Ink jets: Why individual color cartridges aren't necessarily more efficient -- or less expensive

HP's C5180 All-in-One ink jet printer uses individual cartridges for each ink color. Kodak's 5300 bundles all colors into a single cartridge. So is the HP more efficient? Not necessarily, I discovered in my Ink Wars review this week.

Can you get more prints even when the printer says you're out of ink? I did. You might be able to as well.

Readers who posted comments to the story chimed in on both of these points.

Cartridge configurations

While replacing individual HP color cartridges at $9.99 a pop is cheaper than replacing an entire Kodak multi-color cartridge for $14.99, the savings only come if you're printing images that use a lot of one color, such as multiple copies of a sunflower. That didn't happen when I ran a test suite of every day photos through the machine. Once the first color ran out, I printed only a few more prints before two more gave up the ghost (see the conclusion of the story for details).

This sentiment was echoed by James Johnson, who remarked:

Using separate color ink cartridges only makes sense if you are repetitively printing the same graphic, as in a company logo. With rare exceptions, separate color cartridges may cost you more if your color output is primarily photographs...I USED to be in the separate color ink cartridge camp. Then I started to notice (as also noted in the article) that when one color ran out, the others soon followed. I was wasting time (and often paper - each tank change requires a priming/cleaning cycle and perhaps an alignment cycle) by changing the tanks separately; not to mention the extra storage space for reserve stock.

Squeezing out more ink

An anonymous reader commented on my observation that by opening and closing the Kodak printer I was able to get more prints even after the printer indicated that the cartridge was empty:

For the printer I have, all it takes is removing the cartridge, replacing it, and it's ready to print again. Often I can do this multiple times before the cartridge is actually empty, as indicated by missing print on printouts. If I replaced the cartridge as the software indicates, I would have gone through 3 cartridges or more in the same time period.

You can read the rest of this reader's comment, entitled Rackets abound, here.

Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies