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Epson Raises the Bar on Printer Tech

Category: Hardware Published on Monday, 12 October 2015

Fact: Purchasing a printer ushers in a mountain of debt for ink cartridges.

Fact: Printers are the razors of tech. They entice you with inexpensive hardware and profit from the need for ink.

Fact: Both of the above facts are no longer true.

The folks at Epson have developed a line of PrecisionCore printers that virtually eliminate the so-called ink cartridge addiction.


We were able to play with the new Epson WorkForce ET-4550 EchoTank multi-function printer ($499.99) and discovered, while the initial layout in cash was a bit expensive, we could save more than five times the cost by eliminating the need to purchase new cartridges every week or two for about two years.

The secret is in the ink tanks. The ET-4550 comes with eight bottles of ink that, according to Epson, are enough to print 11,000 black or 8,550 color pages, which are equivalent to about 50 sets of ink cartridges. Here's the math: the average cost of each set of cartridges is about $50. In comparison, a full set of ink bottles for the ET-4550 is also $50. This results in a net savings of about $2,450. Add in the cost of the printer and you've still saved $1,950.

Obviously, this printer isn't geared toward users that only print a few pages per week and use less than 10 sets of cartridges in a two-year period. But, the so-called high-volume users could start to see cost savings within a few months.

The ET-4550 is about the size of older WorkForce printers with a compartment for the ink tanks mounted on the right side. This makes it a bit wider, but it only takes up a few more inches of valuable desktop real estate.

There are two sets of ink bottles - - - black, magenta, cyan and yellow - - - in the box. One set is designated as "starter" inks, which, obviously, should be used first. Why they do this is a mystery to us, but we complied.

The process of filling the ink tanks can be a bit messy, so Epson recommends using gloves and laying paper towels under the printer to protect you and your desk from drips of spilled ink. Once you and your desk are fully protected, you just remove the inner foil of each tube of ink, replace the top, clip the tips on the top of each tube and squeeze the ink into the tanks. The tanks are designed to hold the elongated tips of each tube, reducing the chance for spillage.

The quality of the printouts was about the same as we've gotten from other WorkForce printers. PrecisionCore technology is supposed to deliver laser-quality black text, but we discovered that, although the print quality was superior to most ink-jet printers, it fell short when compared to high-end lasers.

Other key features include:

  • The ink tanks are clear so you can easily monitor in usage without opening the printer
  • It has a 150-sheet paper tray and can print up to 13 pages per minute
  • Double-sided printing
  • A 30-sheet document feeder
  • Like most multi-function printers, it prints, scans, copies and faxes
  • Built-in Wi-Fi to connect to your home network
  • Wi-Fi Direct, which allows you to print wirelessly without a network
  • The print heads are in the printer rather than on ink cartridges



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