Initially much more expensive compared to cartridge-based all-in-ones
Wider than average cartridge-based all-in-ones
Becomes more difficult to move once filled
Printers are funny devices when you think about it. The cost of printer ink has become the punchline to many a joke, and it's not uncommon for people to just buy a new, cheap printer when they run out of ink as it's cheaper to buy a whole new one, rather than pay up to $120 to get a full set of ink. Fortunately, Epson's come up with an ingenious, and perhaps retro, way to solve that problem: the EcoTank Series. We got our hands on an Epson Expression ET-2550 EcoTank and thought we'd share our experience.
You might be wondering what's up with the name "EcoTank." It's a portmanteau of "economical" and "tank," because instead of a standard, felt-filled cartridge, the EcoTank line features tanks that you can fill up from your own home. These tanks hold more ink than average cartridges do, and each one of the ink bottles of ink equates to roughly 20 cartridges. When pricing out the ink, it also ends up being a great deal cheaper, at only $13 a bottle, which comes out to well under $1 per comparable "cartridge." When it's not uncommon to spend $20-$30 per printer cartridge, we think that this a huge step forward for home and office printing.
All-in-one printers have been getting smaller and smaller, thankfully, and this one isn't what we'd consider unreasonable in size. It's a bit wider than most current all-in-ones due to the ink-tanks on the side, but still relatively small, making it ideal for placing on bookshelves, entertainment centers, or wherever you've got a free spot. It's not terribly heavy, just over 10 pounds, so putting it on office shelving shouldn't be too much of a hassle either.
Easy Does It
One of the most important things that we judge any device by is how difficult it is to set it up, and how difficult it is to continue using it. Fortunately for us, we had no problem getting the Expression ET-2550 EcoTank up and running. After unpacking it from the box, we had it it set up within 30 minutes, including filling the tanks and the mandatory first-time 20 minute ink priming time. Installing the drivers on your computer is quick and easy, and you can do it by visiting the Epson website or with the included CD. If you're going to snag one of the compatible apps, they're available on the App Store and Google Play. As for average use, it's going to be entirely dependent on what you're doing. Like most printers, this one interfaces with your computer to work with your existing programs. If you're just printing, scanning, or copying directly from the Expression ET-2550 EcoTank, again, it's not too hard to deal with. There's a small LCD panel on the front that walks you through whatever you're trying to do, and is extremely user friendly, which makes this the ideal gift for college students as well as doting grandparents who want to print every picture of every grandkid.
As far as printing goes, this one prints pretty well. It's what we'd consider ideal for home use. It's got a maximum DPI of 5760x1440, which is higher than most home users will end up needing. However, due to the fact that it's a 4-color CMYK printer, we don't think this would be the best purchase for those who are printing designs and artwork with the intention of selling and highly suggest an 8- or 12-color printer. Print speed of the EcoTank 2550 felt rather quick, but obviously will depend entirely on what you're printing.
Fill 'Er Up
Filling up the Expression ET-2550 EcoTank, and presumably all the other printers in the EcoTank line, is easy. Throw on a pair of disposable gloves and slide a rag or newspaper under the end of your tank compartment to combat against potential staining, open the bottle, pop the rubber plug on the tank, and squeeze the ink into the color-coded compartment. Put the plugs back into your tank, prime the printer, and you're set to go. We highly suggest filling your printer at least close to the location that you're going to use it in, because Epson advises against excessive sloshing and jostling of the printer once the tanks are filled.
Wireless printers are absolutely wonderful because many of us have forgone the home office in favor of using our laptops wherever we want. Setting up a printer on a bookshelf or in a spare bedroom is far easier than dedicating an entire desk to it, especially when you've got multi-computer families. The Expression ET-2550 is a wireless printer that connects to your home network and allows you to wirelessly print from any computer.
The setup for the wireless feature took almost no time and worked on the first try, which is a lot more than we can say for some other things we've tried in the past. We loved the fact that the process is essentially fool-proof, as the install wizard guides you through every step with no fuss.
Ditch the Computer
Don't want to move pictures from your camera to your computer just to print them? Then don't. The Expression ET-2550 has an SD card slot that allows you to print directly from your camera's memory card with no fuss. Have a lot of pictures on your iPhone/iPad, tablet, or smartphone? You can wirelessly print via the Google Cloud, AirPrint, Mopria, or Epson Connect.
Basics: Scanning and Copying
While we've got a soft-spot for the newer, thinner scanners like the Doxie, we understand that there's things that they can't do - like scan books. That's where owning an all-in-one becomes beneficial. As far as scanners go, again, this is what we feel is standard. It'll scan up to 9600 dpi, which again, is more than the average home user is going to need. We're pleased, though, that you can scan wirelessly to your PC, scan to the cloud (including to your email account), and you can also scan straight to a memory card. The Expression ET-2550 EcoTank also allows you to use it as sort of a photocopier as well, with the same features as the scanner and printer combined -- thankfully, the copies produced with the Expression ET-2550 EcoTank look far nicer than your average Xerox machine.
We had a hard time finding any fault with the Expression ET-2550 EcoTank, which left us feeling pleasantly surprised. Sure, the Epson EcoTank line is initially more expensive than comparable printers, but the ability to fill up your ink tanks at about 1/20th of the cost of buying new ink makes it an incredibly attractive option. If you print regularly, we're certain find this to be a worthwhile investment. The Epson Expression ET-2550 EcoTank costs $400 and is available directly from Epson.com.
We've got this one for a while. Check back in a few months for a "Living With" feature for further discussion about it in the real world.
Who the Expression ET-2550 EcoTank is for: Do you print a lot and hate buying new ink? Have a small office that requires you to print a few thousand pages a month? This printer will end up saving you quite a bit of money in the long run.
Who the Expression ET-2550 EcoTank isn't for: If you've got larger volumes of things to print, we suggest checking out a more robust printer in the EcoTank line, as this one really is intended for home and small office use.