HP Instant Ink – What is it, and is it really as affordable as HP claims?

Door , maandag 2 maart 2020 om 17:19 - English

Before purchasing a subscription, it is important to know how HP Instant Ink works, whether it is cheaper, and what the disadvantages are. We’ll go over all these topics in this article!

What is HP Instant Ink?

HP Instant Ink is a monthly subscription where your compatible HP printer can automatically order new ink cartridges as soon as they run out. You pay for the number of pages you print, HP offers several packages for this. You can choose from packages of 50, 100, 300 or 700 pages per month. If you print less than 15 pages per month, you don’t have to pay anything, and you even get the cartridges sent to your home for free. If you exceed your page limit, you must pay extra.

At first glance, an Instant HP Ink subscription seems quite attractive, especially when the word “free” gets used in marketing for HP Instant Ink. Many people think they’re out cheaper because “they don’t print that much anyway”, but if you look a little further, it can pan out to be very expensive for the average user. We have done the homework and made several comparisons.

In short, the pros and cons of HP Instant Ink:

  Cons of HP Instant Ink   Pros HP Instant Ink
Even when you’re not printing, you are paying for your subscription.You never have to manually purchase ink again.
You have a limit to how much you can print.You never have to remember what cartridge type you need.
If you exceed your page-limit, you’ve got to pay extra.
Lots of small, colourless prints? You’ll still be paying full page-cost.
HP has the ability to disable the cartridges at any time.

These are the pros and cons of purchasing hp cartridges yourself!

  Cons of buying your own ink   Pros of buying your own ink
You have to order your own ink.You’re only paying for the pages you actually print.
You have to remember which cartridges your printer takes.Suddenly have a huge printjob? You’re not paying any “out-of-bundle” rates.
You can hold onto your cartridges for as long as you like.
You’re out a lot cheaper for pages you print.
When you print in black and white, you’re not paying full-colour fees.
No one can disable your cartridges. They’re your property!
Choose your own brand of cartridges! Cheap private label ink for example!

Prijsvergelijking – HP Instant Ink cartridges vs. Huismerk cartridges

HP offers four different subscription packages within their HP Instant Ink programme:

SubscriptionPages per month Cost per month Cost per pageOut-of-bundle fee
‘Occasional Printing plan’50 pages€ 2,996 cents€ 1 per 10 pages
‘Moderate Printing plan’ 100 pages€ 4,995 cents € 1 per 15 pages
‘Frequent Printing plan’ 300 pages€ 9,993,3 cents€ 1 per 20 pages
‘Business Printing plan’ 700 pages€ 19,993 cents € 1 per 20 pages

The free version offers a maximum of 15 pages per month. If you exceed this, you must pay € 1 (or equivalent) per 10 extra pages. Once you switch from free to a paid subscription, you cannot go back to the free version.

Seems like pocket change, those couple euros a month, but how does this compare to printing with original cartridges and compatible private label ink that you buy yourself? We did the math! For this we used our best-selling HP cartridges as an example: the HP 364XL. The comparison below assumes that all four colour cartridges are installed in the printer (black, cyan, magenta, yellow).

  Cost per Page    
Amount of pagesHP Instant Ink
Subscription
HP Original
364XL
HP Store NL
HP Original
364XL
Inktweb.nl
Private label FLWR 364XL
Inktweb.nl
50 pages 6 cent 3 cent 2,6 cent 0,4 cent
100 pages 5 cent 3 cent 2,6 cent 0,4 cent
300 pages 3,3 cent 3 cent 2,6 cent 0,4 cent
700 pages 3 cent 3 cent 2,6 cent 0,4 cent

It looks like HP Instant Ink is always more expensive, except for the business package of 700 pages per month. Then the price aligns to the genuine 364 XL cartridge from HP, purchased from the official HP webshop. Most users will never print that many pages per month, and a smart user will not pay that much of a premium on cartridges.

Everything lined up:

Page limit and irregularity

No two months are the same. You may print a lot one month and almost none the month after. Consider, for example, periods with many (school) reports or holiday photos that have to be printed. Or imagine that you print a report with the wrong printer settings and must reprint it. Those pages will still count towards your quota, eventually meaning you’ll have to pay extra. This irregularity can cause you to end up losing more money in the long-term compared to purchasing your own ink once these cartridges run out.

Cost per page add up to 6 cents, and 10 cents if you are past your page limit. A small print, such as a few labels or a small email, costs just as much as a full-coloured photo print. Concert tickets and cooking recipes that are accidentally printed with an extra blank page also count towards your quota within the HP Instant Ink subscription. All these pages add up, so you’re basically throwing away money.

