Freedom from ink cartridges
By Harold Glicken
( I wrote this review nearly a year ago, and everything I wrote then applies today, too.)
A funny thing happened on my way to the local office-supply store the other day. I sat in my car in the store’s parking lot and wondered why I was making yet another weekly trip to buy ink.
The five cartridges in my HP inkjet printer gobble up ink so fast that I can get barely 40 glossy color prints out of them, and as few as 150 black/white pages. Yes, in this age of digital camera files that are put up on Facebook for free, I’m still printing glossies on my inkjet printer. The price is not right; the five cartridges total out to about $80 for a printer that cost less than $200. What a sap.
HP, Canon and the other printer manufacturers price their inkjet printers low; they make their money on ink cartridges. Nothing new there. Thrifty souls buy remanufactured ink cartridges, which the printer companies say will void the warranty if the cartridges leak. I’ve had terrible luck with remanufactured cartridges. While none leaked, the ones I bought on the Internet ran out twice as fast as the real thing. Their colors weren’t true either. Some people swear by them. Others swear at them, me included.
What if someone manufactured an inkjet printer that had larger cartridges, I wondered in the parking lot. Something big, as in ink tanker hoses running directly into the printer. So, I did some research.
What I found was the answer to my inkjet nightmare: the Epson Workforce ET-4550, which comes equipped with enough ink to last for up to two years. That would be enough to print 11,000 black pages and 8,500 color pages. That’s equivalent to 50 sets of the ink cartridges my HP inkjet would use. I did the math in my head: 50 times $80 is $4,000. The printer costs $500. Net savings? Do the math.
Epson’s new Eco Tank line of printers also copy, scan and fax. Glossy color prints are at least as good or better than my HP inkjet. The quality is very good, but not in the league of the best inkjet printers. Black printing is laser-quality. It’s wireless (one of the easiest to set up wireless printers I’ve ever had), it also can work on its own network, it prints on both sides, works with both Windows PCs and Macs, has a generous two-year warranty, its (flimsy) paper tray can handle 150 pages and it prints out to the strains of Brahms Violin Concerto No. 5. Well, I’m exaggerating a bit.
Here’s how it works:
The printer comes with black, magenta, cyan and yellow ink bottles. You’ve never seen ink cartridges like these. You snip off the pouring sides of the ink bottles and empty them into the color-coded reservoirs on the side of the printer. Word of caution: wear gloves -- printer ink won’t wash out of clothes and it hangs around on hands like original sin. Fill all the reservoir tanks, a process that takes maybe 10 minutes, and you’re ready to print.
And print. And print.
I printed 50 8-by-10 glossy color photos and barely made a dent in the ink supply. Then I printed out the 100-page black-and-white manual for my Apple Watch (guess what I got for my birthday). And then I printed a bunch of color classroom material for my teacher daughter. When my grandson came over, we printed every possible Cat in the Hat game, puzzle, song sheet, cutout and coloring sheet. Still the ink levels in the tanks were high.
I probably would have gone through two sets of regular ink cartridges for my HP.
You might think that replacement cartridges for the Epson Eco Tank would cost hundreds of dollars. In fact, they costs $52 for all four cartridges.
Are there downsides? Printing at the highest quality black and white or color is definitely slower than my mid-range HP. It took up to three-minutes to print a high-resolution glossy color print. The paper tray should hold more sheets. The printer could be quieter. My first demo printer had a few hiccups, which Epson tech support promptly helped me fix. I was on hold for less than two minutes, the call is free, as is the support.
Other Eco Tank printers start at $379. If I were buying one today, I’d go for the 4550 – it seems to be the sweet spot between price and economy.
If you’re on a budget, if you like to print and print and print, this printer cries out for attention – yours.
More information: www.epson.com