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HP Instant Ink Program Alternatives: Pros and Cons
August 27, 2021
Keeping up with purchasing printing supplies and monitoring their use isn’t always easy for homes and offices. If you have a high print volume each month, it can be costly in both time and money to keep track of ink levels and buy ink. And if you only print occasionally, you may forget all about ink – until you run out just when you need it, that is.
The HP Instant Ink program is designed to reduce your printing-related stress while it provides the ultimate convenience. Not only that, it reduces the costs associated with printing and minimizes your environmental impact.
While there are other ways to manage how you print, most HP Instant Ink alternatives fall short in one way or another. From hidden expenses to extra technical hurdles, these alternatives to HP Instant Ink simply don’t stand up.
In this article, we’ll explore 5 HP Instant Ink alternatives and lay out exactly why, in the end, HP Instant Ink is the best way for you to print.
Traditional printing with standard cartridges
Refills, remanufactured, and off-brand cartridges
High-yield HP original ink cartridges
But first, let’s make sure you know everything you need to know about the HP Instant Ink program. That way you can compare HP Instant Ink plans to your current routine and any alternatives you’re considering.
What is HP Instant Ink?
Let’s take a look at what makes HP Instant Ink so unique.
Automatic monitoring and replacements
HP Instant Ink is a subscription ink cartridge service that takes the hassle out of ordering printer supplies. Instead of managing your ink and toner levels yourself, with HP Instant Ink, your printer lets HP know when it’s running low on ink and we automatically send you more before you run out.
The timing of when your replacement ships out is based on your printer’s real-time cartridge levels and your typical printing activity, it’s not monthly or quarterly. And while HP Instant Ink delivery times may vary, they’re calculated to stay ahead of your routine.
How much you pay for the service depends on the number of pages you print, not on how much ink or toner you use. That means that with an HP Instant Ink subscription, color prints cost the same per page as black and white.
When you receive a replacement cartridge, it includes a postage-paid return envelope provided by HP. Simply pack up your empty cartridge and send it to HP for recycling. By cutting out material waste, HP Instant Ink goes a long way to reduce most of the environmental impact associated with traditional printing.
Choose the monthly plan that suits your needs
You have different plans to choose from during your HP Instant Ink enrollment. Typically, the plan costs are lower than most annual costs for ink and toner printers. Plus, your unused pages roll over, and you can tack on additional printed pages at an affordable rate for months when you have a higher print volume.
HP Instant Ink costs for ink:
15 pages per month: $0.99
50 pages per month: $2.99
100 pages per month: $4.99
300 pages per month: $11.99
700 pages per month: $24.99
HP Instant Ink costs for toner:
50 pages per month: $1.99
100 pages per month: $3.99
400 pages per month: $13.99
800 pages per month: $19.99
1,500 pages per month: $25.99
Your HP Instant Ink subscription begins as soon as you install and use your first HP Instant Ink cartridge. So if you have existing ink or toner to use, continue printing as usual until you run out. Even if you signed up months ago, you won’t be charged until you install the starter cartridge. Also, if your printing needs change, you can always cancel your HP Instant Ink subscription without penalty or upgrade to the next plan.
Comparing print solutions
1. Traditional printing with standard cartridges
When we think of the most traditional approach to printing, it’s simple. You buy and use the standard replacement ink cartridges from your printer’s manufacturer. Whether you own a single-function printer or a multifunction device that also scans and copies, the way they use ink cartridges is the same.
You’ll install replacements and toss (or recycle) the empty cartridge when it runs out. In doing so, you may need to drive to a supply store for replacements or hunt for the right model online if you’re stocking up.
Provides an extra layer of control and manageability
Bulk purchasing can result in a per-unit savings
Familiar routine based on established practices
Typical users spend an average of twice as much on ink cartridges compared to enrolling in HP Instant Ink
Costs are determined by ink usage, not pages printed
Color prints are significantly more expensive than black and white based on amount of ink used per print
Requires your direct cartridge management and constant monitoring
Bulk purchasing takes up space
Stored cartridges may dry up or go bad, impacting your workflow and printer
Bigger environmental impact from empty cartridge waste
2. Refills, remanufactured, and off-brand cartridges
In this scenario, you’re primarily working with off-brand cartridges, refurbished cartridges, or cartridges you refilled with fresh ink. With these units, one of the drawbacks is print quality because there’s a significant risk of failure or tampering with off-brand materials. You run the risk of bad-quality prints and may even damage your printer.
