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. Trey says:

    I’m willing to pay a little extra to not have HP tell me when to stop printing. Like limited minutes on a cell phone plan, they kill you on extra pages. Plus, I’m not crazy about HP having virtual access to the printer in my home.

    When they come up with cartridges that inform HP that ink is running low, and order replacements for you automatically, I’m on board with that.

  2. LBahadigi says:

    Don’t do HP instant ink subscription! I signed on for 50 pages a month. I rarely print more than 10 pages per month and all was well until the credit card associated with the account expired. HP says that they sent me an email alert, however I did not see it. Six days later I am in dire need of printing one page and my printer has been disabled by HP. Mind you I have a month’s allotment of printing plus 50 “rollover” pages but still can’t use MY PRINTER because HP wants a new CC#. What a load of crap and a vast inconvenience. I missed a deadline. Had to travel to my local library to use their printer. All for $2.99. The HP rep bounced my complaint back at me by saying that I ignored their email message. And that I should more thoroughly review the terms of service. Okay so its my bad, my problem. Lesson learned is not to sign up for a service that allows remote access to your personal property. HP hijacked my printer at a most inopportune time. It won’t happen again as I am out!

    • Kathleen Wirth says:

      If you can’t be sure you have $2.99 per month to pay for the program, that Instant Ink is not for you.

      • Al says:

        LBahadigi did not say that they didn’t have 3$ but that their credit card expired. It’s a simple mistake and seems like it was handled poorly on HP’s part.

        • Terry Wirth says:

          Point taken. However, the effective date of the card we were using for our two HPII plans expired the other day. I received an email from HP recommending that I update the card info. I clicked the link, updated the card info and I was back in business in under a minute.

  3. GuitarGramma says:

    I’ve been an Instant Ink member since the program began. I love it! Before enrolling, we checked our records and discovered we were spending $120/year on ink all while trying to conserve as much as possible. Now I print photos, color, drafts, business letters, everything I need for the same price. I print a lot, and HP has never let me down. They have always sent a new cartridge long before I needed one.

    This program also allows me to allocate my printing costs when I am volunteering: 3 cents per page. I keep track and can now deduct this not-insignificant amount on my taxes because my cost per page is fixed. (As I said, I print a lot.)

    I’ve convinced many people to enroll in this program. We all think it’s wonderful.

    @Trey: I hope you were being sarcastic. The HP Instant Ink program is exactly what you “wished for.” The printer connects wirelessly with HP, let’s HP know when a cartridge is about half empty, and HP sends you a new cartridge in the mail. And so long as you’re enrolled with a valid credit card, you can print an unlimited number of pages. If you exceed your monthly allotment, they just charge you an extra $1 for pages, depending on your base plan.

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  5. Meg says:

    I just bought an HP Envy 7640 and an HP rep happened to be in the Office Depot store. He really convinced me to purchase the intant ink program and now after reading all of this, I am not sure. I guess my first question is ‘what is considered a page?’ And what if I dont use my monthly allotment? Does it roll over to the next month or not? Thanks!

    • Terry Wirth says:

      1) A page is a page whether it contains a single character or is a borderless photo; 2) Yes, unused pages roll over to the next month.

      Keep in mind that unless you are exclusively printing envelopes for example, your cost per page is still less than that of any other printer whose comparative cost is calculated on 20% area coverage (~a full page of double-spaced text). Good luck with your new printer!

      • meg says:

        One more question please… let’s say I know I will go over my ‘allotment per month’, can I replace my plan cartridges with regular retail cartridges so I don’t get charged the extra money that particular month? Just wondering if it would be a good idea to keep the regular retail cartridges on hand in case I run over my allotment. Or is that even possible?? Thank you!

        • Terry Wirth says:

          You should keep retail cartridges around in case there is a problem with your account. However, it is not a good idea to swap out cartridges. Keep in mind that even the page overage fee is still lower than that of nearly any other color printer, especially if you print complex pages or photos. Also, you will no longer have to run out to the store to buy ink cartridges at the last minute and you get cartridges sent to your door with free shipping. Finally, the special Instant Ink cartridges hold far more ink than any retail ink cartridge so you have to change them less often.