FROM KHALID BUTT, Bureau Chief, Lahore.
July 10 - July 16, 2006

Just glance at the price tags and the message seems clear: remanufactured cartridges and ink toner refills are a great bargain if compared to buying the original article. But there are hidden cost factors which emerge in the form of ink and toner leakages that lead to retaking inconsistent or poor quality printouts, replacing cartridges at premature stage, and overall loss in productivity due to printer repairs. The real problem is perception. Firstly, printing accessories are not commodities, as not all inks and toners are made with the material of equal grade. The price of original supplies reflects the fact that they are R&D-rich technology products. Secondly, not only do we see a declining trend for overall HP printing cost, even our cartridge prices have come down. John Solomon, HP's Asia Pacific / Japan Vice President for Imaging and Printing Supplies explained this while speaking at a recently held international IT exhibition in Singapore. For instance, from 1991 to 2005, HP Desk jet printing costs decreased 68% while speed increased 900%; and from 1987 to 2004, HP Laserjet printing costs decreased 52% while speed and quality increased over 460%. Furthermore, the cartridge price for products designed for low-volume printing has reduced by over 40% between 1998 and 2005. In addition, HP's new individually replaceable cartridges are priced at just US$9, and its most popular integrated cartridges now come in twin packs that offer up to 20% saving for high usage customers. So before users go ahead and buy the cheapest ink in town, they should consider the following facts: Any initial savings from using non-originals could be offset later as customers end up spending more on overall printing costs. Studies on third-party print cartridges versus original HP cartridges by Quality Logic, an independent US-based quality assurance testing company, revealed that an average of 80% of all tested remanufactured color toner cartridges exhibited reliability problems, compared to less than 2% of the tested HP cartridges. Due to the reliability issues, more reprinting was required, incurring additional wage and supplies costs. According to additional tests by Quality Logic, 70.3% of third-party cartridges caused printing problems versus 2% of original HP cartridges. These included inconsistent page yields, as well as ink or toner leaks that contaminated printer parts, causing the printer to be unable to print, or even total power failure. Furthermore, one out of every six remanufactured ink cartridges was "dead on arrival" or failed prematurely during testing, whereas HP cartridges worked every time. QualityLagic's tests determined that original HP inkjet print cartridges could produce 25% more client-ready documents and frame-worthy photos, and require less reprinting of poor quality pages than remanufactured cartridges. Photos printed with bargain inks also have very poor fade resistance. By using original printing supplies with the printers they were designed for, customers can always be sure of high-quality output at the most optimum cost in the long run. HP's print cartridges, for instance, are optimized to work with HP printers to maximize printing efficiency and output quality, monitor print jobs and supply levels so customers can reorder supplies before they run out. Original printing supplies are becoming more affordable as they ensure consistent quality performance and efficiency time after time. So there's really no reason for customers to risk using cheaper alternatives - whether printing important presentations or marketing collateral for business use, or school assignments, resumes, or photo projects for the home.