Modern inkjet printers, like the many HP printers available at Best Buy, produce amazing high-quality prints for work and school. No matter which printer you take home, they will all eventually need replacement ink. And you need to keep buying ink cartridges for the life of the device. This is why some people are tempted to purchase imitation ink cartridges from third-party brands that are cheaper than ink made by the original manufacturer. Let’s breakdown the pros and cons of imitation ink versus original to help you make a decision.

What is Original Ink?

Original ink refers to ink cartridges that the printer manufacturer has researched and developed to work best with their printers. So, for example, if you visit Best Buy online and search for ink cartridges for your HP printer, you’ll find a range of cartridges. They are specifically formulated and designed to fit and work with your HP printer.

What is Imitation Ink?

Imitation ink, on the other hand, includes cartridges that are manufactured by third-party companies that don’t make their own printers. There are two types of imitation ink cartridges:

  1. Remanufactured Cartridges: Used original equipment manufacturers’ (OEM) cartridges are cleaned, repaired, and sold as “remanufactured cartridges.”
  2. Clone Cartridges: Another type of compatible cartridge are those made from new materials, attempting to clone the originals.

What are the benefits are choosing only original ink for your printer

With original ink you’re going to get the best quality—the ink was designed to work with your printer. In fact, HP spends $1 billion a year on ink research and development. OEM cartridges are made from quality materials to ensure you experience high quality prints every time. You can bet that print quality will be top-notch, with vivid colours, should you choose OEM products.

SpencerLab tests key findings:

  • 2X greater pages printed with original ink
  • 58% imitation cartridges failed
  • 29x fewer wasted print pages with original
  • 31% of test printers permantly damaged by imitation ink cartidges

You’ll get higher print yields with OEM: you’ll be able to print more pages per cartridge. Independent test laboratores confirmed through studies that HP original cartridges yield more than twice the number of print copies than numerous sources of independent ink cartridges. Moreover, they found that over half of imitation cartridges had failure issues, compared to none of the original ink cartridges they tested. Lastly, original ink cartridges did not damage the printers that were tested; however, over 30% or printers tested with imitation cartridges were irreparably damaged by the cartridge. The imitations ones might look and function similarly for you, but beneath the surface, there are differences in quality that may lead to unexpected expenses.

Environmental benefits of original ink

There are also environmental benefits to using OEM ink cartridges. Companies like HP, for example, have comprehensive recycling programs that ensure old ink cartridges are recycled to make new ink cartridges. Every cartridge returned to HP is 100% recycled—this is called a closed loop recycling process because no cartridges are sent to the landfill. In addition, HP ink cartridges are made using over 45% post-consumer plastic content. When used and empty HP cartridges are returned to the company, they sort and shred the plastic material and strengthen the recycled cartridges with recycled bottles and hangers. Using original ink means you’re helping have a positive impact on the environment. For more information about this you can visit HP’s website and YouTube videos like “Rosette’s Story: Reinventing Impact in Haiti“—very inspiring!

hp printer

Security benefits of OEM supplieshp ink cartridges

Finally, did you know that printers are actually a potential source for hackers to get into your computer? Any connected device these days, from the baby monitor to your security camera, provides a potential back door to your personal information. And printers are no different. Genuine HP ink, for example, contains special firmware on the cartridge chips that help prevent attackers from using your printer as an open invitation to steal your personal data and take over your computer. HP’s proprietary firmware can’t be modified by third parties after it has been produced and are manufactured in secure facilities.

HP even offers programs that will see ink delivered right to your door automatically any time your printer is running low. HP’s Instant Ink subscription service means you don’t have to rush out the door to buy ink at the last minute when you realize you’re out just before printing that big report hp ink originalthat’s due in the morning.

Original Ink: Cons

The main drawback to opting for original ink is that the upfront cost is higher. Depending on the printer you have, and how often you print, replacing ink costs will vary for different people; but, those costs will add up. A cost comparison, however, will only be superficial if we’re only considering the replacement cost of an original ink cartridge versus an imitation ink cartridge. A true cost comparison would consiser the cost per page and cost associated with printer damage as a result of using imitation ink. Consumers should be aware that they may not be getting the great deal they perceive when considering all of the factors and risks.

