HP’s Rethink on Ink – An Automated Ink Refill Plan


If you’re like most of us, over the course of a year, the cost of your printer ink cartridges will be more than the cost of your printer. It’s a model that the razor blade folks came up with: sell the razor really cheap, and make your money on the consumables. In the case of the razors, it’s the blades. In the case of printers, it’s the ink cartridges. Well now the king of personal printing, Hewlett Packard, is turning that model upside down.

HP’s new Instant Ink Plan is aimed at family printing. It might also be sufficient for low volume home offices. Here’s the way it works. You go out and buy an HP Instant Ink capable printer for anywhere between about $80 and $100.  You sign up for an Instant Ink plan.  There are three levels, each based on the number of pages printed, not the amount of ink you use.  The cheapest plan is based on 50 pages a month for about $3.00 a month, or $36 per year.  The second tier is for 100 pages a month at $5/month.  Or you can choose the top tier of 300 pages a month for $120 for the year.  The service automatically monitors your printer and sends you new ink cartridges before you run out.

Overall it’s a pretty clever idea, and potentially very helpful to the family that has modest printing needs.  HP claims the savings over traditional ink cartridge purchases are significant.  For example, at the 50 page per month level, HP claims you’ll be saving $84 per year.  At the top level they say the savings amounts to $600.  That’s real money.  The eligible printers have the same functionality you’d expect from most comparable machines:  printing, copying, and scanning.  One has fax capability as well.  They all support wireless printing.  Two of the three units in the program also support mobile device printing, and they all have SD card slots so you can go from camera to printer without worrying about the computer.

instant ink 2

Does this make sense?  For starters, it means theoretically never running out of ink.  And depending on your usage, this could offer significant savings.  But it’s a new program and we’ll have to see just how well HP delivers.

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Gary is an award-winning journalist who has been covering technology since IBM introduced its first personal computer in 1981. Beginning at NBC News, then at ABC News, Ziff Davis, CNN, and Fox Business Network. Kaye has a history of “firsts”. He was the first to bring a network television crew to the Comdex Computer Show, the first technology producer on ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, the first to produce live coverage of the Solar Power International Conference, and the creator of the Fox Business Network signature series, “Three Days In The Valley”. Along the way he created the History Channel Multimedia Classroom. He has been a contributor to both AARP’s website and to AARP radio, as well as to a handful of other print and web-based publications where he specializes in issues involving boomers/seniors and technology. He has been a featured speaker and moderator at industry events such as the Silvers Summit and Lifelong Tech Conferences at CES, the M-Enabling Health Summit, and the What’s Next Baby Boomer Business Summit. His column, “Technology Through Our Eyes” appears in half a dozen newspapers and websites across the country.


  1. If you want the Automated Ink Refill Program, you must link your printer to a wireless network. Period. If you do not currently have a wireless network in your home or office, and you want the Automated Ink Refill Program to work, you will have to enable or install a wireless network in your home or office.

    The guy at OfficeMax said so.

    There is no Bluetooth. There is no ethernet port. There is only wireless communication with the Internet.

    Also, only the ENVY 5530 has a card reader in it. The other two [The ENVY 4500 and the Officejet 4630] do not. All three models claim to print from mobile devices [smartphones, tablets, Internet connected PCs].

    I think the whole thing is a bit hinky. Then again, I long for the days when you could refill your own ink carts.


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