back to article HP Inc's rinky-dink ink stink: Unofficial cartridges, official refills spurned by printer DRM

A Dutch ink seller is accusing HP Inc of deliberately programming its printers to reject refurbished cartridges with a covert firmware update. 123inkt.nl claims that the PC and printer half of the HP split-up planned months ago to have its printers spontaneously spit out third-party and refurbished cartridges from September 13 …

HP seems intent on committing suicide...

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And not with any grace, and dignity, like performing seppuku.

This is more like auto-erotic asphyxiation to goatse pics.

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Anonymous Coward

This is more like auto-erotic asphyxiation to goatse pics.

Curse you, Register, for only giving me one upvote :).

I have an Epson A3 format printer, and it tells me that having non-official Epson ink is not a good idea and have implications for quality and warranty (the latter is not really an argument given that the savings alone insure me for the costs of that risk). But it works. And it keeps on working. And once you have a way to control the costs of the ink you discover just how good the silly thing is because experimenting doesn't set you back half a mortgage. I have printed all sorts of weird stuff on it as the A3 format has even made it possible to print A4 brochures.

That said, HP *used* to be rather good. The predecessor to that Epson was a HP Officejet Pro (a K550) which I had to move to non-HP ink quite simply because it was so old that it was hard to get original ink for it anyway. But it kept on truckin', and the main reason I kept it was because it wasn't just good quality print, it was also *fast*. It needed a very stable surface to live on because even its own high weight couldn't contain the kinetic energy of its heads flying back and forth.

But those ink costs. If you can buy a full set of refillable cartridges + replacement ink for £50 and you work out that the same in "official" cartridges would have set you back for close to £1k it is time to ask some hard questions. Nowadays I check out the existence of replacement ink before I ever consider buying an inkjet (I'm wondering if the same market exists for laser/LED printers?).

I'm all OK with companies making a profit, but there is a point where you pass into rip-off territory and it's bad news when your customers discover this..

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The 'quality' of its printers was enough to do that

Never mind the dodgy cartridge shenanigans, the printers themselves were rubbish. I had an HP multifunction job that cost me the best part of £300 (on the foolish assumption that a more costly printer would be better built). I only used genuine ink in it. Its faults were numerous:

1. It defaulted to a screensaver which displayed advertising, rather than just dimming or turning off the display when the printer wasn't in use.

2. When it ran out of ink in any cartridge all functions on the device stopped - including scanning which, last time I checked, didn't use any ink at all.

3. It died terminally, less than two years old, before finishing its second set of cartridges.

I replaced it with an Epson - which, so far (four years after purchase), works perfectly (no advertising, scans even with no ink) other than weirdly being unable to remember the time (which doesn't bother me)

My best printer though is an Apple LaserWriter 8500, the best part of twenty years old, which works perfectly (all functions) even with my home refilled toner cartridges. It sits on my network and happily prints from my Windows, Linux and Mac computers. Next trick is to get it working with iOS.

I was also surprised by my old Canon bubble jet which I pulled out of the loft a few weeks back (it's been there since about 1998). I turned it on and, without changing the cartridge (in the interests of experimentation), printed a test page. Astonishingly it worked. The printed page was streaky as hell - but perfectly legible. I might get a new cartridge for it - because it's clearly better than most of the shitty printers being pedalled these days!

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Re: if the same market exists for laser

Yes.

A set of Brother cartridges costs more than a new Colour Laser. The 3rd party cartridges seem to be just as good. It's not that old of a model, Duplex too, though only A4. A3 Plus would be nice. However even the Brother laser cartridges work out about 1/4 price per page of running inkjet. Unless you need "photo" quality, I think now that ink jet is too slow and expensive.

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Re: The 'quality' of its printers was enough to do that

it's clearly better than most of the shitty printers being pedalled these days!

There ya go! And I thought pedal-powered printing went out in my grandfather's day when they invented electricity :-)

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Re: The 'quality' of its printers was enough to do that

> ... printers being pedalled ...

I wonder if the firmware update also stops you using the printer as a bicycle? Or did you mean peddled? Difficult to be sure.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The 'quality' of its printers was enough to do that

"I had an HP malfunction job..."

FIFY

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Re: The 'quality' of its printers was enough to do that

@nijam - thanks. I knew something was wrong. Serves me right for bashing away on my phone on the train - doesn't make thinkin', let alone typin', any easier.

