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Published Sep. 29, 2021

With the increase in remote work, many people have rethought the home office. Whereas working from home once meant setting up camp on a coffee table or kitchen island, remote employees across the country have transformed guest bedrooms and sitting rooms into home offices complete with desks, office chairs, filing cabinets, printers, and so on. If this setup sounds familiar, printer cartridges may now be on your list of office supplies.

But what to buy? With so many brands and types on the market, it can be overwhelming to determine the best printer cartridges. Further complicating matters, printer cartridges are often very pricey and sometimes even eclipse the cost of the printer itself.

If you haven’t invested in a reliable printer yet, a good rule of thumb is to research printer cartridges to see how the brands stack up. The best printer cartridges tend to come from the printer’s manufacturer. Though it may be tempting to purchase third-party, aftermarket compatible cartridges, these inks may be disappointing and can even cause your printer to malfunction. We’ve gone ahead and done the research to compile a list of the best printer cartridges to meet a range of individual printing needs.

How We Picked the Best Printer Cartridges

Methodology

Our vetting process to decide on a list of the best printer cartridges led us to consider dozens of types of ink cartridges. Though individual specifications can vary wildly from brand to brand, some of the criteria we considered were average price, page yield, and the capability to print in black and white or full color. We picked a versatile range of products that run the gamut from personal to professional needs and budgets.

As anyone who has ever worked in an office can probably attest, there are few things more frustrating than replacing a printer cartridge only to have it immediately get jammed or run low. So in addition to overall value, we also carefully considered user reviews and tried to isolate any potential red flags including manufacturers that consistently received low marks or complaints about defective products. Printers are known to be particularly finicky machines, particularly when it comes to replacing ink cartridges, so we tried to avoid including any products that were plagued with the same gripes over and over again.

The Best Printer Cartridges: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: Canon PG-245 XL / CL-246 XL

Exceptional Quality

A dual cartridge pack that meets all of your essential color printing needs. Canon

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Why It Made The Cut: This Canon cartridge prints the brightest colors and sharp black and white photos and images with excellent quality and durability.

Specs:

  • Color: Multi
  • Compatibility options: OEM
  • Page yield: 300

Pros:

  • Extra-large capacity ink cartridge
  • Saves money, and prints more
  • Prints both B&W and color

Cons:

  • Cartridges contain print head and electronics
  • Goes through a lot of ink

Look no further than this dual pack of Canon PG-245 XL / CL-246 XL printer cartridges for peak performance designed specifically for compatible Canon printers. The PG-245 XL Black ink cartridge ensures sharp black text when printing documents, while the CL-246 XL Color ink cartridge is perfect for printing colorful photos and images.

The extra-large capacity can help print more, save money, and extend the time between replacing ink cartridges. However, these cartridges tend to be on the pricer side since the printer itself doesn’t contain print heads, so the cartridges contain the print head and driver electronics. 

A few customers have griped that these cartridges tend to be “ink hogs” that go through ink very quickly. Depending on the average coverage per page, you can expect to print 300 to 400 pages per cartridge.

Best Black Ink: HP 63XL Ink Cartridge

Twice The Pages

Get prints that last at twice the output. HP

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Why It Made The Cut: This standard black ink printer cartridge comes in an extra-large size for twice the high-capacity prints that last for years to come.

Specs:

  • Color: Black
  • Compatibility options: OEM
  • Page yield: 480

Pros:

  • Extra-large cartridge for more ink
  • Prints twice as many pages
  • Fade-resistant documents

Cons:

  • Ink is still pricey
  • Compatible only with HP printers

Perfect for remote employees and college students alike, this HP 63XL Ink Cartridge prints up to twice the pages when compared to standard competitors’ cartridges. Genuine HP ink will ensure that your images come out right the first time and every time, for fade-resistant documents and photos that will last year after year.

Some users find that these printer cartridges are pricier than comparable products but concede that the quality can’t be beat. Though the official manufacturer yield is listed as 480 pages, the actual number of printed pages depends on the average density of printed pages and whether those pages contain graphics. In fact, one customer review noted that at times they had gotten fewer than 450 pages using these cartridges, and in other instances they were able to print more than 500.

Still, these printer cartridges are great for printing homework assignments, and just one cartridge could likely last many students an entire semester.

Best Value: Brother Genuine High Yield Toner Cartridge

Impressive Output

Delivers long-lasting, brilliant prints and sharper images. Brother

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Why It Made The Cut: An impressively high page yield, precise engineering, and seamless, integrated design, set this high-capacity toner cartridge apart from the rest.

Specs:

  • Color: Black
  • Compatibility options: Brother Genuine
  • Page yield: 2,600

Pros:

  • Yields up to 2,600 Pages
  • High-quality, sharp laser prints
  • Seamless integration

Cons:

  • Persistent low toner warnings
  • Ink may smear before drying

Print up to 2,600 pages with the Brother Genuine High Yield Toner Cartridge, which provides high-quality prints in deep, rich blacks. The integrated design is engineered to work with Brother laser printers, allowing for reliable performance for the cartridge’s lifespan. 

High-page-yield printer cartridges allow you to save money and deliver more pages. However, many users have complained that they receive a low toner warning before the ink is actually running low, encouraging them to replace the product before it’s necessary. Fortunately, that’s an easy fix by going into settings and selecting continuous use as an option, bypassing the automatic stop when the toner is lower.

