Watch the Page Yield
Some vendors and analysts advise consumers to make sure that they get the correct page yield (the total number of pages produced with a single cartridge), rather than focusing on the amount of ink left unused in a cartridge that must be discarded. "This is the most reliable way to understand the life of a cartridge, rather than the amount of ink, or what might be left over," says Lippman.
But vendor page-yield estimates don't always match reality, as we discovered when testing printers for another PC World article, "Cheap Ink: Will It Cost You?" Using a different set of OEM cartridges and printers, we found that one HP black cartridge exceed its projected page yield (810 printed vs. 660 projected), while page yields from Epson and Kodak cartridges fell short of expectations. Specifically, Epson printed just 209 pages, far less than the 335 pages the company estimated it would produce; and Kodak generated 480 pages versus a projected page count of 540. (For a slide show comparing the quality of prints made with the two kinds of ink, see "Head-to-Head: Printer Manufacturers' Ink vs. Cheap Third-Party Ink.")
Page yields aside, we have yet to hear a satisfactory and persuasive explanation from a vendor as to why so many printer cartridges leave so much ink behind. Even if the waste amount is only a few milliliters, that unused liquid could have printed a lot of pages.
In Video: Is That Ink Cartridge Really Empty?
PC World's Tips for Saving Money on Printing
For additional advice on reducing the cost of running your inkjet printer, see "The Cheapskate's Guide to Printing," "Save Money on Inkjet Printer Ink," and "How to Spend Less on Printing and Get Better Results."
An earlier three-part PC World series on the subjects of counterfeit name-brand inks ("Bogus Ink Stink"), third-party ink quality ("Cheap Ink Probed"), and high ink-cartridge prices ("Why Do Ink Cartridges Cost So Much?") provides valuable historical background and additional test results for various ink cartridges.