Long delivery times

According to HP, the “usual delivery time” for HP Instant Ink-cartridges is 7 to 10 days. The printer itself estimates when you will run out of ink, and usually orders new cartridges on time, but if you suddenly have a large print job, this can cause a problem. Because it is not possible to manually order new cartridges, you will have to wait for your new cartridges to arrive via an automatic order. Adding onto that, Instant Ink users have reported that the printer reads the cartridges as still containing ink, when they’re actually empty. And again, every page printed count towards your quota, even empty ones!

That is a shocker, because most (web) shops deliver much faster. At Inktweb.nl you usually receive the cartridges the next working day! (within the Netherlands only)

“Can’t I just buy a supply of cartridges so that I never run out of ink?”

With this in mind we immediately arrive at the next disadvantage:

It is not possible to use non-Instant Ink cartridges

If you have a subscription, your printer does not accept other HP ink cartridges in combination with Instant Ink cartridges. As a result, it is not possible to install your own cartridges next to the Instant Ink cartridges. This means you must remove all Instant Ink printer cartridges before you continue printing. This way, you also pay double for printing: The Instant Ink subscription and self-purchased ink.

ATTENTION! It is also not possible to use private label compatible cartridges in a printer that has already been activated with HP Instant Ink. After activating the subscription once, the printer from then on only accepts original HP ink cartridges. A clever trick where HP tries to further increase its monopoly on the sale of ink cartridges.

HP is constantly watching you…

When you purchase an HP Instant Ink subscription, you agree to share all your printing activities with HP. Of course, they’re able to see how many pages you print and how much ink is left in your ink cartridges, but also the type of document you are printing, and which device you’re using to print. In addition, HP has permission to share your personal information (name, address, email, printer type, serial number) with the (web) shop you purchased the printer with subscription from. If you care about your privacy, this can be a problem.

Instant Ink cartridges remain the property of HP

The cartridges you receive through the Instant Ink subscription remain the property of HP, meaning they have full rights to disable these cartridges at any time. For example, when you cancel your subscription; the Instant Ink-cartridges must be returned to HP. This also counts for empty HP Instant Ink cartridges. Cross your fingers that your postman will take the empty cartridges back with him; otherwise you are still obliged to leave the house for a trip to the post office.

Bill not paid = Prohibition on Instant Ink

Didn’t pay your HP Instant Ink bill in time? HP may prohibit you from using the service afterwards. The Instant Ink cartridges that are then installed in your HP printer become unusable, forcing you to purchase new cartridges yourself.

Does HP Instant Ink have any benefits at all?

The HP Instant Ink program is a leap in the automation of our households. The “attractive” monthly fee and the ability to print anything you want without having to be too careful of using too much ink is an advantage for some users, especially when you hardly print. But for users who don’t want to spend more than what they actually print or don’t have a big budget, HP Instant Ink is not a good choice. Factors like a monthly bill, internet problems, your printer not detecting ink levels properly and printing outside your bundle are not positive.

Sure, you don’t have to manually buy new cartridges once you run out or find out which cartridges you need for your printer. And you can make as many colour prints as you want at no extra cost, provided you are within your chosen package of pages. This may be more beneficial in the long run, but are these reasons substantial enough to offset the drawbacks?

If you can stay within your bundle and don’t often print more than the page limit, HP Instant Ink can be very attractive for you. But as soon as one of the aforementioned disadvantages occur, you will still be off better (and much cheaper!) by purchasing cartridges at your favourite (web) store.

What is the alternative?

For decades, many companies have offered “after-market” ink cartridges as a cheaper alternative to the pricey cartridges sold by the printer manufacturers. We call these cartridges “private label” or “compatible”. These ink cartridges are available for practically every printer and are usually filled with way more ink. This makes them last longer than the original, at a lower price! The only noticeable difference is within your wallet. Earlier in this article we already made a price comparison between HP Instant Ink, original ink and private label ink.

“The money that customers can save by printing with private label is significant,”

– Marc van Raai (CEO of Inktweb.nl)

Check out the banner below to see the comparison and make the switch today!

In conclusion, it is important that you educate yourself on the options available when it comes to printer ink. You can save a lot of money, and not everything the major printer manufacturers try to sell you is the best choice.

Have you ever used HP Instant Ink? Leave your experience in the comments below this article. You can also ask any questions there and we will be sure to get back to you!

About Youp

Youp is via zijn marketing & communicatie opleiding bij Inktweb.nl terecht gekomen als stagiair, en werkt hedendaags part-time bij Inktweb.nl. Hij doet onder andere content-management werkzaamheden en andere marketing-gerelateerde opdrachten.

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