A few customers have also noticed that prints tend to smear when touched before fully drying, which is something to keep in mind if you’re going to be doing a lot of high-density printing.

Best for Colors: Original HP 950 Black/951 Cyan, Magenta, Yellow Ink Cartridges

Vibrant Colors

Prints approximately 1,000 pages in black and 700 pages in color. HP

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Why It Made The Cut: This four-pack meets the standard CMYK color printing model with cyan, magenta, yellow ink cartridges that provide precision output.

Specs:

  • Color: CMYK
  • Compatibility options: OEM
  • Page yield: 1000

Pros:

  • Fade-resistant documents
  • Gets up to twice as many prints
  • Manufactured with recycled plastic

Cons:

  • Expensive ink
  • Color can sometimes be off

Print up to 1,000 pages in black and white and 700 pages in color with the Original HP 950 Black/951 Cyan, Magenta, Yellow Ink Cartridges. That’s twice as many prints when compared to non-original HP inks. The precision output provides fade-resistant documents and brilliant images. And because 82 percent of HP ink cartridges are manufactured with recycled plastic, you can  feel good about the environment while getting your work done well.

Though repeat customers love the output on these cartridges, the one consistent complaint is that they can be expensive. But unless you’re shopping for aftermarket ink cartridges, that’s just the nature of the industry. A few other users noted that the color doesn’t print correctly, so it’s a good idea to check manufacturer specifications before buying.

Best For Photos: EPSON T220 DURABrite Black & Standard Color Cartridge Combo Pack

Prints Last A Lifetime

Delivers the highest quality inks for brilliant results. Epson

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Why It Made The Cut: Preserve family memories with vibrant, long-lasting prints that will keep looking great for generations in picture frames and photo albums.

Specs:

  • Color: Multi
  • Compatibility options: Compatible
  • Page yield: N/A

Pros:

  • Vibrant, true-to-life colors
  • Instant-dry ink that won’t smudge
  • Convenient multipack

Cons:

  • Only the black cartridge is XL
  • Some colors run out faster than others

Achieve brilliant results and vibrant colors with the EPSON T220 DURABrite Black & Standard Color Cartridge Combo Pack. The top-quality prints are smudge-proof, fade and water-resistant. The ink dries instantly so the prints can be touched and ready to use from the moment they’re printed. Epson inks, printers, and specialty papers are all designed to work together for consistent results.

The four-pack comes with premium black ink and cyan, magenta, yellow ink cartridges to ensure sharp, detailed print quality. Some customer reviews pointed out that only the black cartridge is XL, and the other three are standard-sized. To avoid confusion, it’s a good idea to read manufacturer specifications before purchasing any kind of printer cartridges. 

However, the multipack still saves money in the long run. Especially when you consider the top-quality prints that are smudge-proof, fade, and water-resistant, with ink that dries instantly so your prints can be touched and ready to use from the moment they’re printed.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Printer Cartridge

Printer cartridges are not all created equally, and that’s why it’s absolutely crucial to make sure that not only the brand is compatible, but that the cartridge model itself works with your printer. Deciding on printer cartridges sort of puts the cart before the horse, because, as previously mentioned, cartridges tend to be just as expensive, if not more expensive, than the printer itself. So if you’re shopping for a printer, it’s a good idea to take a look at the available cartridges first, and then make a decision about what printer to buy based at least in part on the type of ink you’ll be using in it.

And that raises another question about what your specific printer cartridge needs are. Full-color CMYK printer inks are among the most expensive on an already pricey market. So if you only require primarily basic black and white printing, you may want to save yourself some money and not shell out for the best color printer cartridges.

Even though printer cartridges can be expensive, anyone who has regular printing needs is still going to save time and money by printing at home instead of going to a print or copy shop.

FAQs

Q: Why is my printer running out of ink so fast?

If your printer is running out of ink more quickly than you expected, it may be because you print a lot of images or text with minimal spacing. Printer cartridges are manufactured to print a minimum number of pages known as the page yield, and most page yields are calculated with an assumption of 5 percent ink coverage on each printed sheet. If that’s not the issue, it may be that your printer needs to be cleaned to prevent the nozzles from clogging and drying out.

Q: What’s the difference between ink and toner printer cartridges?

The difference between ink and toner print cartridges is that ink cartridges are used exclusively in inkjet printers, which are fitted with a series of powerful ink jets that spray the liquid ink on the page. Toner cartridges, on the other hand, contain a dry, complex powder with microscopic plastic particles that are used in laser printing. This powder is electronically charged, heated, and applied to the paper from a rotating drum inside the machine.

Q: Can I refill a printer cartridge myself?

Because printer cartridges are surprisingly costly, you may be wondering if you can refill them yourself. Though this can be an inexpensive and effective alternative using a bottle of printer ink and a syringe, it’s also a messy job. Additionally, if you draw ink into the syringe too quickly, you risk air gaps or bubbles that can block your ink cartridge from working.

Final Thoughts

Our top picks for the best printer cartridges, for overall value and color performance, come down to the Canon PG-245 XL and EPSON T220 DURABrite Black & Standard Color Cartridge Combo Pack. Not only are these two cartridges comparably priced,  but they both print full-color documents and photos in sharp detail.

For students and professionals printing papers and basic documents, the Brother Genuine High Yield Toner Cartridge might be a better bet due to its high capacity page yield that can cost-effectively print thousands of pages before running out of ink.

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