Review – Opening The HP 74XL 74 XL (Full) Inkjet Print Cartridge (Cracked Open)

A look inside the HP 74XL black inkjet print cartridge.

A look inside the internal structure of an HP inkjet cartridge.  The HP 74XL cartridge is physically larger than the HP 74, or even the HP 75XL inkjet print cartridges.  It contains 21ml of ink, and is one of the best “cartridges” to use.  Cost per page printing is much improved with the HP 74XL ink cartridge from HP.  Look around for pricing – this is an older cartridge, and the $34.99 retail price can be beat.

Retail price for the HP 74XL inkjet print cartridge - black.

The HP 74XL inkjet print cartridge looks the same as the HP 96 (no XL designation but it was *the* cartridge to have not to long ago). The cartridge is physically larger than the cheaper (and about one-third the ink) HP 74 black ink cartridge, which we cracked open here.

Removing the top cover of the HP 74xl large black ink cartridge - a look at the internal structure of an inkjet printer cartridge.


Color: Black
Part Number: (CB336WN) – HP 74XL
Ink Type: Pigment based ink
Page Yield: 750 pages*

Ink Drop Size: 15pl

Retail price: $34.99
Street price: $19.99

* that 750 page estimate is from HP and based on 5% coverage (see what 5% coverage really looks like) – needless to say, manufacturer estimates are on the “high side.”

This cartridge is often paired with the HP 75, and 75XL tri-color inkjet print (color) cartridge which we cracked open here.

HP 74XL ink cartridge opened with lid off to reveal the internal structure of the cartridge.

Cartridge Contacts

These solder points, or contacts help make up the print head.  Printers that use these types of cartridges do not have an internal print head – rather the print head is located on the cartridges themselves.  If print quality declines to the point where the cartridge is no longer usable, simply try another cartridge (it’s like getting a new printer).  If your cartridge cannot be recognized, give the contacts a quick clean with a damp cloth, or other device and try again.  If the contacts are harmed, the cartridge may not function at all.

HP 74xl black inkjet print cartridge print head contacts.

For Refillers:

Refilling is easy if you know where to fill.  There are seven (7) holes in the cartridge lid.  As you can see from the other images, there is black ink around all five (5) of the holes. We suggest using the top most hole since it is closer to where the ink will exit the cartridge. Refill kits can be a hassle, but are worth it if you are on a tight budget and have patience.

Refill holes for the HP 74XL black inkjet print cartridge.

Is this an embedded expiration date?

Yet another 2D UPC code on the outside front of the cartridge.  So that is 3 total on a single cartridge.  If (HP) Hewlett Packard went to the trouble of putting them on there, you can bet they are there for a reason.  HP claims there is no built-in “self-destruct” expiration date for their cartridges.  Read more about it here…

HP 74xl inkjet print cartridge expiration date on the actual cartridge itself!

HP 74 And HP 74XL Compared:

There really is no comparison.  The HP 74 black ink cartridge (on the left), or the “standard” cartridge as HP refers to it has two things wrong with it.  First, the sponge is one-sixth the size as the 74XL, and it is contained in a plastic divide to deter refillers.  Second, you can refill it, but look at what little ink the mini-sponge will take.  The HP 74 cartridge will require constant attention to maintain it’s “full” status.

The HP 74 retails for $14.99, and the HP 74XL retails for around $33.99.  If you print more than 50 pages per month, do yourself a favor and stick with the XL cartridges – they have more ink and are more re-fillable.

HP 74XL and HP 74 black ink cartridges compared.  HP 74XL is the way to go over the smaller HP 74 ink cartridge.

Refill kits are available:

Hewlett Packard HP 74, 74XL, XL Ink Cartridge Refills

As you can see from the images, this cartridge is very easy to refill. One negative to refilling is that the ink monitor will no longer function, so it is impossible to tell when the ink is going to run out. This is not a huge deal as the cartridge can be topped off every so often – never let a cartridge run all the way out. If the sponge can get dry, and if ink stops flowing properly the cartridge will not provide an acceptable print.

The HP 74XL cartridge is rated at XXX pages, so that equates to about 18ml of ink. The sponge is not all the way soaked as received from HP, however count on thee cartridge taking at least 18ml of ink. Refill kits are easy to use, and result in $3.00-$4.00 cartridges.

Compatible Cartridges:

HP 74, 74XL compatible ink cartridgesCompatible cartridges are an option for this cartridge. Basically a re-manufactured (compatible) cartridge is just a professionally refilled, or “refilled for you” cartridge. The will run about 30%-40% less than HP brand ink cartridges, and if you can find a quality vendor, contrary to HPs claims the work great.

These re-manufactured cartridges will get cheaper as more become available in the aftermarket. When you buy a new printer, more often than not, it will include new cartridges, and until these cartridges make their way into the 3rd party cartridge re-manufacturers the rice will be high. As the supply of quality empties increases, prices will decrease (in some cases by as much as 70%) and the compatible cartridge becomes a solid choice in the cost per page battle.

The Print Head:

The printhead *will* wear out or get clogged, its just a matter of time. There is no hard data, but the accepted rule is a cartridge can be refilled 3-4 times before it needs to be replaced with a new one. A new “full” cartridge purchase is not always necessary (74XL retails for $34.99. Empties can be had for cheap on eBay, so look there).  Also check Amazon for a good selection of prices.

Unlike Epson, which makes the printhead part of the printer, Hewlett Packard (HP) puts the print head technology on the physical cartridge (for 80% of their consumer printers).  This means every time you buy a new cartridge, it’s like getting a new print head.  This is why these type of HP printers (that use this cartridge style) last forever in our opinion.  As long as the mechanics of the printer keep working it will last forever since the print head can simply be replaced by installing a new cartridge into the printer.

Not all HP printers and cartridges use this style (print head on the cartridge) of build, but a large majority of the ones you will find at Wal-Mart, Target, and other discount retailers use these cartridges.

Notice the 2D UPC code on the print head ribbon. They are actually in three places on the cartridge – the top label, the print head, and on the front facing side (expiration).

HP 74xl black inkjet print cartridge, print head.

Hewlett Packard (HP) 74XL black ink cartridge page estimates:,st=cartridge,ss=CB336W

Hewlett Packard (HP) 74XL black inkjet print cartridge specifications:

This cartridge is compatible with the following HP Deskjet, Officejet, and Photosmart inkjet printers: