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Which printer to choose?

HP Instant Ink review

By Andrew Laughlin

Article 4 of 5

Fancy paying for printing via subscription? HP Instant Ink offers just that, but can it save you money and hassle? Find out in our HP Instant Ink review.

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Pros

Print anything you want, as long as you stay within your monthly pages limit.

Cons

Beware of paying for printing that you don’t need, or exceeding your monthly allowance.

Printer ink can get expensive and having to buy new cartridges can feel like a chore – that's why HP is offering an alternative solution with Instant Ink.

In our guide to Instant Ink, below, we'll explain:

1. What is HP Instant Ink? 

Available on a selected range of HP wi-fi printers (browse all supported models in our HP Instant Ink printer reviews), HP Instant Ink is a different way to pay for your ink and prints at home.

You don't actually pay for the ink or the printer ink cartridges – instead you pay a monthly subscription to print a set number of pages on your home printer. HP sends you ink cartridges whenever you need topping up, and you only pay the monthly fee - unless you run over your pages allowance.

With an Instant Ink subscription, you can print whatever you want – text, images or photos – to a monthly set limit of pages. HP automatically sends out a new ink cartridge when you need one (with delivery costs included). You do still have to buy the printer paper, though.

To get started, you need an HP printer that’s compatible with the Instant Ink service and an enrolment card, available from shops such as Currys/PC World or John Lewis. You register the code on the enrolment card online to start the Instant Ink service.

How much does Instant Ink cost?

Some HP printers offer a free trial to Instant Ink for a up to three months, but you still have to sign up to a subscription level after:

  • Free for up to 15 pages a month (if you buy selected printers online)
  • £1.99 a month for 50 pages
  • £3.49 for 100 pages
  • £7.99 for 300 pages

Pages printed over your limit are charged at £1 for each 15 pages (or £1 for each 10 with the free deal), or you can increase your subscription level.

Unused pages roll over, but only to the maximum of your monthly limit – so, if you were on the 50 pages a month plan, you could never roll over more than 50 pages in total.

If an ink cartridge is running low, the printer automatically alerts HP via the network connection and a new cartridge is posted to you.

2. How much does Instant Ink cost? 

Some HP printers offer a free trial to Instant Ink for a up to three months, but you still have to sign up to a subscription level after: 

  • Free for up to 15 pages a month (if you buy selected printers online) 
  • £1.99 a month for 50 pages 
  • £3.49 for 100 pages 
  • £7.99 for 300 pages 

Pages printed over your limit are charged at £1 for each 15 pages (or £1 for each 10 with the free deal), or you can increase your subscription level. 

Unused pages roll over, but only to the maximum of your monthly limit – so, if you were on the 50 pages a month plan, you could never roll over more than 50 pages in total. 

If an ink cartridge is running low, the printer automatically alerts HP via the network connection and a new cartridge is posted to you.

3. Does HP Instant Ink work out cheaper? 

Of course, the killer question is whether or not a monthly subscription to Instant Ink works out as better value than simply buying your own ink cartridges as and when you need. The answer to this really depends on how much printing you do.

Text pages are generally cheap to print, so if you only print black text, shopping around for cheap printer ink cartridges can be cheaper than taking an Instant Ink plan.

The average Best Buy inkjet printer using original ink will cost £57.60 over three years to print 50 pages of black text documents a month. With an Instant Ink-running printer that would cost £71.64.

If you regularly print colour pages or photos, Instant Ink is likely to work in your favour, though. Taken over the same three-year period, printing 30 pages of black text, 15 pages of office graphics and five photos 10x8 inches in size a month would cost the same £71.64 on an Instant Ink printer. But, this same amount of printing would skyrocket to £198.36 on a Best Buy inkjet running branded ink. 

(Note: we only test using branded, original ink, so this cost could come down if you shopped around for good-value third-party ink cartridges).

4. HP Instant Ink: should I choose it? 

If you want to print a mixture of text documents, photos and images, and are happy with signing up to a subscription service, then HP Instant Ink could be right for you. It favours the regular user who does a wide range of different printing. If you only print the occasional text document, then it's not for you.

However, just as with a phone contract, if you do make the switch to Instant Ink you may need to become much more conscious of what you are printing.

Even the smallest dot of ink on a page will be counted as a printed page as part of your monthly allowance. So, if you accidentally trigger a big print job and exceed your monthly limit, you could end up with a nasty big bill at the end of it.

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