Epson EcoTank: The Ink Cartridge Kiss of Death

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted August 04, 2015

Say good-bye to the last-minute dash to the office supply store to buy expensive ink cartridges.

Epson's latest line of all-in-one printers doesn't use replacement ink cartridges, but rather large reservoirs that can last up to a couple of years before they need to be refilled. Branded EcoTank, the new all-in-one printers cost more upfront, but they pay off in the long run, according to company executives.

For example, the new Epson Expression ET-2500 EcoTank retails for $379, more than small businesses may be accustomed to paying for an all-in-one printer. That is, until they start factoring in the cost of stocking up on ink cartridges.

Compared to traditional inkjet printers, each EcoTank model ships with the equivalent of 20 sets of ink cartridges or more. At the cost of $40 per ink cartridge set (black and color), the included ink on the EcoTank more than pays for itself.

Under normal use, the ink bundled with an EcoTank printer will last a long time. In the aforementioned ET-2500 model, the included ink is enough for 4,500 pages in black and 6,500 pages in color. And that adds up to major savings, said Rodrigo Catalan, senior product manager of Epson America.

"Epson EcoTank printers help small businesses save money in two ways," he told Small Business Computing. "First, you get two years of ink when you first buy the printer. Second, when you buy replacement supplies the cost is pennies per page."

Affordable Color Ink Lowers Printing Cost

EcoTank ink costs as little $12.99 per bottle, or $52 for a set of bottles (black, cyan, magenta and yellow), a price point that helps open up a world of color for small businesses. In the United States, 90 percent of pages are printed in black and white. If the price of color ink weren't a factor, two-thirds of those pages would be in color, according to the company's estimates.

With EcoTank, small businesses are already churning out more eye-grabbing color printouts.

Epson EcoTank line of All-in-One printers

Epson's EcoTank line of all-in-one printers could signal the end of ink cartridges.

Epson has already sold millions of EcoTank printers in Latin America and Asia. Sixty-four percent of Latin American customers said they print more with EcoTank, with many reporting that they also print more in color.

All five EcoTank all-in-one printers feature built-in wireless and support for mobile printing. The only notable difference between the new printers and traditional ones are the ink reservoirs. They bulge out a bit, but generally maintain the same footprint as a regular printer.

Epson claims that those reservoirs also help extend the life of the printer. Unlike many printers in which the ink cartridge and print head are one and the same, EcoTank's design spare the printer the wear and tear of cracking open the case to fiddle around inside. A separate panel on the reservoir housing keeps things accessible and tidy during ink refills.

Print quality is up to standards you'd expect from Epson. In an eyes-on demonstration, text was sharp and colors were vivid. Two models, the WorkForce ET-4550 and the WF-R4640 EcoTank are powered by Epson's PrecisionCore print chip technology borrowed from the company's high-end commercial products.

As their name suggests, EcoTank printers are better for the environment—good for businesses concerned about their carbon impact. The four recyclable ink pouches used to refill the WF-R4640 are equivalent to a six-foot pile of laser toner waste.

The Epson EcoTank lineup, which ships in September, consists of the Epson Expression ET-2500 EcoTank ($379) and the ET-2550 EcoTank ($399)—both designed for home use. They print 9.2 black and 4.5 color pages per minute and have a paper capacity of 100 pages.

For home office and small office environments, Epson offers the ET-4500 ($429) and the ET-4550 ($499), the latter of which features PrecisionCore technology and supports automatic two-sided printing. Finally, the top-of-the-line WorkForce Pro WF-R4640 EcoTank All-in-One ($1,199), which features PrecisionCore and has a total capacity of 580 pages.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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