Review: Inside The HP 75XL, 75 XL Tri-Color (Color) Inkjet Print Cartridge (Cracked Open)

A look inside the HP 75XL tri-color (color) inkjet print cartridge.

The HP 75XL tri-color (color) ink cartridge is the “full” 75 color cartridge from Hewlett Packard that works in a variety of Officejet and Photosmart  inkjet printers. HP also offers a “half-full” version of this cartridge for $20-$25, simply the HP 75.  The HP 75XL is a good cartridge for the occasional printer and the cartridge can be had for $20 for the HP brand.  If printing at your location is 50-100 pages per month (no pictures), this cartridge is probably not a bad choice.  There are many other terrible choices (HP 92, HP 93, HP 60), and for the occasional photo, or documents in the 50-100 per month range, you could do much worse.

Look for printers that use the HP 74XL, and 75XL (often paired – black, color).  A good compromise for occasional printing.

HP 75XL, 75 XL tri-color ink cartridge.

Sponges are soaked in this cartridge.

A substantial amount of ink (in inkjet printer cartridge terms) is in these cartridges.  The sponges are full of ink.  The lid was (is) stuck on tight, so evaporation should be minimal. Refilling very easy with this cartridge, holes are already in the lid – covered by the cartridge identification number sticker.

HP Hewlett Packard - 75xl tri-color (color) ink cartridge.


Color: Black
Part Number: (CB338WN) – HP 75XL
Ink Type: Dye based color ink
Page Yield: 750 pages*

Ink Drop Size: 5pl

Retail price: $40.99
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 74 black, and 74XL black inkjet print cartridge which we cracked open here.

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 75xl tri-color ink cartridge print head contacts - keep them clean to refill your cartridge.

For Refillers:

Refilling is easy if you know where to fill. There are five (5) 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.

HP 75xl color tri-color ink cartridge

HP 75xl color tri-color ink cartridge location of colors inside 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 75xl expiration date silk screened onto the cartridge - website says this is no big deal.

HP 75 And HP 75XL Compared:

There really is no comparison. The HP 75 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 75 XL, 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 75 “standard” 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, but deals can be had on this older cartridge. 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, and are a better cost per page value.

HP 74 black and HP 75XL tri-color ink cartridges compared.

HP 75xl color tri-color inkjet print cartridge compared t0 HP 74 black ink cartridge.

Tip – a better value is the HP 74XL black (21ml).  The HP 74 black ink cartridge contains a measly 5ml of ink.

Large capacity ink cartridges from HP - the HP 74XL black ink cartridge compared with the HP 75xl tri-color (color) ink cartridge.

HP 74xl (full) black ink cartridge compared to the HP 75xl tri-color ink color cartridge

Refill kits are available:

HP 75xl tri-color, color ink cartridge refill.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 75XL cartridge is rated at 560 pages, so that equates to about 21ml of ink (7ml per color). The sponge is not all the way soaked as received from HP, however count on the cartridge taking at least 7ml of each color 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. Animated gif goodness.

Refilling HP ink cartridges - HP inkjet print cartridge refill locations for color HP 75xl tri-color ink carridge

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 $. 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 75XL printhead for inkjet print cartridge.

Hewlett Packard (HP) 75XL tri-color (color) ink cartridge page estimates:,st=cartridge,ss=CB338W

Hewlett Packard (HP) 75XL tri-color (color) inkjet print cartridge specifications:

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