Cheap ink – we test whether it delivers great prints
Printer ink is expensive and the rate at which printers seem to get through it is a common complaint among printer owners, so why not switch to a cheap third-party alternative?
According to a survey of Which? members, only 40% said they use cheap ink from a different brand like Cartridge World or Think Ink. Of the 968 people we asked, 41% said they’d switched before and weren’t happy with the brand they tried and a further 38% said they didn’t think the quality would be good enough with an alternative ink.
So we’ve put cheap inks to the test in our lab to see if you can get great prints from refilled and compatible ink cartridges, with mixed results.
Save money on printing – get more tips on reducing your print costs.
Print quality from cheap inks varied on our Brother MFC-J5910DW printer, particularly for photos.
However, the best cheap ink brand on test produced decent photo prints – the cheap print is on the left, the Brother ink print is on the right.
You can see slight differences between the two prints, but then the Brother ink doesn’t produce a perfectly ‘true’ print.
Viewing the two photos independently of each other, they’re both acceptable and using cheap ink reduces photo print costs by 75%.
Suppliers/brands tested: Inkredible.co.uk, Refreshcartridges.com, Think Ink
You might think it’s hard to go wrong printing black text, but there’s a noticeable difference between a good and poor quality text print.
A poor text print may not ruin your thesis – it’s still legible – but poor quality text prints like the print on the left produced with Refreshcartridges.com ink on our HP Officejet 4620 printer can make the text look chubby, almost like it’s in a bold font.
Other examples of poor text prints can leave words looking grey as opposed to black.
Suppliers/brands tested: Think Ink, Refreshcartridges.com, Internet-ink.co.uk
We got some great looking photo prints from the cheap inks in our tests on the Canon Pixma MG4250 printer, but we also saw some slightly disappointing ones.
You can see here how they measure up, with the good alternative ink on the right demonstrating stronger colours than the poor alternative ink print on the left which looks foggy, pale and lacks contrast.
Suppliers/brands tested: Cartridge World, JetTec
Portrait shots can really highlight the differences between a good and bad print.
The disappointing print using Cartridge World ink on our Epson Stylus SX535WD printer (on the left), looks pale and flat.
A set of these Cartridge World inks cost 30% less than buying Epson’s own ink, but the cost of printing one photo worked out more expensive. So a cheap set of inks, doesn’t always mean cheap prints.
Suppliers/brands tested: Cartridge Discount, Cartridge World, Tesco
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