has released a line of CISS (Continuous Ink Supply System) All-in-Ones and printers with high-capacity ink tanks instead of ink cartridges that cost significantly more than their cartridge-based counterparts. Ink is sold in bottles and you must top off each of the four ink tanks every once in a blue moon. While the system has more potential for ink spillage than cartridge-based printers, ink is extraordinarily inexpensive. If you’re concerned about the ability of your office users to add ink without muss or fuss, Epson sells high-end printers that are equipped with giant ink bags (or packs) that mitigates this concern – these however are mid-volume office copier/MFPs.

Brother INKvestment Printers – Brother’s strategy is somewhat different. It sells two versions of its upper-end printers – one that uses INKvestment ink cartridges and one without INKvestment ink cartridges. The INKvestment printers cost more to buy, but ink cartridges cost considerably less than the comparable non INKvestment-equipped printer. More recently, Brother teamed up with Amazon for Amazon’s new Dash program, under which a host of qualified Brother printers (including toner-based printers) can receive automatic shipments of ink or toner cartridges, once again determined by remotely monitored usage patterns. However, cartridges are not highly discounted as they are with the HP Instant Ink Program.

Below we’ve analysed several printers that qualify for ink programs and those equipped with new technology, and compared the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) to that of popular business-as-usual (“old school”) printers. Note that in the charts, K refers to black ink; C refers to cyan ink, M refers to magenta ink, and Y refers to yellow ink.