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Re: if the same market exists for laser

"However even the Brother laser cartridges work out about 1/4 price per page of running inkjet. Unless you need "photo" quality, I think now that ink jet is too slow and expensive."

We used to use a HP inkjet at home, but it quickly became obvious that the cartridge costs were astronomical, the need for colour in most print jobs was negligible, and for anything over a couple of pages it was just too slow.

Now we use a 15 year old Brother personal monochrome laser printer. Perfectly adequate for most tasks. The last toner replacement cost me £9, and that will be good for at least six months.

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Re: if the same market exists for laser

We got a 14yo HP Laser upgaded with a few bits of Ebay (network memory and paper tray) 3rd party toner for £10 as our draft printer. For anything leaving the business a new HP multifunction Black\Colour laser. Beats inkjets for quality hands down.

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Gold badge

Re: The 'quality' of its printers was enough to do that

I was also surprised by my old Canon bubble jet which I pulled out of the loft a few weeks back (it's been there since about 1998). I turned it on and, without changing the cartridge (in the interests of experimentation), printed a test page. Astonishingly it worked.

The Canon BJ 130 (yes, they were a tad unfortunate in their naming :) ) was the first inkjet I had, and it was simply magic after years of aural assault from dot matrix and golf ball printers. I had it with added tractor feed, and that's something I miss - a long listing on folded is just so much better visually (and you could run a box of labels through it too without any worry of jamming). It was *really* quiet - it didn't do the clunking house keeping modern inkjets do (I'm sure there's a reason for it, but that doesn't mean I like it :) ).

It was also dead simple, which is probably why yours still works. Wonderful bit of kit.

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You owe me a new keyboard.

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Re: The 'quality' of its printers was enough to do that

@Fred Flintstone

Oh mine does the clunking thing too - but only when 'parking' the cartridge over the waste sponge. Other than that, it just makes a soft zhush, zhush… zhush, zhush… noise. It's pretty good. And I'm intrigued to see what the print quality is like with a new cartridge, given that the 18 year old cartridge is still perfectly legible (albeit stripy and a bit spattery). No tractor feed though - strictly friction (It's a BJ-100 FWIW)

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Re: The 'quality' of its printers was enough to do that

> it's clearly better than most of the shitty printers being pedalled these days!

You must be referring to the ones that use re-cycled ink cartridges.

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Stop

Re: if the same market exists for laser

Instant Ink.

That's how you are supposed to pay for HP inject printing.

If you work it out, the cost-per-page is around that of refilled cartridges. However, you do need to keep an eye on your usage, to make sure that you are on the right subscription level.

That's right, subscription.

The price of loose cartridges is just to push you on to Instant Ink.

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Coat

Re: The 'quality' of its printers was enough to do that

My first BJ was 10.

Small and easy to carry around should you need to get away in a hurry. Could never handle a big load though.

Hold on, there's a lot of sirens outside and someones banging on the the door shouting "We've got one Theresa"

brb...

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Re: if the same market exists for laser

" I think now that ink jet is too slow and expensive."

You forgot "unreliable"

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Are the complainers...

The ones who regularly spam me with all those ink offers? If so, I'd like them out of business. Unfortunately I like cheap ink (who doesn't), and locking out "off brand" cartridges is a bit extreme!! Of course if you are the company supplying things, it adds to the profit statement.

All of this begs the question:

Why, why, why can't the ink and the printhead be different assemblies? Then it would be a simple task to fill an ink reservoir and get on with things. Also cartridges wouldn't need to go obsolete. Where is that nice refilled '45' or '23' cartridge.

*SIGH* Life goes on. It is always good to be in the expendables business. Always a market for TP!! Let's hope they don't make THAT DRM'd!!

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Re: Are the complainers...

I don't usually shill for any company but...

Try Epson ecotank printers. These ones have huge external ink tanks that are refilled indepently, while the printing head is safely inside.

I don't even know if the refill bottles are cheap or not, because the one at home has been happily churning prints for over a year with the original load

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Re: Are the complainers...

Actually, some HP Photosmart printers do have permanent printheads and the ink cartridges are merely reservoirs--except like the others they still have ID chips. In this particular instance, one might be a little more cautious about using off-brand ink. Gumming up the permanent printheads would turn the printer into a doorstop.

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Re: Are the complainers...

