Having an inkjet printer at home is great. Having to buy a new one, not so much.

With so many options available from entry level inkjet printers to high end business printers, selecting a new inkjet printer to replace an old one can be a headache especially when you don’t know what is available and with the way printer technology evolves so rapidly, it’s easy to get bogged down with printer specifications, ink technology and usage parameters.

In this 2 part entry we’re going to look at what the differences are between purchasing a printer that uses 2 ink cartridges (Black & Tri-color) and purchasing a single ink printer (Black, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow). We will be leaving out printers that run on an ink tank system, because you don’t exchange cartridges with the printer.

2 Ink Cartridge System.

Many entry level printers use a 2 ink cartridge system which means the printer has a black ink cartridge and well as a tri-color ink cartridge which is responsible for the distribution of ink to paper. These printers are generally very cheap to purchase with some printers being available at less than R 500.00.


HP Color Ink Cartridge with seal


Tri-Color ink Cartridge

The cartridges for these printers are quite complex in that the cartridge itself has the information circuit chip and print head connected to the printer. This means that the cartridge is solely responsible for the print quality that is printed. When the cartridge is empty, the whole cartridge and print-head gets replaced, meaning that these printers can last for years under normal working conditions.

With so much happening on the cartridge, it’s understandable why these cartridges are in most cases more expensive than what the printer was worth with some a set ranging well over R 700.00 and this is the biggest drawback people have when buying entry level printers which has these 2 ink cartridge systems as the cartridges are not very cost effective. Another big problem with the tri-color ink cartridges is that for instance the Yellow ink is finished, but there are ample amounts of Cyan or Magenta left, the cartridge will not work and you will be forced to purchase a new cartridge before you are able to continue working and with ink being the most expensive commodity on this planet, you’d be forgiven to get angry when that happens.

Though some of these cartridges can be refilled, there is no guarantee that they will produce the same quality of prints.

In a Nutshell


  • The printers are generally cheap to purchase.
  • You receive a new print-head with every new cartridge.
  • Can be refilled.


  • The cartridges are more expensive than the printers.
  • When one color is finished in the tri-color, your need to purchase a new cartridge.
  • Ink cartridges are not cost effective.

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