A guide to HP print cartridges

November 11, 20200

A guide to HP print cartridges

HP boasts one of the widest ranges of printing solutions on the market. With so many HP print cartridges to choose from, you may well ask how you are meant to know which one is right for you? 

Suppose you regularly make use of any HP printer, for anything from standard document printing to large format, computer-assisted design (CAD). You have probably found it quite confusing to work out which print-cartridge system to use, or which replacement cartridges to buy. Having a fuller understanding of the benefits of certain cartridge types will enable you to make more informed choices when you’re shopping for a printer or for new cartridges. 

To help you understand your options, we have compiled the ultimate guide to HP ink and toner cartridges. We will take you through all you need to know by looking at:


The two types of HP print cartridges

HP has many different shapes and sizes of print cartridges to fit their numerous printer models. However, at their most basic, there are really only four cartridge systems. There are machines that use two cartridges – one with black ink and one combined three-colour cartridge. Then there are systems designed for more precise colour printing, which have either four, six or eight cartridges. These multi-cartridge systems are designed for users who want to print high-quality graphics.


Two-cartridge black-and-tri-colour systems

The oldest system consists of one black cartridge paired with a tri-colour cartridge. The colour cartridge contains cyan, magenta and yellow ink. The system is still popular, mostly because it is used on small, budget printer models. These are machines that are used mainly for basic, black-ink document printing. Inkjet printers for use at home or in small offices generally use the two-cartridge system. The one drawback is that, while it is perfectly efficient for small volumes of printing, it can become quite expensive if you print high volumes. These cartridges carry relatively small amounts of ink compared to those in the four-cartridge system, meaning that they run out and need replacing more often.

Internationally, there are several different series of print cartridges for two-cartridge printers. Here in South Africa, however, most HP two-cartridge printers make use of the HP 65 series.


Four, six and eight-cartridge systems

The most common alternative to black/tri-colour printers are four-cartridge machines, which feature individual cartridges for each of the following colours: black, cyan, magenta and yellow. The main difference between this system and the one we have just discussed is that it is more cost-effective. You get considerable cost savings by replacing each cartridge separately – and each colour can be replaced as needed. It also offers better picture and graphic printing. 

Another distinguishing feature is that, unlike black/tri-colour cartridges, these do not have built-in printheads. Instead, the printhead is built into the printer itself. This design element helps to reduce the cost of the cartridges. However, there is one thing you should bear in mind. While you save money on replacing the cartridges, reducing your regular running costs, your printheads will likely wear out after a certain period and need replacing. Depending on which printer you have, a replacement printhead can be expensive. In fact, it is often better to just buy a new printer. If you do choose a four-cartridge printer, you need to make sure that your short-term savings offset the long-term cost of maintenance and replacement. 

The six-cartridge system expands on the four-cartridge variety to offer even more refined and higher quality printing. The two extra cartridges add light magenta and light cyan into the colour mix. Eight-cartridge printers are generally designed only for CAD or graphic design professionals, and bring in colours such as red, green or light grey, depending on the model

On the whole, individual cartridges have a higher yield than tri-colour cartridges. Whereas an HP 65 High Yield tr-colour cartridge will give you 300 pages, an HP 963 High Yield cartridge in black, cyan, magenta or yellow will produce up to 2,000 pages. Both cartridge systems offer three different sizes of print cartridges: Standard Yield, High Yield or Extra High Yield. The physical size of the cartridge is the same across all three – it is only the amount of ink inside that is different. If your printer is designed to fit HP 963 cartridges, for example, you can fit Standard, High and Extra High Yield cartridges into it. You can choose and change the cartridge size based on your print output. The higher the yield, the lower your cost per page.

Of course, our discussion of ink cartridges is only relevant with regard to Inkjet printers. The HP Laserjet range makes use of toner, not ink. Toner presents an entirely different set of facts, figures and costs. We will address these later on.


HP vs generic print cartridges

Printing can be expensive, especially if you run a business that requires you to print thousands of pages per month. Many users of HP Inkjet printers seek to minimise these costs by finding generic alternatives to genuine HP cartridges.

