Review: Inside The HP 74 (CB335W) Black Inkjet Print Cartridge (Cracked Open)

Cracked open – the HP 74 (CB335WN) inkjet print cartridge.

This is an older cartridge from Hewlett Packard, and it sheds some light on the multiple cartridge strategy HP (and all the other printer manufacturers) are now employing in full force (same cartridges, just differing amounts of ink, and different prices).  The HP 74 black ink cartridge looks like all the other HP ink cartridges (from the outside), but what does it look like on this inside of the ink cartridge?

This cartridge contains about 5ml of ink.  However, it has the room to  take much more ink – but then HP would have to raise that $14.99 price point (like they do on the larger, and “full” HP 74XL cartridge which has three (3) times the amount of ink but only costs $20.00 street.). The HP 74 represents a mistake by HP, and one of the last times HP released a “standard” cartridge with a full sized sponge.  The larger the sponge, the more ink the cartridge can take when refilling, or when re-manufacturing.  This is not good for HP’s consumption model marketing.  In HP’s future cartridge manufacturing – if the cartridge price is lower, the cartridge can be altered internally and include a smaller sponge (see inside the newer HP 60, and HP 901 black ink cartridges and you will see what we mean).

HP hewlett packard ink cartridge cover removed to reveal the internal structure of the HP 74 black inkjet print cartridge.


Color: Black
Part Number: CB335W – HP 74 Black
Ink Type: Pigment based ink
HP 74 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 75, or 75XL tri-color ink cartridge which we cracked open here.

A Refillers Dream – A New Reality:

Ink stop and cartridge world are not was well eastablished in the industry - goodbye consumer options.

This is the kind of cartridge that kept Cartridge World, and Ink Stop in business.  That is until inkstop went out of business.  This cartridge type is cheap to buy initially, however it runs out fast (40-100 pages at most).  Can be easily “over filled” reliably up to 2-3 times (maybe more, your mileage will vary)  with three times the amount of black ink the cartridge originally came with.  Better to get this cartridge refilled, or refill (400 pgs +), than to buy new (40-100 pgs).  No comparison really.

HP will fix this “problem” with the release of the HP 60, and HP 901 ink cartridges that have a smaller sponge, and space inside the cartridge blocked off – not feasible to refill.

HP is aware of the solution – working on another problem.

HP is not stupid.  We have heard rumors in the industry that the current “flagship” HP cartridge type (the HP 74 and to many otHewlett Packard HP 901, 901XL, XL Ink Cartridge Refillshers to list, but of the same design) cost HP over one Billion dollars to engineer.  The cartridge is flimsy, and designed to fail – it must not be easy to get engineers to design something to fail.  While the cartridge can be refilled, reliably, several times – great care must be given to the condition of the ink cartridge.

These cartridges must be refilled before they run out of ink – the contacts need to be kept from damage (think static discharge, dirt, and ink covering the contacts), and the print head needs to be kept clean.  These cartridge characteristics conspire against the casual refiller, and consumer demand for refill kits and refilled cartridges is low.  Garbage in = garbage out – if the cartridge is designed to fail, any additional use after the cartridge “runs dry” should be considered a bonus.

So what is under the label on the cartridge?

Cartridge design for the HP 74 black inkjet print cartridge.Pay special attention to the many holes and air-flow channels – that stuff is there for a reason.  This cartridge can be easily refilled with a bottle of ink and a simple syringe and needle.  The holes are already in the top of the cartridge.  No special tools needed to “drill” a hole in the top of the HP ink cartridge.

Three (3) barriers to simple refilling:

1: The pesky ink monitor.

Printers that use this cartridge series remember the last two cartridge serial numbers.  The cartridge can be re-used, however it will show as empty in the print monitor, and unless turned off, the user is prompted to replace the cartridge at every printing.  Very annoying when trying to print driving directions on the way out the door.

The printer “remembers” the current cartridge – plus one.  So to reset the ink monitor, three cartridges must be used. Hassle.

There are other ways around the ink monitor issue – press a series of buttons on the printer – but they vary by cartridge and by printer model number.

2: Failure of cartridge

If a cartridge is not refilled shortly *before* going empty (for this series of cartridge) the sponge can dry out, the print head can become clogged, or the contacts can get ink on them – or worse damaged.

There are just to many things that can go wrong for wide-scale acceptance.  Experienced refillers are aware of the limitations refilling presents, and take precautions.  First time refillers, or the “average consumer” might not be aware of these limitations and-or care.  A cartridge must work when called upon, and there is a price for reliability.  Sometimes the cartridge will not work period – or it fails after a short refilled life.  There are also cases of a refilled cartridge lasting “forever.”  The refilling game really is part know-how, but equal parts blind luck as no two cartridges are the same.

3: It’s messy.

There is the perception that refilling is messy, because It *can-be* if you are not sure of what you are doing. Frankly, sometimes it goes all wrong. The majority of the time it goes well, and with the savings i can buy a new pair of pants anyway.  A non-issue for committed refillers, a reason to take it to walgreens for some.

A look at the sponges tells the story:

Below we have the HP 74 black and HP 74xl black ink cartridge sponges.

See how little ink is in the HP 74 black ink cartridge when compared to the HP 74XL black inkjet print  (full of ink) cartridge.

The HP 74 black ink cartridge sponge compared to the HP 74XL black ink cartridge sponge. The 74XL sponge (and cartridge) is much larger.

For You 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 three (3) of the holes. We suggest using one of those three (3) holes since they are closer to the ink exit point.  All the other two holes  are there to confuse refillers.  This cartridge will hold around 18-21ml of ink, which is a good amount for a modern ink cartridge.

Hewlett Packard (HP) 74 black inkjet printer cartridge refill hole locations.

Compatible Cartridges:

HP 74, 74XL compatible ink cartridgesCompatible cartridges are an option here. 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.

HP 74 ink cartridge contacts - hp 74 printer ink carridge print head contacts.

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 74 black ink cartridge expiration date, serial number, and upc code

There is really no reason to ever buy this cartridge.  A quick check of Amazon reveals that the 74XL  cartridge (700 pages) will run you $27.99, or about twice what the HP 74 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 – if you print more than 100-200 pages per month.

HP 74 black (CB335WN) specifications:

HP 74 black (CB335W) page yield information:,st=cartridge,ss=CB335W

Compatible with the following HP inkjet printers:

The HP 74 works in a bunch of printers – check out the HP 74XL black ink, a much better value.
  • Deskjet D4200 Series
  • Deskjet D4260
  • Deskjet D4268
  • OfficeJet J5700
  • OfficeJet J5725
  • OfficeJet J5730
  • OfficeJet J5735
  • OfficeJet J5740
  • OfficeJet J5750
  • OfficeJet J5780
  • OfficeJet J5783
  • OfficeJet J5785
  • OfficeJet J5788
  • OfficeJet J5790
  • Photosmart C4200 Series
  • Photosmart C4205
  • Photosmart C4210
  • Photosmart C4240
  • Photosmart C4250
  • Photosmart C4270
  • Photosmart C4272
  • Photosmart C4273
  • Photosmart C4275
  • Photosmart C4280
  • Photosmart C4283
  • PhotoSmart C4285
  • PhotoSmart C4345
  • PhotoSmart C4380
  • PhotoSmart C4580
  • PhotoSmart C4599
  • Photosmart C5200 Series
  • Photosmart C5240
  • Photosmart C5250
  • Photosmart C5280
  • PhotoSmart C5540
  • PhotoSmart C5550
  • PhotoSmart C5580
  • PhotoSmart D5345
  • Photosmart D5360