Think about your ink

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Working out how much a computer printer will cost to run is notoriously difficult and usually depends more on the cost of the inks and toners than the price tag on the printer itself. Mike Bartley sheds some light on this mysterious corner of IT.

Ink/toners are not the most exhilarating subject, but are used extensively and contribute significantly to the overall running costs of your printer. This article provides detailed advice about the following topics:


1. Original, Compatible, Remanufactured/refilled? A big cause of confusion, particularly when people use the terms interchangeably. Here is what each phrase means: Original - Cartridge manufactured by the original printer manufacturer - you may be required to use them if you wish to maintain the warranty on your printer, but they tend to cost more.   Compatible - Compatible cartridges are manufactured by companies other than the printer manufacturer, but to a public domain patent/design. They offer large savings compared to originals, but can have be less reliable.   Remanufactured/Refilled - cheap, available for the vast majority of printers on the market and offered by an array of suppliers, but you get what you pay for. Refills offer a false economy as often the time taken to resolve the issues they create frequently far outweighs the cost savings. They can be more successful with monochrome laser printers, as they tend to cause fewer problems, but think long and hard whether you want to the hassle for the sake of saving a few pounds.  2. Size matters   Different sizes are available for some cartridges, typically coming in standard or high yield options. Always ask for confirmation of the page yield.  3. Check for extra charges If a price appears to be good. always check there are no additional costs and get this confirmed in writing.   4. Stock Always confirm stock availability. Any reputable supplier will be able to confirm when you’re asking pricing. If they can’t, be wary - there’s nothing worse than discovering that your printers are dry and your supplier delays delivery for another week as they’ve got no stock.  5 Cartridge codes Keep track of which printer uses what cartridges. When asking a potential supplier for comparative pricing, ask for them to include the code. Not only does this make it easier for you to carry out future comparisons, product codes are also a foolproof method to check that you are being supplied the appropriate version of a cartridge (eg high or standard yield).

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By Anonymous
25th Sep 2009 12:56

Can you tell me something?


We have two identical laser printers. When the out of ink signal flashed on one we use the most we switched cartridges as we did not have a spare. We noticed that the out of ink cartridge worked perfectly well in the other printer for a long time. Do printers actually monitor ink levels or is it based on a page counter i.e. when the printer thinks it should be out of ink based on pages printed.


I suspect that we are doing some longer term damage by switching the cartridges around (although we do not use refills)?

Thanks (0)