Generic print cartridges are made by companies other than the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) that produce your printer, such as HP. The cartridges approximate the OEM-made ones in every way and will fit your printer and operate more or less as genuine brand-name products would. What makes generic cartridges attractive to printer users is that they are cheaper. It is worth looking at the matter more closely however, to determine whether the savings that generics offer are actually worth it in the long run.

Generic cartridges may be cheaper and they will produce printing that is quite acceptable for most purposes – certainly in cases where plain black Word or Excel documents are concerned. However, there is a major difference where high-quality image printing is required. If you need to print photographs or CAD-generated plans, drawings and other images, you will find that generic cartridges won’t give you the clear, colour-perfect prints you need.

Generic cartridges are well-made copies of OEM-designed products – but they are still copies. Genuine cartridges, on the other hand, come directly from the source. They are designed by the original printer manufacturers, keeping in mind the specific printer model, as well as the kind of paper that would typically be used. Generics can only ever approximate the effect of this careful design and engineering. The quality of the ink in generic cartridges is also of a lower standard, so the images they produce tend to fade and lose their integrity over time. Those produced by genuine cartridges are more durable.

Yes, using generic cartridges will cut your short-term printing costs. However, if you are considering taking this route, you need to decide how significant the resulting trade-off in quality will be for your business. If sharp, crisp images and durable prints are important to you, then switching to generic cartridges may not present sufficient value for the savings they deliver. Not only that, but you also need to consider your long-term printing costs. When you invest in a printer, you want it to serve you for the maximum length of time possible. Using genuine printer cartridges will help you to extend the life of your printer. Generic cartridges, on the other hand, can actually damage your printer, forcing you to replace it earlier than expected, and causing you to lose those short-term savings.


What’s the difference between ink and toner cartridges?

If you make use of a Laserjet printer, then all this talk of ink cartridges is not relevant to you. Instead, you will think of your printing requirements in terms of toner. The words ‘ink’ and ‘toner’ are often used interchangeably, but they are far from being the same thing. They are very different in terms of cost, composition and method.

Printing ink, which you will find in the cartridges we discussed above, is a liquid, much like that used in pens. Toner, on the other hand, is a fine, dry plastic powder which is melted onto the page using laser technology. Both ink and toner cartridges come in either disposable or refillable varieties. When it comes to cost, it is difficult to draw broad comparisons between ink and toner, since there are considerable variations depending on the specific product and the page yield. As a general rule, inkjet printing is almost always more expensive than toner printing, especially for high volumes. Laser printers tend to be more expensive than inkjet printers, but the cost of maintenance and cartridge replacement is much lower. Toner cartridges are much more affordable over time and are also more efficient, better quality and less wasteful. You won’t have to worry about smudging or bleeding, for example, which can commonly occur with ink printing.

Inkjet printing still has its advantages though. Inkjet printers are usually cheaper and more compact, and offer superior colour and photo printing. For users with more varied needs, i.e. who are not merely printing large volumes of text, inkjet printing is a great option.


Is toner toxic?

Changing a toner cartridge is a pretty routine office maintenance task. You have probably noticed the fine powder that sometimes comes out when you remove a toner cartridge. It can stain clothes and carpets, and easily wafts into the air to be inhaled by anyone in the vicinity. Is this a health concern?

A study of the effects of exposure to low doses of toner in laboratory rats found that there were no adverse effects. When the doses were increased, the rats did experience slight lung irritation. However, the amounts of toner required to stimulate even the mildest respiratory reaction was far higher than anyone is likely to encounter when changing a toner cartridge. There were no other effects on the rats in the study. The conclusion is that toner does not seem to have any toxic effects. It will still cause irritation when it comes into contact with the eyes – but it can easily be rinsed out using an eyewash station or even water. You may still wish to prevent inhaling it or allowing it to come into contact with your skin. The use of gloves or a paper or cloth mask when changing a cartridge will be more than enough to prevent exposure.

Tarsus Distribution is a distributor of HP products for southern Africa. Contact us for more information on HP print cartridges and other IT and printing solutions.



As Southern Africa’s leading value-added technology distributor, Tarsus Distribution represents top tier global hardware, software and information security brands. Partner resellers can deliver the best possible service in South Africa by partnering with Tarsus.

© 2021 Tarsus Distribution. All rights reserved. | Terms & Conditions | Privacy Policy