Hands-On Review: HP Instant Ink Program

HP Instant Ink (4)We’ve reported favorably on the HP Instant Ink Program several times since its introduction. While it’s not available worldwide, and only available for select HP Envy and Officejet e-printers and e-All-in-Ones, everybody needs to be reminded once again about its features and benefits. In fact, knowing what we know about HP Instant Ink, we just signed up for it ourselves.

In a nutshell, here’s how the Instant Ink Program works:

  • Ensure that you have an eligible printer and that it has an Internet connection.
  • Go to the HP Instant Ink Web site and sign up for a plan that comes closest to matching the number of pages you print monthly. You’ll need a credit card for this.
  • There’s no annual fee and ink, shipping, and cartridge recycling are included. You can change or cancel your plan online at any time.
  • Once you’ve signed up, HP then mails you special HP Instant Ink cartridges when your printer runs low on ink- our ink cartridges arrived in several days. The cartridges you receive are “special” because they contain more ink than XL ink cartridges, and you’ll need to replace them less often than retail ink cartridges.
  • Billing and service start after you install your first HP Instant Ink cartridge in your printer, and from that point on, your printer tells HP when to send more ink.
  • Your service is not based on how many cartridges you use, so for instance, you can print as many high-quality color photos as you like without being charged more.

There are three Instant Ink plans available:

Occasional printing – $2.99 per month

  • 50 pages per month included (that’s 6¢ per page regardless of color, page coverage, or page size).
  • Each additional set of 15 pages is $1.00 (that’s 6.7¢ per page regardless of color, page coverage, or page size).
  • You can roll over up to 50 unused pages.

Moderate printing – $4.99 per month

  • 100 pages per month included (that’s 5¢ per page regardless of color, page coverage, or page size).
  • Each additional set of 20 pages is $1.00 (that’s also 5¢ per page regardless of color, page coverage, or page size).
  • Roll over up to 100 unused pages.

Frequent printing – $9.99 per month

  • 300 pages per month included (that’s 3.3¢ per page regardless of color, page coverage, or page size).
  • Print more? Each additional set of 25 pages is $1.00 (that’s 4¢ per page regardless of color, page coverage, or page size.
  • Roll over up to 300 unused pages.

That’s a pretty good deal, especially when the lowest color Cost Per Page (CPP) of an HP inkjet printer using XL cartridges can cost upwards of 6.7¢. Plus, that calculation is based on a page coverage of only 5 percent per color when borderless photos have a page coverage of 100 percent.

Note that the CPP of Instant Ink is the same whether you are printing an address label or a borderless 8.5″x11″ color photo. You should never again have to run out to the store in your pajamas at the last minute in order to buy ink for that class project that is due tomorrow morning. Finally, you no longer have to concern yourself and hector others about mindlessly printing too many high-coverage or color pages in an attempt to conserve ink, money, and shopping time.

On the other hand, if you print primarily in black or documents with minimal area coverage you may want to consider the only other sensible alternative–buy value packs of HP XL ink from a retail outlet.

Our Instant Ink Story

photosmart premium with TouchSmart Web

HP Photosmart Premium TouchSmart Web All-in-One Printer – R.I.P.

The HP Photosmart Premium TouchSmart Web All-in-One Printer that we use in our home was getting long in the tooth, particularly in regards to mobile printing. When it began to habitually drop off of the wireless network and/or freeze up, we knew that it was time to put it out of its misery. We printed a lot of photos on the unit and its performance was exemplary while it lasted. Ink was not cheap (it has five [5] ink cartridges) but it was tolerable because we invested in the HP 564XL Combo Pack in order to minimize our CPP. We soldiered on with it until the last of the ink was used up and had to make a decision about a replacement unit.

Since we were in the midst of testing twelve (12) current HP inkjet printers and All-in-Ones, our decision was easy – we simply picked the best one out of the group for our needs, which included a small footprint, two media trays, photo printing, WiFi networking, automatic duplex printing, and the latest and greatest remote and mobile printing capabilities.

Based on this criteria, we were wavering between the HP Photosmart 6520 and the HP Envy 5660. However, the Envy uses the dreaded tri-color ink cartridge (you must discard the entire cartridge when a single color runs out regardless of how much ink is left for the other colors), while the Photosmart had three individual color cartridges. This should have put an end to the wavering but we (like you) were still concerned about ink costs, particularly when printing our primary application, photos. Then, we remembered the Instant Ink Program and since the Photosmart is not an eligible printer and the Envy was, the HP Envy 5660 with Instant Ink Program was a done deal. Plus, we found that there was negligible differences in print quality between the two printers and they both had dedicated 4″x6″ photo paper trays.

53 Responses

  1. Raphael Harris says:

    Thanks for your article – I have just purchased a brand new (in a damaged box) Envy 5540 from Amazon Warehouse of £40 sterling. I have signed up for the 300 sheet arrangement. With the first three months free, this reduces the printer cost to an effective £16.

    I have no idea whether I will “win” or “lose” under the instant ink arrangement. I regularly print at least 300 pages per month, but in some months more. The cost of 600 sheets in the UK is £20; this is the costs of a black cartridge so the colour comes free! There is also a convenience factor. As I use my printer for business this has a value.

    Yes, HP are trying to make money – that’s why they are in business. I like using original inks rather than compatible as some of the compatibles are poor.

    As you rightly say, if you know what your printing use is and what your costs are, instant ink can be assessed

    All in all I think it is probably a good thing – but I will monitor what is happening

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  3. Laurie Oliver says:

    This is the biggest rip off there is. You get charged a monthly fee for “ink” support when all HP does is monitor how many pages you print each month. If you cancel the service your printer will no longer work with the ink cartridges that they provided to you that you think you are purchasing. You have to return the ink cartridges you thought you purchased from them and purchase others from a office supplies store. When questioned what I was paying for each month because I thought it was the ink, come to find out its a “service charge” to HP for “monitoring” how many pages you print each month even though I never got any type of report from HP only debits from my checking account. TOTAL RIP OFF

    • Terry Wirth says:

      Laurie, you are also getting very cheap ink along with the very low monthly charge. The monitoring is necessary in order for HP to send you more ink when it is nearing empty. If you want to cancel the program, at least wait until the ink is used up before you do it.

    • I think HP have made it perfectly clear that the ink cartridges belong to them and that you’re paying for pages you print, rather than the ink, in your subscription. Also reporting is all online, you can easily see how many pages you’ve printed, in three different categories (pages out of allowance, pages carried over from previous month, and extra pages), as well as a decent amount of other information. I wouldn’t call a few quid a month a total rip off…

  4. Mike says:

    I find the program complex, invasive, and annoying. Don’t believe me? Try not to use Instant Ink with one of the new printers. You get message after message asking for you to connect to the HP mother ship. Other messages saying that your printer will soon not work. I have called HP support 5 times. I have only received temporary fixes. I used to like HP printers. No longer.

  5. je2052016 says:

    I am a member of instaink , have not received my first shipment of ink. Can tou tell me when it might arrive

    • Terry Wirth says:

      It only takes a few days. You have probably gotten them by now. Advice: do not use up your retail cartridges, seal them up in plastic bags and save them for an emergency.