How much will I save?
We found that savings of 50% or more can be achieved with replacement cartridges and savings of up to 90% were found when printing black only. Colour images occasionally displayed savings of up to 75%, compared to using OEM cartridges.
However, this is not a blanket rule. Performance was sometimes very uneven, with the added nuisance of printers requiring multiple head-cleans at fairly regular intervals to produce acceptable printouts. The quality and durability (lightfastness) of ink from various suppliers is not consistent and some printers handle non-genuine inks better than others (though this may be a reflection of the quality of the inks supplied).
For example, the Canon printer proved very reliable, with none of the six inks causing any problems, while the Epson had problems with inks sourced from three out of seven suppliers. Similarly, the Brother required very regular head-cleaning when using inks from four suppliers.
Fading is a problem with some inks and a critical issue if you’re looking to print glossy photos. For example, the continuous ink system we tested demonstrated serious fading in our durability testing.
This is particularly disappointing given the potentially high cost-savings that could be obtained with this system. Also, refilling your own cartridges can be time-consuming and messy, especially at first. On the other hand, if you mainly print reams of black text documents, DIY refilling or a CISS could save you a small fortune over time.
Colour accuracy in photo-quality pictures was generally quite good across the range in our testing, compared to the original inks. However, true-to-life colour can be critical for some people. This is particularly the case with flesh tones, where even small colour balance variations can be very noticeable.
The key is to try to find the best replacement inks for your particular printer, not necessarily the cheapest, and for this you may have to try different suppliers.
Our test results don’t provide a clear correlation between cost and quality. In some cases, results from replacement inks can at first appear to be as good as using original inks. However, the downside is they may be far less durable and more likely to fade over time.
Will it damage my printer?
As for possibly damaging your printer, the jury is still out on this one. We can’t say one way or the other. Although none of our test printers appeared to suffer head damage in our testing, being able to assess this accurately would require much longer-term testing, using multiple printers of each brand and model. Unfortunately, this was beyond the scope of this test.