You may be enticed by what appear to be “advantages” to this approach. In particular, the upfront cartridge cost is likely to be lower than the same name-brand cartridge or ink. And if you’re refilling a cartridge and not just throwing it out, you are keeping materials in circulation and out of landfills. The negatives here, however, far outweigh the positives.
Lower upfront costs per cartridge
Reduced environmental impact from cartridge waste materials
Lower quality ink and components
Lower quality prints
Can potentially harm your printer
High environmental impact from reprinting subpar products
Inability to recycle off brand cartridge materials
3. Tank printers
Tank printers are primarily designed for businesses and active households. They provide a more robust printing solution while providing multifunction features like scanning and copying. Devices generally ship with enough ink to last up to 2 years (based on a monthly print volume of 200 pages).
While this means you can worry less about monitoring ink levels, you may accidentally push your product’s life beyond the recommended limits. For example, smart tank ink supplies can dry out if not used for long periods. Plus, they’re a bit trickier to maintain than the common inkjet printer.
Wireless models available
All-in-one models available (print, scan, copy, and fax)
Better page volume compared to traditional cartridges
No cartridges to toss in the landfill
Better for bigger print volumes due to larger systems and supplies
Risk of messes during the refill procedure
Risk of clogs when not used for long periods of time
Aging supply may dry out and require replacement
4. High-yield HP Original ink cartridges
High-yield HP Original ink cartridges provide as much as twice the average print volume as alternatives. That means less of your time spent monitoring ink levels and less time dealing with replacement cartridges.
Even so, subscribers to the HP Instant Ink service actually receive higher yield cartridges! Without a plan, you’re forced to manually keep tabs on your supply or find the right replacement whenever your supply runs out.
Better print quality from job to job
More prints per cartridge compared to standard cartridges
Potentially too much supply for low volume users
Requires supervision and monitoring by you, the user
More expensive, on average, than standard cartridges or HP Instant Ink
Single-use packaging includes more waste than HP Instant Ink cartridges
5. Toner printers
Toner printers, like those in the HP LaserJet line, support the biggest print routines for households and businesses since they provide more speed and efficiency than comparable inkjet printers. For businesses that print lots of documents, handouts, or fliers, toner is a great way to keep pace and minimize costs with a lower per-page price.
While laser printers are perfect for most business applications, they have many of the same drawbacks as inkjet printers. You still have to manage your supplies and toner levels, including finding just the right replacement cartridge when the toner runs out. Luckily, HP Instant Ink has begun offering toner plans as well.
Faster routine prints
More affordable per page than traditional ink printers
Now compatible with HP Instant Ink
Bigger upfront costs at checkout
Cartridges are more expensive
Toner issues may be challenging
What about HP+?
If you’re looking for a new printer, HP+ is a free, built-in feature available with select HP OfficeJet and HP LaserJet printers. HP+ provides several key advantages, most notably an HP Instant Ink free trial period.
You’ll enjoy a 6-month free subscription to HP Instant Ink, plus an extra year of warranty protection on your printer (for a total of 2 years). HP+ printers also have superior WiFi connectivity for streamlined cloud connections and stronger security.
HP+ and HP Instant Ink go hand in hand as ways to get the most from your new HP printer.
Print-related links to explore at HP
If you’re interested in getting started with HP Instant Ink, be sure to check out these pages:
If you’re already enrolled in HP Instant Ink and have concerns or questions about your account, be sure to head to Instant Ink Support for contact information and helpful guides.
While every HP Instant Ink alternative has an upside, they simply can’t match this service for its convenience, cost, and sustainability of HP Instant Ink. Whether you’re considering the traditional approach to printing with standard cartridges or considering a tank printer option, you’ll still have to monitor levels, replace or refill cartridges, and find a way to recycle them.
HP Instant Ink handles all of that for you. It monitors cartridge levels with an up-to-date view of your routine, anticipating how long it will take for a low cartridge to turn into an empty cartridge. That means minimal downtime and no effort from you, so you can continue printing regardless of what life or work brings your way.
About the Author: Dwight Pavlovic is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. Dwight is a music and technology writer based out of West Virginia.
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