SLIDESHOW

Head-to-Head: Printer Manufacturers' Ink vs. Cheap Third-Party Ink

In our tests, prints made with manufacturers' ink looked better and lasted longer than those made with third-party replacement inks. Want to see for yourself? Here are some examples.

Printing Photos: Lexmark's Own Brand vs. Walgreens Ink

The print on the left, made using Lexmark's own ink in a Lexmark X3470 inkjet printer, looks slightly washed-out and evidences some slight horizontal banding (abrupt changes in color tone that are too subtle to see in this JPEG image). Nevertheless, this print is distinctly superior to the a print of the same image produced with Walgreens Lexmark-compatible ink (right), which looks grainier and more washed-out, and shows far more pronounced horizontal banding.

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Printing Charts: Lexmark's Own Brand vs. Walgreens Ink

In the upper pie chart image, Lexmark's own ink produced colors--especially the yellow and the green--that are strangely dull and sickly looking. Some vertical color banding is evident as well. In the lower pie chart image, Walgreens' Lexmark-compatible ink created brighter and truer colors, but these are marred by a very noticeable level of abrupt vertical banding.

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Printing Photos: Canon's Own Brand vs. TrueStar Ink

In the test print on the left, made using Canon's own ink in a Canon Pixma MP830 inkjet printer, the blacks are much more robust than in the print made using Canon-compatible third-party inks, though they still exhibit some horizontal banding. The print made with TrueStar's Canon-compatible ink (right) shows some relatively subtle banding, much fainter black tones, and slightly orange-tinged flesh tones.

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Black-and-White Printing: Canon's Own Brand vs. TrueStar Ink

Canon's ink yielded sharp, detailed grayscale printing (left): Blacks are deep and accurate, and definition between color shades is clear. The grayscale print created using Canon-compatible TrueStar ink (right) has wimpier blacks and relatively poor detail.

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Printer Manufacturers' Inks Aged Better Under Ultraviolet Light

We subjected our print samples to high levels of ultraviolet light to test how well each resisted fading over time. The printer manufacturers' inks usually fared better than their third-party rivals in these tests. The images above, printed using Kodak-brand ink in a Kodak Easyshare 5300 inkjet printer, were scanned before (left) and after (right) exposure to artificially heightened levels of ultraviolet light for 80 hours. The printout faded by only 1.45 percent--an amount virtually undetectable by the unaided human eye.

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Cartridge World Ink Under Ultraviolet Light Exposure

These images were printed using Cartridge World ink in our Lexmark X3470 inkjet printer. The difference in image quality between the original print (left) and the post-UV-exposure print (right) is striking: The print faded under 80 hours of heightened exposure to ultraviolet light by roughly 28 percent.

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Lexmark's Own Ink Under Ultraviolet Light Exposure

The print made using Lexmark's own ink in the Lexmark X3470 inkjet printer faded far less than did the prints made using ink sold by Lexmark's third-party competitors. After 80 hours in the UV chamber, the original Lexmark-ink-based print (left) had faded by only 11.4 percent (right).

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Walgreens Ink Under Ultraviolet Light Exposure

The print made using Walgreens ink in the Lexmark X3470 inkjet printer faded more under ultraviolet light than any other print in our tests. From its original state (left), the test image lost 57 percent of its image density (right) after 80 hours in the UV test chamber.

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