Cheap ink: will it cost you?

Buying replacement ink from a third-party vendor can save you big bucks. But will you pay with lousy-looking prints that fade in no time? We did months of testing to find out.

Several factors determine how well a color print withstands the effects of aging. Heat, light, and pollution play major roles, as do the inks' chemical composition and the type of paper they're printed on. To test the inks' resistance to these sources of image fading, RIT technicians placed print samples in an image-durability chamber, which speeds up the aging process by exposing the prints to concentrated levels of ozone and ultraviolet light. In the end all of the inks tested suffered some loss of optical density, but the OEM inks generally resisted fading better than their third-party competitors did.

In RIT's study, Epson's inks, on average, showed by far the greatest resistance to fading. Test prints created using Epson ink lost only 0.5 percent of image density in the ultraviolet light test, and only about 1.6 percent of image density in the ozone exposure test. So slight a degree of degradation is hard for the human eye to detect. Images created using Epson-compatible 123Inkjet inks, the lone Epson competitor tested by RIT, lost an average of 36 percent of their image density under UV exposure, and 29 percent under ozone exposure.

The Kodak inks (tested with a Kodak Easyshare 5300 All-in-One) averaged 5 percent fade after 80 hours in the UV chamber, while fading only 1.45 percent under ozone exposure. (At the time of our testing, no compatible third-party ink had yet emerged to compete with Kodak's ink; LD Products has since brought out cartridges for the 5300.)

The Canon brand ink faded 28 percent under exposure to ozone, and 10 percent under UV light. Canon-compatible Cartridge World inks faded about twice that much--roughly 66 percent in the ozone test, and 22 percent in the UV test.

In RIT's UV test, the Lexmark ink proved far more fade-resistant than the Walgreens ink, and marginally better on average than the Cartridge World and OverStock.com inks. None of the Lexmark or compatible inks faded substantially in the ozone test. Canon supplies--particularly the black and green inks--faded noticeably, but Cartridge World ink faded even more in all colors except black.

Manufacturers' Inks Resisted Fading Better

Printer makers' inks usually stood up better than third-party inks to heightened levels of ozone and ultraviolet rays, though the OverStock.com and Cartridge World inks resisted ozone better than their Lexmark brand rival.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeff Bertolucci

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?