Best Printer Ink Value: Buy Epson, Avoid Third Party Ink Cartridges

Last Updated Jun 16, 2010 11:36 PM EDT

Everyone complains that inkjet printers are an institutionalized swindle, where you get a cheap printer in exchange for a lifetime of hyper-expensive ink replacements.

But how true is that old saw? We've got some interesting results that bear out those claims and indicate the best -- and worst -- values in inkjet printers.

PC World recently studied how much ink was left when printers claimed the cartridge was out of ink and refused to print. The magazine tackled the problem in its usual methodical way, this time by measuring the amount of ink consumed by weight.

What did they find? Epson fared the best, generally using all but about 8% of its ink. Canon was more wasteful, leaving 24% of its ink behind before it would no longer print. And Kodak was the worst of the bunch, wasting almost half -- 43% -- of the ink in each cartridge.

And then there's HP, which never stops printing despite low ink warnings -- it just keeps churning out pages until your printouts start streaking and blotching from uneven ink distribution.

Interestingly, the original printer manufacturer's cartridges were more efficient than third party replacement ink cartridges, which tended to stop printing with relatively more wasted ink. That's not necessarily the end of the story, though. While PC World tested cartridges by weight, not pages printed, one third party company contends that you'll get more value with their cartridges because they pack a lot more ink in their product to begin with.

If you want more details, be sure to watch the video. (Sorry, it can't be embedded.)

What are your ink cartridge experiences? Do you refill your cartridges, or do you worry about tales of catastrophic failure?