Review: Inside (Cracked Open) The HP 901 (CC653A) Black Inkjet Print Cartridge

The internal structure of the HP 901 (CC653AN) black inkjet print cartridge.

Retail price on this cartridge is $14.99.  If you can afford it, check out the HP 901XL (901 XL) black “full” cartridge.  The HP 901 cartridge has the same basic structure as the HP 60 (which is also designed to be half empty) – the cartridge is designed to be over half empty – note the presence of a reduced sized internal chamber for the sponge which makes this cartridge not practical for refilling.  Why pay to refill a “designed to be half-empty” cartridge.

Lots of empty space in the HP 901 black cartridge:

hp 901 ink cartridge empty space.

Places you will find no ink. Cannot be refilled area.

Not a good cartridge for refilling or re-manufacturing:

The HP 901 ink cartridge – designed from the beginning to be half-empty, and cannot be refilled to maximum capacity.  The sponge (white space) is sealed off from the rest of the cartridge.  The bottom of the cartridge where the print head is located is hollow.  This cheap ($14.99) cartridge is two things – hard to maintain refilled as the cartridge only lasts for an HP estimated 200 pages.  Pathetic. The second issue is the principal of the thing; don’t block-off parts of the cartridge to discourage refillers, and don’t lead the consumer to believe that they are getting a “full” cartridge when purchased.  Did you think your HP 901 black ink cartridge was full? Well think again!

HP hewlett packard 901 black inkjet print cartridge designed to be half empty.

The HP 901 black cartridge is designed to be over half empty.

The Price Is Cheap?

Think Hewlett Packard (HP) did this on accident?  This would make paying $10-$15 to refill this cartridge a complete waste of cash (since the retail price is $14.99 for the HP 901 black ink.  If you must use this cartridge series, look to the HP 901XL black inkjet print cartridge which results in a much cheaper cost per printed page.  Remember the HP 901XL black has about 2.5 times the amount of ink as the standard 901 black.

HP 901 black inkjet print cartridge - retail price from HP's website.

HP 901 black inkjet print cartridge - retail price from HP's website.

An insult to consumers.

When you purchase the above ink cartridge is it reasonable to think that the cartridge does not have “refilling” defeating measures (very small sponge).  The price is cheap, but alas, you get what you pay for.  Part of HPs new ink cartridge strategy – “you can pay us now, or you can pay us now.”

HP 901 cartridge highlights:

Uses durable pigment based inks.  Pigment inks will clog inkjet printers – a fact of life – so basically replacing the print head with every cartridge is a good application.  Pigment inks are noted for their longevity, and resistance to smearing, however they will eventually hopelessly clog the print head.  Since the print head is on the cartridge, the “heads” are replaced every time you replace the cartridge with a new one.

HP 901 black inkjet printer cartridge opened and exposed to reveal the internal structure of the ink cartridge


Color: Black
Part Number: CC653AN – HP 901 Black
Ink Type: Pigment based ink
HP 901 Ink Volume: 3-5ml
Page Yield: 200 pages*

Ink Drop Size: 15pl

Retail price: $14.99
Street price: $13.18

* that 200 page estimate is from HP and based on 5% coverage (see what 5% coverage really looks like) – needless to say, manufacturer estimates are always on the “high side.”

This cartridge is often paired with the HP 901 tri-color ink cartridge which we cracked open here.  Note while there is an HP 901XL (full) black cartridge available – there is no “full” color cartridge (901 XL tri-color does not exist), only the HP 901 tri-color cartridge is available.

For Refillers:

Refilling is easy if you know where to put the refilling needle.  There are five (5) holes already in the cartridge lid which are covered up by the cartridge number sticker.  As you can see from the other images, there is black ink around only one (1) of the holes. We suggest using the middle hole since it is the only one that goes directly into the sponge.  All the other holes are there to confuse refillers. Refill kits can be a hassle, but are worth it if you are on a tight budget and have a cartridge that will only take 3-5ml of ink.

Where to refill the HP 901 black inkjet print cartridge -  top three holes are where to refill the HP 901 black ink cartridge

Hewlett Packard HP 901, 901XL, XL Ink Cartridge Refills
Refill kits are available:

This cartridge is not the greatest candidate for refilling – it has a small sponge,  and unless you know where to fill ink can go where there is no sponge. 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. Never let a cartridge, you hope to refill, run all the way out of ink. If the sponge gets dry, and if ink stops flowing properly the cartridge will not provide an acceptable print after refilling.

