I have one of the best HP all-in-one printers in my office, and though the low cost of the printer wowed me, I’m not thrilled with OEM ink cartridge prices. As someone who writes and snaps photos for a living, I need colors to be accurate and text to be clear. I put my money on Smart Ink this year, and it’s paid off. The colors are spot-on, and the ink never smears or suffers bleed-through. If you need a less costly option, grab one of the best HP 3rd party ink replacements here.
Best Overall: Smart Ink
Smart Ink cartridges look and feel like the real deal but run about one-quarter of the cost of OEM alternatives. For that price, you’ll pocket two black cartridges, two cyan, two magenta, two yellow, and two photo black. That’s 10 cartridges in all, and each has a shelf life of two years.
The Smart Ink high capacity units deliver up to 750 pages per color cartridge, just a smidge under 300 pages with the photo black cartridges, and 550 printed pages with the black units. The page yield is identical to HP cartridges, and print quality is also up to snuff. Even when using photo paper, colors are vibrant, and blacks are dark, don’t smear, and print clear text.
If there’s a disadvantage, it’s that you must be a whiz at following directions. Not doing so could leave you with ink on your fingers during installation or a printer that throws an error code because it doesn’t recognize the cartridge. If you’re willing to read the lengthy instructions, these are worth your money.
- Same page yield as OEM models
- Vibrant colors
- Clean text
- Wordy instructions
Work smarter, not harder
You’ll get accurate colors and clear text. If you’re willing to put the time into reading the instructions, these are every bit as good as those from HP.
Best Value: LxTek
LxTek ink cartridges are styled like their HP counterparts but are missing the overinflated price tag. This package deal contains a five-pack of cartridges that include two black, one cyan, one magenta, and one yellow. Each canister comes equipped with an upgraded chip that tracks inks levels and guarantees compatibility with your printer.
These high capacity cartridges are more productive than the competition, promising 2,300 pages using the black cartridge and 1,500 pages with color cartridges. We found this rang true. Print quality on documents is also on par with cartridges from HP, even when printing a high number of pages.
This bundle from LxTek is handicapped only by two things: an inability to handle glossy printing paper and the need to clean the printer heads to avoid clogging. Colors tend to run on glossy paper, so if you’re a photographer, take a hard pass here. If you print only color documents, be forewarned that your printer will need to go through a deep cleaning cycle often to keep the printer heads from getting gunked up.
- Prints more pages than other cartridges
- Correctly tracks ink levels
- True colors
- Not good with glossy paper
- Need to clean to avoid clogging
High yield, low price
If you don’t need to print on glossy paper, these are a solid alternative to HP cartridges. Colors are accurate, the ink dries quickly, and the price is nice.
Best Remanufactured: ValueToner
The combo kit from ValueToner comes with two black cartridges, and both are reliable alternatives to HP’s 63XL model. These remanufactured containers put less of a dent in your budget and print up to 480 pages per cartridge, which is equivalent to the HP OEM cartridge output.
The deeps blacks rival original ink quality. Page after page of testing created clean lines, easy-to-read text, and accurate output. If there’s a difference in print quality, we couldn’t detect it. From standard printer paper to glossy paper, these performed every bit as well as HP’s cartridges.
The only limitation we found with this kit is that our printer occasionally kicked out an incompatibility error during installation. After contacting the company, we were told to clean the cartridge contacts and try again. That worked like a charm and seems a minor inconvenience when compared to the obvious price savings.
- Superb print quality
- Works with all types of paper
- Accurate colors
- Cartridge contacts need to be cleaned before installation
Recycling at its finest
These remanufactured cartridges are every bit as impressive as HP’s OEM offerings. Colors are right on, the ink is fresh, and the price is oh-so-nice.
Best Colors: GREENBOX
This set of cartridges from GREENBOX comes with a tri-color and black canister, and it’s a perfect replacement for HP’s 61XL. The black cartridge can push out 480 pages before needing replacement, and the tri-color yields 330 pages. This is identical to the number of pages you can print with OEM cartridges, and one of the many reasons this is one of the best HP 3rd party ink replacements.
