Kodak ink prices

[Please note: Kodak stopped selling inkjet printers by end of 2012. This article still shines some light on the inkjet industry. Kodak inkjets were also sold under the SAMSUNG brand. ]

German test lab Druckerchannel.de has defaced an advertising claim which we often see on telly in this country as well. It’s Kodak with their rather bold claims that their inkjet printers have substantially lower ink costs. Not quite true as it turns out. Not even close to reality.

Printer ink is the worlds most expensive liquid, way more expensive than the most luxurious champagnes and ink doesn’t even taste as good. Ink cost are the highest portion of any printer’s running cost. And we’re not talking penny pinching here. Printing costs are a substantial cost in any business.

I deal almost on a daily basis with inkjet printers of my customers. The inner guts of the Kodak inkjets look so suspiciously identical to older Canon printers that I am convinced these are indeed older Canon engines, wrapped up in a slightly different enclosure. Kodak still uses combined 3-colour cartridges, years after almost every other manufacturer has switched to single colour cartridges. Combo-cartridges have been for a long time a major annoyance as you have to throw away say two half full colour tanks just because one of the three colours is empty. Expensive, not cheap.

According to the German test lab Druckerchannel.de, Kodak has introduced in January 2010 new XL cartridges. Kodak says these have a 70% higher capacity. Unfortunately the exact opposite is true.

The test results are very detailed, but let me try to summarise:
The new standard cartridge reaches 17% less pages per cartridge. LESS, not more. That is a price increase per page of 20%. On the face the price per cartridge is not changed. But the volume of ink in the cartridge has changed, now less ink. What has changed as well is Kodak’s method how to measure the number of pages one can get per cartridge.

Kodak claims in ads you can save almost the price of the entire printer per year on ink, compared to other manufacturers. A huge amount of money. This claim does not hold at all on proper inspection. Kodak compares apples with pears. The comparison is based on Kodak’s cartridges against other manufacturer’s so called standard cartridges.

These standard cartridges are cheaper versions, often with a hugely reduced amount of ink in them. The cost per page with these can be more than 30% higher than with cartridges which are simply filled as they should be. (In marketing speak high yield or high capacity, which is all rubbish. If it can contain 42 ml, why not fill it with 42 ml?)

But it gets worse. The published yields of Kodak are based on the older cheaper cartridges. 6 months after the new cartridges came to market, this is not a glitch somewhere in the system.

Yields of ink cartridges are standardised in an ISO standard (ISO/IEC 24711). Kodak uses the definitions of this standard for laser printers with their ink jets, a clear breach of the methodology of said standard. Differences of between minus 9% and minus 25% yield were found by the German test lab. Just by using the ISO standard clearly in the wrong way. On the whole this leads to 30% wrong results. Not difficult to guess to whose advantage all of this is presented to us.

It’s getting worse still: Said test lab now found out that Kodak uses further dirty tricks to achieve better results. Whether you set a printer driver to black/white only or to colour should not have any impact on the number of plain back/white pages. And rightly so, it doesn’t for Brother, Canon, Epson, HP and Lexmark. But it does for Kodak: Print a normal black test document with the driver set to “colour”: 290 pages, print the same pages with the driver set to “black/white only” you get 440 pages from one cartridge.

Why is this bad? Because the quality is much worse when b/w only is selected.

Kodak doesn’t sell inkjet printers anymore as per beginning of 2013. The problem will not affect buyers of new printers anymore. But it shows, you sometimes just can’t trust even the biggest of brands.