The HP 901 cartridge is rated at 200 (we have experienced 100 pages or less) pages, so that equates to about 5ml of ink. The sponge is not all the way soaked as received from HP, however count on the 901 black cartridge taking at least 5ml of ink. Refill kits are easy to use, and result in $3.00-$4.00 cartridges.  If you are serious about refilling, the HP 901XL black inkjet print cartridge is a much better choice as it has a complete sponge.

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 price 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.

Contact! – Contact!

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.

Solder points - contact points for the HP 901 black inkjet printer cartridge

Notice more designed empty space.

The Print Head:

Unlike Epson, which makes the printhead part of the printer, Hewlett Packard (HP) puts the print head technology on the cartridge (for most of their consumer printers).  This means every time you buy a new cartridge, it’s like getting a new printer.  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, Best Buy, and other discount (online) retailers use these cartridges.

Notice the 2D UPC code on the print head ribbon.

HP 901 black inkjet print cartridge empty and opened up to expose internal structure of ink 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 901 black inkjet printer cartridge for HP printers

Compatible With:

HP 901 black (cc653A) specifications and warranty info:

HP 901 black (CC653A) page yield info:,st=cartridge,ss=CC653A

There is really no reason to ever buy this cartridge.  A quick check of Amazon reveals that the 901 XL cartridge (700 pages) will run you $27.99, or about twice what the HP 901 half full cartridge (200 pages) will cost you.  Ultimately, the best advice is to avoid this cartridge (and the printers that work with it) completely.

Review: HP 901 Series Inkjet Printer Cartridges – Skip It

HP 901 Series Inkjet Cartridge

*look inside the HP 901 – joke of a cartridge  – here.

HP 901 black inkjet printer cartridge opened and exposed to reveal the internal structure of the ink cartridge

These cartridges should be avoided at all costs.  Not getting very much love over at the HP website either. Could it be because the cartridges are so expensive?  We think so.

HP 901 series cartridges are not very popular over at HP.

This printer uses a single black cartridge, and a single tri-color cartridge (all the colors – cyan, magenta, yellow –  are contained in one cartridge).  Both cartridges must be present for multi-function features to work.

HP 901 Black CC653AN Inkjet Printer Cartridge
HP 901 Black CC653AN – $14.99
HP 901 Color CC656AN - Inkjet Printer Cartridge
HP 901 Color CC656AN – $28.99
HP 901XL Black Inkjet Printer Cartridge CC654AN
HP 901XL Black CC654AN – $31.99

Officejet J4500, and J4600 Cartridges:

HP 901 Inkjet Printer Cartridges - Color And Black

Printers that use the HP 901 series ink cartridge, should be avoided – the Officejet J4500, and J4600 series specifically (full list below).  These cartridge contain a very low amount of ink, and HP states on their website that the cartridge yield is a measly 200 pages for the smaller-ink-volume black 901 cartridge and will run you $14.99.  It has been our experience with HP ink cartridges, that the page yield estimates HP provides are off by as much as 40%.  Realistically, you can expect about 120 full text pages from this cartridge.

Page yields for these cartridges:

*HP estimates – your mileage will vary…greatly.

There is also a “high capacity” black cartridge available – the same cartridge but filled full with ink – for $31.99.  Estimates for the HP 901XL inkjet cartridge are 700 pages.  Figure 400 max.  Finally, there is the color cartridge, which provides an estimated 360 pages (in reality?), and will run you $28.99.  S0 if we want to actually use the printer for serious printing, that will be $60.98 for a set of appropriate cartridges.  That is $100.00 to print a ream of paper (500 pages).

Skip this money pit:

There are plenty of other printers on the market that do not require so much cash for ink – look into individual ink tank printers from Canon, Epson, Brother, or even HP.  If you want to increase the options for consumables, there is really no reason in even considering these printers, the cartridges rule it out.  Houston, we have #cartridge #fail at an estimated .40 cents per text print.

Printers that use the HP 901 series cartridge (so you can avoid buying one).

HP Officejet J4000 All-in-One series

HP officejet J4500.  Don't even think about buying this printer.

HP officejet J4500. Don't even think about buying this printer.

  • OfficeJet J 4500
  • OfficeJet J4524
  • OfficeJet J4540
  • OfficeJet J4550
  • OfficeJet J4580
  • OfficeJet J4624
  • OfficeJet J4640
  • OfficeJet J4660
  • OfficeJet J4680