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HP Instant Ink Can Detect When Your Printer’s Low on Ink (And Send Cartridges Before You Run Out), but Is It Worth It?

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  • Value:18/20
  • Ease of Use:17/20
  • Functionality:18/20
  • Promptness of Delivery:20/20
  • Ink Quality:20/20

TOTAL: 93/100

It’s practically a law of the universe that you’ll realize you need to print out medical records, a field trip permission slip or the birthday card for Aunt Edna’s 90th, oh, five minutes before you have to be out the door—and when you do, your printer will be adorably out of ink. We’ve all been there, which is why I was all too intrigued by the latest offering from HP: Instant Ink, a subscription service that syncs with your printer to know when you’re getting low—and deliver fresh cartridges straight to your door, ideally before you run out. But how well does the service work, and is the cost of that level of convenience worth it? Absolutely. Here’s why.

How Does HP Instant Ink Work?

Essentially, HP Instant Ink is a subscription service, where the amount you’re charged depends on how many pages you print each month. If you’re a “light” user, printing about 10 pages a month, you’re charged 99 cents a month, and you can expect a new delivery of ink about once a year. Occasional users pay $3.99 a month and can print 50 pages, with pay bands going up to the business level, which allots you 700 pages a month (for $25 every 30 days). The most popular plan is moderate, which charges $5.99 for 100 pages a month. (BTW, HP also offers plans for printers that use toner, instead of ink.)

Since I rarely turn on a printer—in fact, before receiving one to test HP’s service, I’d been walking a mile to FedEx whenever I needed one—I chose the light user option. And immediately realized the challenge of owning a printer: I suddenly wanted to print everything. And began really scrutinizing what affected my 10-page allotment (uh, can’t you use your phone to make that blogger’s recipe, especially given her 9-page-long intro: What’s spaghetti? But first, what’s a tomato? Does a tomato have a soul? Let me tell you about the first tomato I ever tasted…).

In my attempt to stress-test the system (I don’t have a full year to report on whether the refills arrive!), I printed faster and more furiously than Vin Diesel drives his Charger. HP quickly emailed me to let me know, kindly informing me I’d surpassed my 10 pages within minutes and suggesting that I use the remainder of my free trial period to get a sense of how many pages I’d be printing, on average, so I could adjust my usage accordingly. This was rather thoughtful, considering that when you go over your limit, you’re charged $1 per 10 to 50 additional pages you use (the number of pages you get for $1 varies, depending on your plan). You can also check how many pages you’ve burned through by logging in to your HP Instant Ink account.

You Can Try the Service for Free If You Buy Select Printers

My printer—which, full disclosure, I received for free as part of the product testing—comes with a six-month free trial of HP Instant Ink. It’s the HP DeskJet 4155e, and for $100, it’s nice to get six months to print up to 700 pages and see whether the service is right for you.

Ink Arrives Quickly

While HP uses standard shipping and warns it could take up to 10 days for your cartridges to arrive, my shipment arrived ahead of schedule, which other reviewers have mentioned as well. HP sends out a new shipment of ink when you’ve got double your monthly allotment of pages left (in my case, 20), which should give you plenty of time to receive your ink before you run out—as long as you don’t go rogue like me.

You Can Roll Over Unused Pages

Remember rollover minutes with cell phone plans? This feels similar. You can accrue up to three months’ worth of unused pages as “rollover pages,” so in my case, if I used five pages this month and three pages next month, those 12 unused pages would roll over to the following month, giving me up to 22 pages to print.

But What If You Want To Cancel?

You can log into your Instant Ink account and cancel directly from there—just follow this five-step process (complete with screenshots!). That’s a relief, because part of my hesitance with any subscription service is when they make it nearly impossible to cancel.

So, Is It Worth It?

For me, yes. While I enjoyed my trips to FedEx as an excuse to get my #HotGirlWalk on, the convenience is fantastic. No more scouring shelves to find the right ink cartridge match, or even thinking about ordering ‘em. I like that the Instant Ink cartridges are a bit bigger—which they say cuts down on packaging and shipping costs. They cite that as the rationale behind their claim that using Instant Ink can save you up to 50 percent on ink overall.

Comparing the costs, black and color ink cartridges for the DeskJet would cost me $41, and while HP says they’ll last up to 200 pages, I must really go for full-bleed, full-color pages, because my cartridges always seem to run out sooner. Still, that page count is equal to 20 months of HP Instant Ink, which would cost me $20.

As long as you don’t go to the extremes—printing well beyond your page allotment or printing five pages or less per month—it’s a worthwhile deal, especially given its convenience.

The PureWow100 is a scale our editors use to vet new products and services, so you know what's worth the spend—and what's total hype. Learn more about our process here.