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Review: Epson EcoTank -- an inkjet printer without cartridges

Brian Nadel | Sept. 30, 2015
Epson is attempting to rewrite printer history with its new line of EcoTank inkjet printers.

The printer comes with a disc containing the printer's manual and drivers for PCs (including Windows 10) and Macs (through OS X 10.10 Yosemite) as well as software for printing via an email (all of which are also available online ). In addition, Epson's free iOS and Android iPrint apps let you print and scan from a mobile device. The printer works with Google Cloud Print as well as Apple's AirPrint.

Near laser quality

The proof of any printer is its output -- and the ET-4550 is surprisingly good at creating type-based documents with sharp black characters that had excellent contrast. In fact, its output was equivalent in quality to that of my Brother HL-2240 laser printer.

In Standard mode, it delivered its first page in 23 seconds; I timed a 15-page double-spaced document at 12.1 pages per minute (ppm). That's just off its official 13ppm rating. (Since printer vendors tend to test their printers under ideal conditions, this isn't bad.)

Color documents were just as sharp, but printed much slower at 5.2ppm for a 39-page PDF-based presentation. I felt that the ET-4550's dye-based cyan ink made its blues look a bit washed out in Standard mode, although its reds and greens looked vibrant and bold. Using the printer's Standard Vivid mode worked the best with color prints.

As a scanner, the ET-4550 can create 48-bit color images at up to 1200 x 2400 dpi and can interpolate them to the equivalent of 9600 dpi. (Interpolation software uses edge enhancement and other techniques to boost an image's size and quality.)

The scanning interface has two modes. The Office mode, meant for speedy archiving, offers only selections for resolution and the ability to enhance type; it took me 26.3 seconds to scan a page at 200 dpi. The Professional mode allows the scanning of film originals, adds options like adjusting the color gamut and correcting for backlighting in the original; at 1200 x 2400 resolution it took 7 minutes 23 seconds to scan the same page.

The ET-4550's copier has a 30-page document feeder and color copied 12 pages at the rate of 3.3ppm. In some cases, the copies looked better than the originals -- it made some wrinkles in the paper less pronounced, for example. The printer also has an RJ-11 port for faxing; it can handle 20 pages per minute and hold up to 100 pages in memory.

The ET-4550 comes with a two-year warranty.

Bottom line

While Epson's new EcoTank design is a fascinating new approach to the office printer, I felt that the company's estimate of two years before having to purchase more ink (after using the included bottles) was a bit optimistic.


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