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Most of us love ink jet printers except for two things. Ink cartridges must be replaced too often and the ink is too expensive. The Epson ET-4550 line of printers has addressed both of these complaints as they come with two years of ink and that can be economically refilled. The new Epson EcoTank line of printers come in five models ranging from $379 to$499, retail.
Related: How to Refill Epson Ink Cartridges
According to Epson, the ET-4550 that I reviewed includes enough ink to print up to 11,000 black/8500 color pages equivalent to about 50 standard ink cartridge sets. Assuming that you paid $60 for each cartridge set that would equate to $3,000 in ink over two years. No wonder people were complaining!! By the way, the ink refills for this EcoTank retail at $19.99 for the black and $12.99 each for the color. This is a lot more ink for a lot less money than you get with normal cartridges.
Epson ET-4550 Design
The ET-4550 is an average-looking all-in-one printer with average dimensions. (20.3 x 14.2 x 9.5 inches (W x D x H). The entire printer is made of matt black plastic which is nice for keeping fingerprints at bay. It is average-sized and average-looking with an automatic sheet feeder and a collapsible front-facing output tray. The scanner bed can hold up to an 8.5 x 14-inch sheet and the bed cover can be raised a little to accommodate books and slightly bulky items. The front paper tray can hold up to 150 letter-sized pages and can also accommodate 20 envelopes or smaller-sized papers.
This printer sports a 2.2-inch black-and-white display. While the display is readable, it is slightly grainy and displays black text only. The screen is flanked by the usually navigation buttons, fax number panel, and Start and Stop buttons. The navigation by pressing arrows is workable, but far from state-of-the-art. This is without a doubt, the place where Epson cut costs.
My first thought when seeing the display was “Do they want me to pay $499 for this?” Yes, Epson is regaining some of the cost of the ink in the initial cost of the printer. Without the EcoTank capabilities, the hardware for this printer would probably cost $149. When, however, I as a heavy printer-user, figured out how much I would be saving on ink, I was willing to accept the slightly sub-par display. If you want to know how much you will be saving on ink, Epson gives has an ink tank cost comparison calculator on their website.
On the far right-hand side of the unit is the ink compartment. It just out about 3 ½ inches and runs the depth of the printer. There are four partitions with the colors, black, cyan, magenta, and yellow clearly marked. Each has a transparent square where you can see the color of the ink and the amount of ink that is left.
[nextpage title=”Set Up and Performance”]
This printer comes with two sets of four ink bottles. Epson includes plastic gloves and full instructions. The process actually only involves opening the bottles, removing the caps, squeezing the plastic bottles to pour the ink into the tanks, and replacing the attached caps. Not being the neatest person in the world, I readied myself for the worse by donning old clothes and covering everything with newspaper. It wasn’t necessary. The process took five minutes and I didn’t spill a drop.
The ET-4550 required about 20 minutes for the calibration and another ten minutes to complete the network configuration and software installation.
The ET-4550 is rated for print speeds of 13 black ppm and 7.3 color ppm color. So while this isn’t the fastest printer you can find, most will find the speeds adequate. The print resolution is 4,800 x 1,200 dpi. Epson’s MicroPiezo inkjet technology kept the text quite crisp and clear. Although this is not advertised as a photo printer, it does a good job on photos if you print on photo paper and choose the best resolution by changing the settings on both the printer and the computer.
This printer has a built-in duplexer and fax machine. It works with Epson Connect, Google, Cloud, Kindle Fire Print, and Apple AirPrint, so all your mobile printing needs should be covered. It is, of course, Wi-Fi enabled and also has a USB 2.0 port and an Ethernet port.
One caution here, because of the liquid ink in the tanks, you will want to be careful to keep the printer level when moving it from room to room.
The EcoTank ET4550 has four ink tanks. The black is pigment ink and the three color inks are dye. These printers are still undergoing testing for permanence. In my opinion, this is really not an issue unless you will be printing photos that you want to make sure will be good in a hundred years or more.
This is not the fastest ink jet around and I dislike the display and navigation. However, it performs well at every task. You put out a little more money upfront, but if you print a lot, the ink savings are more than worthwhile. It not only saves on trips to the store, but it can change the way you use an ink jet printer. With the ET-4550 you have the freedom to print anything you like in full color without thinking about how much the ink will cost. After years of printing in draft mode, changing the settings to print in only black, and using a black laser printer for large print jobs, this is a very freeing feeling.
Epson says that they have been selling these Eco-Tank printers in Asia for several years with good results. Only time will tell just how durable it is, but given Epson’s good reputation and the included two-year warranty, it looks like a very viable money-and-frustration saving option.
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