Perceived benefits of choosing to use imitation ink

Price is the reason consumers opt for imitation ink. The fact is few people would choose imitation unless it was cheaper. And the imitation cartridge manufacturers do claim to offer the same quality and print yields. There are reputable brands producing imitation ink that is pretty decent, taking care to clean the used cartridges extensively, use certain quality control measures, and replacing worn or damaged components to ensure their repurposed cartridges are in like-new condition. Some even offer guarantees so if you aren’t happy with the product, you can request your money back.

Some remanufactured ink can even do things like track your ink and toner levels so you get an idea of when you need to replace the ink; though many won’t be able to read your printer very accurately.

Imitation ink cons: perception versus reality

imitation ink hp printerSome consumers have found it can take buying a few different types to find one that works best with their printer and to weed out those companies making false quality claims. It’s kind of like the Wild West of ink out there! Really you have to decide for yourself: if the print yields are lower and the quality not identical to original ink, but the price is a little better, can you live with it? Some imitation ink cartridges may be fine while others may not.

Imitation ink manufacturers often make false or misleading claims, suggesting there’s no difference in print quality and yield from the brand-name cartridges. When talking about yield, you not only measure how many pages you can print per cartridge but you also have to take into account things like bad prints and reprints that ultimately reduce your print yield (not to mention wasting paper). In the long run, you’re likely not saving if the cartridge lasts 75% of an original. There is also the risk that the imitation ink cartridge you bought might destroy your printer: you do not expect to have replace a printer because of bad ink!

imitation ink cartridgesAnd while some imitation ink companies might take great care to manufacture cartridges properly, it might cost you more to filter through all of the bad batches than it would to simply purchase an OEM cartridge to begin with.

One could argue that clone ink made by remanufactured cartridges is eco-friendly by reusing cartridges. However, those imitation cartridges will eventually end up in a landfill. HP, in contrast, reuses original cartridges as many times as possible, and then breaks them down to manufacture new ones. Imitation cartridges do not get such a treatment. Additionally, imitation ink cartridges don’t have any firmware to stop malicious hackers from using your printer to gain entry into your computer. And even worse, they could potentially be reprogrammed to make your network vulnerable to cyberattacks!

And finally, since imitation ink relies on OEM cartridges to be made, you might be hard-pressed to find imitation cartridges for newer printer models. There has to be a large enough pool of discarded cartridges for them to work with in order to make the remanufactured ones.

Bottom Line

hp envy 7155 printer

It really comes down to personal choice and budget. If you don’t print a lot, or only print black and white text-based documents, or things that don’t need to be of the best quality, you might opt to save a few dollars and take a chance with imitation ink. However, original ink provides plenty of benefits if you want your printouts to be of the best quality, if you’re using them for reports and presentations, for example, handouts, brochures, greeting cards, and more. And if you are printing photos where you need accurate colour reproduction, you don’t want to be cheap when it comes to the ink.

Original ink also provides additional benefits you might not even have thought of, like helping the environment through recycling programs by the manufacturers and security features that provide an extra layer of protection against hackers using your printer as a potential backdoor into your computer system.

Browse through all the ink (and toner) options at Best Buy Online to find the right cartridge for your printer.

Christine Persaud
With 20+ years of experience in trade and consumer tech journalism, I have covered the tech space since before social media was a "thing" and the smartphone as we know it was even invented. Writing for various technology, lifestyle, and entertainment sites, I have covered and reviewed hundreds of tech products, from home appliances to wearables, fitness tech to headphones, TV entertainment products and services, and more. I'm also a passionate foodie who loves to cook and bake, a TV show fanatic (happy to give what to watch recommendations!), and proud mother to a 12-year-old son.


  1. What I need is a combo printer..scan, copy, print. However, also print perfect photos. I don’t do mass photo printing, but quite a few individual ones and I want them to look very good! My previous HP had 4 cartridges, but the one I have now has only two. I believe, perhaps, that is why I am so dissatisfied with the photo printouts. They are for me but also for others. .. either way, I want them perfect. .. like they were with my HP Photosmart. If you know anyone who can repair the jammed cartridge the similar one I purchased on Amazon recently that would be great!

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