Um...more than half of the printers in the author's list (at least all the OfficeJet Pro 86xx printers) use ink tanks separate from the print head, and individual color tanks. That series is advertised as "cheaper than laser". I've got one and love it...easily more than 1000 pages of regular office printing per black cartridge, and even more than that for color (I'm not regularly printing photos) so the ink cost isn't a huge hassle. Those also use the newer pigment inks, which are much nicer than dye inks (less smearing, more accurate colors on all paper).

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Re: Are the complainers...

epson may not lock cartidges, but they can be just as bad with other things, like propiatary waste tank lock up, and they use oodles of ink during calibration, chucked mine afyer umpy cartridges 1/2 emptied during cleaning cycles, went colour laser and never looked back

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Re: Are the complainers...

went colour laser and never looked back

Me too -- a Lexmark C543dn. It was a bargain at less than 50% RRP. It's especially handy having the automatic duplexer. Only fly in the ointment: Lexmark Rewards gave you credits towards toner purchases when you sent the empty carts back to them. They've dropped the program before I managed to amass sufficient credits to get any "free" toner. So I won't be buying a Lexmark again. Mind you, I wouldn't be surprised if it's the last printer I ever buy.

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Re: why can't the ink and the printhead be different assemblies?

Many Brother and Epson do use separate print heads and ink-only cartridges, sometimes fixed in the body. Long life piezo heads, the HP and others use shorter life thermal heads that make gas bubbles from alcohol to force out the droplets.

Most A4 inkjets were cost reduced to uselessness over 15 years ago.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Are the complainers...

I don't even know if the refill bottles are cheap or not, because the one at home has been happily churning prints for over a year with the original load

You can buy replacement ink systems like that as well, but I am indeed actively considering one of those with original ink (the reason is colour fidelity). I also don't think my load would last for a whole year, plus it would probably gum up the mechanism..

/tiptoes away..

:)

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Re: Are the complainers...

Brother also have a series of refillable ink tank printers that happen only to be available in developing markets (where pretty much all printers are fitted with a third party continuous inking system from the store you buy the printer from). Identical non refillable cartridge based / champagne swilling models are sold in established markets. Managed to score myself a DCP-T500W whilst on holiday and the genuine ink refills aren't a ripoff.

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Re: Are the complainers...

Kyocera laser printer cartridges are just a toner reservoir. The printers cost more to buy initially, but the pp printing costs thereafter are very low, even using genuine Kyocera toner.

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Re: Are the complainers...

The printhead and ink reservoir are separate on large format printer/plotters; we ran a 60" HP job that used 6 ink colours. There was a tiny "ready use" reservoir on each printhead that was refilled as required from ink containers that held around a litre of ink each! Amazing quality, providing you used good paper.

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Re: Are the complainers...

I recently switched my Lexmark X543dn to remanufactured cartridges. (Lexmark lost a case under DMCA not long ago, so 3rd party cartridges are now available.) Roughly ¼ of the cost of the originals (£15ish vs £65ish). Easily makes up for the loss of the "rewards" programme, which, like you, I didn't get a single "free" cartridge out of (mind you, my printer's 6 years old, and I don't print that much).

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Re: Are the complainers...

I've got an epson L210, inktank printer. It's about 3 years old now. Was really surprised a few months ago to notice the colour ink maybe needed refilling in the next month, after something like 6-7 reams.. (No, I don't print many colour photos). Another (hopefully) two-three years of printing cost me about £25, if I remember correctly. Sorry HP, I've voted with my feet.

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My printer not HP's

If I buy a printer it belongs to me, I can put whatever ink I want in it, if I use crap ink and it screws the printer up then that's my problem and I would not expect to have it fixed under warranty.

Why should HP or any other manufacturer prevent me filling MY machine with liquefied dog turds if I want to, what has it got to do with them?

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Re: My printer not HP's

One word is the answer: profit! There was a time even recently, where HP recommended HP Paper for their printers and using non branded paper voided the warranty. Since paper can't be DRM'd (yet), ink is the only thing left.

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Re: My printer not HP's

If they could find a way to get you to use HP computers, they would.

If Ford could force you to buy one brand of petrol, they would.

Why the surprise?

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Re: My printer not HP's

Months go by between times I fire up my HP inkjet, usually to print travel documents.

If you don't want to use genuine ink products, don't buy HP.

Nothing prevents HP from rejecting all warranty claims from clogs. If always-borked printers puts HP out of the printer business... Why assume they're powerless to prevent that?

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Re: My printer not HP's

"Why should HP or any other manufacturer prevent me filling MY machine with liquefied dog turds if I want to, what has it got to do with them?"

