The Myths and Strange Science of Printer Ink

The ones that performed best in this review were from Cartridge World, so I took a trip to the one nearest me. (This is where I wasted time.) I was unable to buy a cartridge to fit my printer, in either color or black. but the guy behind the desk in this little shop told me if I brought in my empties, he'd refill them for me for $10.99 for the black. In comparison, a new cartridge online at HP is $14.99 delivered overnight for free. (I put in a call to Cartridge World but was unable to reach anyone in time for my deadline.)

I didn't make the purchase, but back in my office, I went online to check out the tales of woe at HP's new InkAmnesty site, where people share their experiences with refillable and remanufactured cartridges. These sorts of stories -- along with my own fruitless journey -- tend to make me think this is too much trouble. Then again, this site is run by HP, so that's the idea, right?

Still, a savings of $4.99 (not factoring in my own time and gas spent to drive to Cartridge World) seemed hardly worth settling for a cartridge that had been simply refilled versus one that is brand new. So far, my first assumption -- buying direct from the manufacturer is easier -- seemed to hold.

I put in a call to HP to settle the next question: Would using non-HP cartridges, remanufactured cartridges, or refilled cartridges void my warranty?

"No, it won't void the warranty," Thom Brown, HP's Ink and Media Technologist, said. "We never prevent customers from refilling their cartridges. You can walk into Walgreens and get a refill there. There are also remanufactured cartridges available. You can find those at Office Depot." He didn't encourage the practice and mentioned that damage to the printer caused by the cartridge might not be covered, but using off-brand ink does not void an HP printer's warranty. (This is where I had a myth dispelled.)

"Keep in mind, though, that ink cartridges are highly complex," he said. (This is where I learned some weird science: Thom's videos about ink.) "As much care goes into manufacturing an ink cartridge as is used creating a computer chip. It is done in a clean room by skilled technicians. When you get a cartridge refilled, it's done by whoever happens to be working that day at Walgreens. And the cartridge itself is used, having already served a full life."

Honestly, Thom was preaching to the converted since I remain lazy on the subject. Genuine cartridges had me at "easier," but if you print a lot or are on a bargain hunt, refilling cartridges might be for you. If you aren't using an HP printer, you should check the warranty issue.

Thom is certain you'll return quickly to using the genuine article, but if you've had a positive -- or negative -- experience with refurbished or refilled ink cartridges, please share or comment below.

Got gripes or questions? Send them to christina_tynan-wood@infoworld.com.

This story, "Roxio upgrade goes awry," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Christina Tynan-Wood's Gripe Line blog at InfoWorld.com.

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