Disappointing Printer Inks

Computer printers are mighty cheap these days — many go for under a hundred dollars. But their ink cartridges — especially their color ink — are very expensive. Consumer Reports has just tested cheaper ink cartridges. They're about half the price — but are they are bargain?

Consumer Reports printed reams of paper to compare color brand-name inks —those from HP, Epson and Canon — with inks that are a lot less expensive.

For example, while this HP color cartridge costs 49 dollars, Staples cartridge made for HP printers goes for 27 dollars. One from InkSell.com is 22 dollars and this one from Inkjet USA costs 20 dollars.

But Consumer Reports found paying less is no bargain. Inkjet USA's HP cartridge was the worst.

"Many of the print-head nozzles were clogged and on some of the cartridges they actually printed the wrong colors."

Instead of red white and blue, Old Glory came out a greenish brown. And photos that were supposed to look like this — didn't come close.

The other bargain color cartridges did better jobs of printing graphics and photos, but they generally were not as good as the name-brand cartridges.

And Susan Daino spotted another problem —photos faded. She compared pictures kept in the dark to ones left under bright lights for six weeks.

"This is what the picture looked like originally. And this is how much it faded."

On top of all that, many of the cheaper color cartridges didn't print anywhere near as many pages at the name-brand inks.

The worst was Office Depot's HP cartridge.

It printed less than half the number of pages as the cartridge HP makes for its printers.

So, when it comes to printing in color, Consumer Reports says stick with brand-name cartridges.

Consumer Reports found cheap black ink cartridges are a better deal. The quality was often as good as the brand-name cartridges and some would save you a little money — around a penny or two a page.

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