You might send it back for repair?

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Holmes

Re: My printer not HP's

OK, so you've got some valuable inside information there.

But what breed of dog - Impoverished enquiring minds etc etc...

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Re: My printer not HP's

But crap load of people would, THey would not equated putting crap in the printer as their fault. They would be like HP is crap because it wound not use they cheap defective cartridges.

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Re: My printer not HP's

Why should HP or any other manufacturer prevent me filling MY machine with liquefied dog turds if I want to, what has it got to do with them?

Money. You'll probably find that the printer is sold at close to cost, whereas the ink is sold at a massive profit.

Many consumers make their initial buying decision on the up-front costs, rather than recurring costs. Other examples of this business model include mobile phones & razor blades.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: My printer not HP's

True, but wouldn't it better if it simply voided the warranty (toggled a bit somewhere) and then worked anyway? It would be less of a PR problem. Personally I have had some non-HP cartridges work and some not, so I think for the most part the recommendation for HP cartridges is not completely without merit. Either way, it's false economics to make money from the ink and undersell the printer.

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Holmes

Re: My printer not HP's

I was wondering what kind of liquidiser. Would a NutriBullet do?

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Re: My printer not HP's

"True, but wouldn't it better if it simply voided the warranty (toggled a bit somewhere) and then worked anyway?"

A lot of HP printers count the number of non-HP cartridges inserted. The number can easily be seen through the web interface of the printer. I don't know about the implications it will have for warranty, but it can't be good.

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Re: My printer not HP's @wordmerchant

Well, if a NutriBullet wouldn't do it, I don't know what would. Vicious things, they are. Designed to smash seed kernels.

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Re: My printer not HP's

> I was wondering what kind of liquidiser. Would a NutriBullet do?

Water from the lake at my local park would do it - judging by the effect on my dog after he had a little drink from it.

Took several weeks for the after effects to wear off and a return to proper consistency![1]

:-)

[1] Yum - that nice warm toasty feeling of picking up dog poop without using a scoop. Especially as herself wants to use the cheapest bags[2] possible

[2] ASDA nappy bags - 0.035p per bag..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: My printer not HP's

"what breed of dog"

A shitsu?

"ASDA nappy bags - 0.035p per bag.."

28 bags for a penny? Now *that's* cheap, no wonder they're not much use. (^_^)

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Re: My printer not HP's

Some printers are sold definitely below cost ('free' from some sources). The 'business model' is to profit from proprietary inks, and that model fails if there are alternatives. It's a legitimate business model (remember Polaroid?), and consumers don't have to like it. They could make other choices (as I do).

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Silver badge

It's simply beyond belief that this is the husk of a company with a once unbeatable reputation for quality.

Fortunately when I bought a colour printer recently I made a conscious decision not to buy HP. My old-school mono-chrome HP just soldiers on, of course.

HP really needs to haul itself out of this pit if it's to survive. This lark might yield a good quarter now. It will just result in a lot of bad quarters and years ahead.

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@Dr. Syntax

You must remember that HP, and all global companies now, are ruled by the stock exchanges. If they have a 'good' quarter now then their price rises. The next quarter might be crap, but they've still got the extra investment cash to ride over that.

The lawyers and accountants who now run nearly all companies only look at one thing the "Bottom Line." Neither staff nor customers come into this equation. The 'C' layer are quite happy to screw both if it means that their bonuses are secured.

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Re: @Dr. Syntax

" If they have a 'good' quarter now then their price rises."

This is what I hate about about capitalism. Everything has to grow until it ,presumably, eats the world.

(A bit like the Moore's law discussion the other day)

If HP made £100 last quarter , and because of this chip DRM scam make £120 this quarter, then the following quarter's £110 will be considered a failure.

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Anonymous Coward

Vote with your wallet.

If HP wants to give you the shaft by not letting you use any brand of ink you like in *your* machine, then vote with your wallet & stop buying HP printers.

You want my money then I want the freedom to choose. You refuse to let me choose then I refuse to buy your shit.

I hear good things about that Epson EcoTank printer (gives a nod to the previous person whom mentioned it here, then another to the user over on ARS Technica whom did as well) so that would be a good place to start.

Hell, if push comes to shove then I'll dust off the old DotMatrix printer with the 128 pin impact head & buy a ribbon to get started. So what if I can only print in B&W if it means I get a couple hundred thousand pages per ribbon?

Fuck HP. Fuck 'em with a bag of printer carts.

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