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Inkjet ink compatibles - 5 points before you buy

Inkjet ink compatibles - 5 points before you buy Compatibles or genuine: which ink cartridge should you use? There's no simple answer. To guide you through the issues surrounding inkjet cartridges, here are five questions to consider before making your choice:

1. What do you print? a. Mostly text b. Mostly photos

Independent tests show that black compatible inks consistently give comparable results against OEM (original equipment manufacturer) cartridges.

If you want top quality photo prints however, you may need a genuine cartridge with matching paper. Manufacturers extensively test their ink and papers to ensure they get the best results together.

However, an extensive test run by an independent review site* showed that prints from compatible cartridges got more thumbs up than the originals. Results were cross-referenced on various OEM and 3rd party papers on a number of different printers.

The conclusion: if results matter most, experiment until you get your best results. If experimenting is not an option, you can get good results with genuine inks and matching paper, or go for a compatible from a top brand that performs its own lab tests and makes its own paper.

2. How much printing do you do? a. A little b. A lot

The choice often boils down to money. If you print loads, a cheap compatible is tempting.

But beware: not all compatibles are equal. The cheapest option can be cheap for a reason - poor quality inks, substandard plastic casing (affecting ink during storage or allowing leaks) plus many cheap compatible inks dry out too quickly or clog print heads.

You can buy cleaning cartridges to 'wash out' print heads or use the cleaning program on your printer, but the first costs money and the second wastes ink. A lot of ink.

Print heads can be replaced or repaired, depending on your machine, but if you are outside warranty this will cost, although if you save enough money using cheap compatibles this may not worry you.

Whilst manufacturers can no longer legally void warranty on faulty printers just because non-OEM inks were used, they Can void it if compatible inks damaged your machine.

The conclusion: the more ink you use, the greater the benefit of picking a compatible ink. But choose a good one, especially for colour printing.

Divide the cartridge price by its print yield for a cost-per-print price. Compare results between cartridges and you can judge your savings on using a compatible. You may save enough over time to cover the cost of printer repair or replacement.

3. How concerned are you about your prints fading? a. Not very b. A lot

The hard truth about cheap compatible inks is that few have what is termed 'archival' quality - i.e., they fade. The big manufacturers have laboratories dedicated to testing and tweaking ink formulas to ensure optimum results. Their huge budgets allow stringent testing, and they need to: their reputation rests on the results.

There are some great compatible inks out there, but the ingredients used in many 3rd party inks are cheap, and production is frequently low tech. And it shows in their life span. Independent tests show time and again that the cheapest compatible inks often last less than a year without fading.

Thankfully reliable compatible brands are available which last as much longer than their cheap competitors and in tests compare favourably with the OEM brands.

It's worth knowing though that fading can be a question of the paper used. For optimum results with any inks you need to use the best paper. But more than that, use the Right paper.

Instant Dry (porous) paper does not work well with the dye-based inks usually used in compatibles (for example Epson paper, designed to work with Epson's pigment-based inks).

Best results with compatible ink come with 'encapsulating' paper, made to work with dye-based inks, such as HP's and Canon's. Some inkjet papers claim to work with dye And pigmment, but check product reviews first.

To maximise print-life and minimise fading, store them away from bright lights, humidity and air pollution. Dye-based printing is particularly susceptible to erosion from air-based pollutants like ozone, so prints displayed behind glass are far less likely to fade.

The conclusion: OEM inks offer archive quality prints. Cheap compatibles fade but a good compatible can give you great results.

4. Are Green issues important to you? a. No b. Yes

Most compatibles use new casings that cannot be recycled. Additionally, if your machine or its parts need replacing sooner by your use of cheap compatibles, then genuine cartridges are the greener option.

There are some good 'green' third party cartridges available which use recycled cases and come in environmentally-friendly packaging - shop around. Or you can buy the ink to refill cartridges yourself.

Conclusion: genuine can be greenest, unless you find a reliable eco-friendly compatible.

5. How old is your machine? a. A few years or more b. New

If you're happy with an old machine you might bulk-buy cartridges. Unless you find a supplier of good compatibles, you're probably best buying originals. OEM cartridges are more likely to be stable in storage, particularly pigment-based inks, which are less susceptible to drying out.

If you have an older machine which takes cartridges still used by newer models then your choice of compatibles will be broader. But keep an eye on the market when purchasing ink to avoid a nasty surprise if supplies dry up.

Newer machines frequently take 'chipped' cartridges. Manufacturers add chips to deter users from buying compatibles, and to control ink flow. The compatible cartridges use either their own chip or get you to reuse the chip from your original cartridge.

A big complaint about chipped OEM cartridges is that they waste ink. The chip says 'ink low', and the machine stops until you change cartridges. But tests show that as much as 30% of the ink is unused.

Decent compatible cartridges now come hardwired to bypass erroneous 'low ink' messages, plus come filled to maximum capacity. The quantity inside an OEM cartridge often holds far less ink than the cartridge size implies. Decent third party inks offer a lot more ink per cartridge.

The final conclusion: a company with a fast turnover is better than a small shop where ink lingers on shelves, slowly drying out. Read the product reviews and experiment. Choose a compatible from a reputable supplier selling a named brand. A good compatible won't damage your machine. If you only use a modest amount of ink, stick to original manufacturer cartridges.

*trustedreviews.com - The Inkjet Investigation.

About the Author:

Looking for genuine and compatible cartridges? Visit www.7dayshop.com - we stock the Inkrite brand of compatible ink: UK designed, eco-friendly, UV-resistant and up to 30% more ink per cartridge. Inkrite ink is compatible with all good inkjet papers but also comes with its own matching range of paper - 7dayshop is the cheapest source. Check the customer reviews at 7dayshop.com for proof of some great print quality.

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