One of the more expensive substances in the world is inkjet ink, which can be as high as 77 cents per page for photo printing. Inkjet printer manufacturers use the razor blade pricing model, where inkjet printers are offered at very low prices while inkjet cartridges themselves are expensive. More often than not, you can get a new inkjet printer for the cost of just 3 to 4 inkjet cartridges. Whether it’s HP, Canon, Lexmark, Epson, or Dell inkjet ink, consumers are looking at third party ink cartridges or refills for a cheaper alternative.
Inkjet printer manufacturers insist that the quality of printing from original equipment manufacturer (OEM) ink cartridges can’t be matched by any third party ink. Those who have tried report mixed findings in the use of third party ink. Some say printing is blotchy, streaked, and prone to fading, or that the printouts have low quality colors. Yet, others claim there is hardly any difference. However, according to studies conducted to analyze the difference between OEM inkjet ink and third party ink, the best results are still from OEM ink if price is not a factor.
The choice of ink thus depends on the balance between price and quality considerations. For business enterprises, there is no question that quality of printing can’t be compromised. As such, most businesses patronize only OEM ink while simply going for discounts on bulk purchases. For those who print only for personal use, using third party ink via refills or replacement ink cartridges may be an option. But it is still important to weigh all the risks associated with the use of third party ink versus the benefits.
The biggest risks for consumers are probably refill kits. Do-it-yourself refill kits are cheaper, but the hassle and the mess may not be worth it. Ink spills on your hands can be washed off. But spills on furniture, clothes, or the printer can do more harm and may cost more than the savings earned from choosing to refill. Though having a vendor perform the refill may be safer, a better option would be replacement cartridges or remanufactured cartridges. These are cheaper and quality is not too off from OEM ink cartridges.
Overall, the choice boils down to what the consumer needs. If the document or image required is not meticulous with quality, using a third party ink is prudent. One can always opt for a printing shop if quality is needed from time to time. Then again, if you would like to avoid the hassle of reprinting once in a while or dealing with printer glitches, you’re better off getting original ink cartridges. Much as a manufacturer’s claim that OEM is best may be suspect, we all know that there is a premium for perfect compatibility.