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Epson EcoTank ET-2550 review: Epson EcoTank printer replaces ink cartridges with DIY refills

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The Good The Epson EcoTank ET-2550 is a multifunction printer, copier and scanner that can hold enough ink to last two years without a single refill. The subsequent refill bottles are also much cheaper than traditional cartridges, offering potential savings over the long-term.

The Bad The printer costs four to eight times more than cartridge-based models. It has a very minimal display and feature set, lacking an Ethernet port, fax functionality, auto-document feeder and duplexing.

The Bottom Line With its ultra-low-cost refillable ink bottles, this clever little Epson EcoTank printer does away with pricey ink cartridges once and for all -- but it will cost you a lot more up front.

7.6 Overall
  • Value 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Design 7

The Epson EcoTank ET-2550 might look like a standard small form inkjet printer, but there's one big difference: instead of the traditional inkjet cartridges that most printers use to put images and text on paper, the EcoTank series comes with a set of ink bottles that you empty yourself into a large, refillable reservoir on the side.

The bottles have enough ink in them to print about 4,000 pages of black ink and 6,500 pages of color, which is roughly the equivalent of a two-year supply at moderate print volumes.

With this new ink delivery system, Epson hopes to save users the trouble of running out to an office supply store every month to pick up a new set of cartridges: when the reservoirs are running low, you can buy another batch that lasts just as long, for a lot less than the cost of standard cartridges: $13 (converted, £8.59, $17.71 AU) for each color bottle or $52 (£34.34, $70.84 AU) for a set of all four.

The catch is that you'll pay more up front for these special EcoTank models that accept refillable ink. The ET-2550 is the least expensive of the lineup at $399 (£369.99 UK, AU$499), but it also lacks many of the modern features that you would find in a "regular" inkjet printer at the same price: it can't fax, there's no auto-document feeder for scanning batch jobs, and you don't get a duplexer for double-sided printing.

It does, however, print high-quality documents and images at a speed that exceeded our expectations. Aside from the EcoTank on the side, there's also Wi-Fi built in to the machine so you can take advantage of Epson's host of free iOS and Android printing apps that let you print your smartphone or tablet.

Design

epson-et-2550-ecotank-printer-07.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

If you ignore the ink reservoir on the side, the ET-2550 closely resembles the Epson Expression XP-320, a sub-$100 budget inkjet printer with a limited array of features. The small design doesn't take up too much space in an office, even with the reservoir included -- according to the manufacturer, the machine measures 19.3 inches wide, 20.7 inches deep, and 11.6 inches tall.

Epson Expression ET-2550 EcoTank

Price as reviewed $399 US, £369.99 UK, $499 AU
Dimensions in inches (Width x Depth x Height) 19.3 x 20.7 x 11.6 inches
Functions Print/Copy/Scan
Inks Four-ink refillable EcoTank (Black, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow)
Automatic 2-sided printing (duplexer) No
Automatic Document Feeder No
Memory Card Reader SD card reader
Connectivity USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, Airprint, Google Cloud Print
Paper Input Tray Capacity 100 sheets
Display 1.44-inch color LCD

The front panel has a small 1.44-inch color LCD with a directional pad and three action buttons next to it, and the whole console mechanically rotates up and down to be set at adjustable angles depending on your work space.

The top cover lifts up to reveal a 2,400 dpi flatbed scanner, but you can only scan one document at a time since there's no auto-document feeder. That also means the printer can only accept paper from one source: the input tray that folds vertically out of the back.

epson-et-2550-ecotank-printer-03.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

It holds 100 sheets of paper, which is typical for a printer that will live in the home or a small office with light printing needs, but you can also pick up the step-up model EcoTank ET-4550 that will net you a larger 150-sheet paper input capacity, more ink capacity per reservoir (roughly 11,00 black and 8,500 color pages), an Ethernet port, and a dedicated fax machine.

Finally, the side of the front panel has a small SD card reader for printing photos and documents directly from an external drive.

Setup

Epson gives you the option to connect the printer to your computer using direct USB or Wi-Fi via an installation disc, downloadable software or Wi-Fi Direct if your router supports it. If you don't want to connect wirelessly, you'll need to supply your own USB cable, as usual.

Establishing a wireless connection between the machine and your computer is a two-part process: turn on the machine and click Network Setting, then designate your wireless network and enter its password, and that's it. The entire setup from start to finish, with a connection established on our lab network took us less than 5 minutes.

epson-et-2550-ecotank-printer-03.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

The installation process also includes a step which asks if you want the system to automatically hunt and install firmware updates, and we recommend you click "yes" when prompted; the appeal of Web-connected printers like this means you don't have to wait for Epson to ship you software updates, so take advantage of it.

Connecting through Wi-Fi also means you can take advantage of Epson's host of free mobile printing apps that let you print directly from mobile devices. First, the Epson iPrint application for iOS and Android devices lets you to print Web pages, photos, documents and anything else on a smartphone directly to the printer.

You can also take advantage of remote printing from any Chrome browser window using Google Cloud Print, or connect immediately to any iOS device using Apple AirPrint. Check out our how-to page to learn more about cloud printing.

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