As anybody who prints more than occasionally will know, inkjet printer ink is rather infamous for being more expensive per cc than vintage champagne. The printing prices using inkjet were certainly enough to put me off using inkjet printers about 4 years ago; we went and bought a cheap colour laser printer instead. A set of toner cartridges cost us about 80 quid but we get a lot of printing out of them.
Epson think they have the answer for people like me, a new Ecotank printer that has super ink capacity, at a price that won’t make you want to cry. The Ecotank ET-4550 initially looks like a conventional 3 in 1 (printer, scanner & copier/fax), with the nifty addition of wifi and a mobile app but when you dig a bit deeper it’s a slightly different kettle of fish.
For starters when you unbox the printer, you won’t find ink cartridges. What you will find are six great big bottles of ink. It’s a bit counter-intuitive because it doesn’t seem a big step forward in terms of technology going from chipped cartridges to bottles but Epson reckon it will revolutionise inkjet printing for medium to heavy users.
Epson eschew the normal practice of cheap and cheerful inkjet printers, where they effectively give you a free printer with some ink (£40 will buy you an inkjet printer now but you can guarantee the installed ink cartridges won’t get you very far). Instead the ET-4550 costs a rather robust £369 (I’ve seen it for less; John Lewis for example is currently selling for £299) with enough ink to print, on average, 11,000 pages. That’s 22 reams of paper (22 sealed packets).
When you’ve used the ink that comes with the ET-4550 up, however long that takes, a full set of refills will cost you £35 (£10.99 for the black, and £7.99 each for the cyan, magenta and yellow). For comparison, some standard inkjet printers can take “XL” cartridges, a typical set of these XL cartridges cost £35 and can print up to 900 pages. The set of refills for the ET-4550 will print up to 6,000 pages. That’s so much cheaper that it’s not even funny.
If you want to see an unboxing and set up video, I’m happy to oblige:
Aside from allowing the printer twenty minutes to initialise the ink tank system for the first time, setting up the ET-4550 is no different to any other printer. Using the Android app to print from was really easy and I was pleased to see that I effectively had access to the full printer dialogue box from the app rather than a simplified/dumbed down set of options.
Printing itself is quick and the quality of photo print, even on cheap copy paper and not photo paper is remarkably good.
I’ve been playing with the review unit that Epson sent me just before Christmas (I get to keep it too, which is nice as the box it comes in is huge!), so I’ve now used it enough to have some thoughts on it. As a parent of three kids, all at school now, we have to print a lot of stuff out. Understandably, school letters are now emailed to save the school money. All us parents have to print them out to detach the signing bit at the end. Photos have to be sent in with kids for projects or homework tasks, and we take hundreds of pictures a week, some of which we need to print out. It takes it’s toll on any printer and normally I wouldn’t go near an inkjet printer for this sort of volume of work. However the ET-4550 tackled it with aplomb. I can see that it’s used some ink; the line is below the fill line on all the tanks but not by much.
The print quality is good too; better than our budget laser printer, with a refill cost of under half. I’ve unplugged our laser printer, which is something I never thought I would do.
Well done Epson!