Bragging rights here go to GREENBOX for its exceptional colors. Not only are colors dynamic and accurate, but they do not smear or bleed through, no matter what type of paper is used. The black cartridge is equally lovely, delivering clear fonts and lines that never smear.
The flipside here is quality control. We bought a few units that were leaking before we even opened the package. Thanks to excellent customer service, we received replacements promptly, but it’s still a tad disappointing for an otherwise stellar experience.
- Exceptional color accuracy
- No bleed-through
- Easy installation
- Good value
- Great customer support
- Potential for leaky cartridges
Color accuracy to spare
If you don’t mind rolling the quality control dice, you can’t beat the colors on any type of paper or project with these eco-friendly cartridges.
Best Bundle: GPC Image
When you need a lot of ink, GPC Image has your back. This 12-pack bundle arrived packaged with four black cartridges, two cyan, two magenta, two yellow, and two photo black. Page yield is equal to HP originals, with the black cartridges delivering 550 pages, the color cartridges printing 750 pages, and photo black putting out 290 pages.
Each cartridge in this pack is engineered with a chip to display ink level and to help with smooth installation. We produced beautiful color brochures and black and white documents with this bundle, never questioning the quality. Inks dry quickly, performance is excellent, and we had no smudging during any real-world testing.
The only trouble we encountered came when we tried to figure out how much ink remained in each tank. Though equipped with a chip that gauges this figure automatically, we just couldn’t get it to function without reaching out to customer service. Turns out, power cycling the printer resets the counter. Good to know, though we’d love to see this note added to the instructions.
- A lot of ink for the price
- Great colors
- Easy to install
- Ink dries quickly
- Instructions could be better
Ink to spare
When you need a lot of ink, this package deal is a crime to pass up. Colors and cartridge quality are excellent, and printing is great on any type of paper.
Best for Photos: Lemero
If you’re a photographer or routinely print color documents with photos included, these remanufactured ink cartridges from LEMERO should make the top of your shortlist. For the money, you’ll get one black and one tri-color cartridge. The black cartridge can render 480 pages, and the tri-color does 330 pages.
These cartridges excel at printing out bright colors, smudge-free text, and photos so detailed we wondered if they surpassed the quality of the more expensive OEM cartridges. Whether you’re using all-purpose paper or high gloss photo paper, you won’t be disappointed with the colors or deep blacks from this set.
If we have to nitpick, we must admit that we needed to clean the printer heads once during these cartridges’ lifecycle. That’s something we occasionally need to do with HP’s offerings as well, but it was a given with these.
- Renders beautiful photos
- Prints color-accurate documents and pictures
- A breeze to install
- Worth every penny
- Printer heads need to be cleaned mid-cartridge lifecycle
Best for Photos
An excellent set of cartridges that rival OEM offerings and print dead-on accurate colors for photos and documents. If you’re a photographer, pick these.
Whether you picked one of the best cheap printers or a more expensive all-in-unit, there’s no getting around the fact that you’ll need ink cartridges. One of the best HP 3rd party ink replacements comes from Smart Ink This bundle comes with 10 ink cartridges and has a shelf life of two years, so you can snatch these up at a phenomenal price and be set for a long time.
The only thing I don’t care for here is the long list of instructions that explain in great detail how to install a cartridge. If you stop reading early, you may miss the fact that you need to clean the cartridge contacts to avoid leaks or problems during installation.
That out of the way, these are simply the best deal going. For one-quarter of the price of the HP cartridge, you get a great set of cartridges that deliver on print quality and value. Even with 20-20 vision and a magnifying glass, you won’t be able to tell the difference between these cartridges and the originals from HP.
If you have an older HP printer and need help installing it to Windows 10, check out our guide here.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Jodi Owan is a freelance writer and photographer who has been published in print and online. When not climbing mountains with a camera, she can be found testing and writing about technology. Find her on Instagram and her website.