It’s not often you come across an inkjet printer with enough ink supplied in the box to get you past the first few weeks, let alone beyond, so when Epson got in touch with details of a printer that comes with with enough ink to last up to two years, I was instantly intrigued.
And long lasting ink isn’t the only big selling point. The Epson EcoTank ET-3600 also claims to offer a 74% reduction in print costs. That’s pretty incredible.
So how much can you save. Well, to give an example, I worked out printing a 100 page Word document on a low/mid end inkjet would be around £2 – £3 in ink costs, with the EcoTank ET-3600 it should cost around 23 pence.
But how do they do it? Well it’s all thanks to the EcoTank system.
Most inkjet printers are well known for their “razor and blades” business model, with low upfront costs offset by low starting quantities of ink and typically pricey cartridge refills, which can quickly end up costing more than the printer itself. It’s not an ideal model for the consumer but until recently, there hasn’t been much of an alternative.
The EcoTank system is different, doing away with ink cartridges entirely.
When ink is running low you refill the printer by simply pouring ink directly into one of the four tanks (black, cyan, magenta, yellow).
The tanks are huge (140ml for the black and 70ml each for colour), and I found filling them is just as easy as replacing a cartridge. When replacing your bottles, a black 140ML bottle retails at £12.99, while cyan, magenta and yellow 70ML bottles are £8.49 each. A full set will give you a yield of 6,000 black and white and 6,500 colour pages.
I just opened up the side, removed the rubber caps and poured in the liquid.
I was honestly expecting this to be horribly time consuming and really messy. I was fearful for my table top, but the whole process took about 5 minutes and was totally mess-free.
Like with any printer it’s best to have some kitchen roll handy just in case you do get any ink on your fingers, but I found it a very clean process. You empty the whole bottle into each tank, so you don’t have to store half used ones, and they’re recyclable too.
As you can see, the sides of the ink tank are actually translucent, so you’ll be able to get a visual indicator of how much ink you have left (in addition to the usual on-printer warnings when you’re running low).
Once filled up and plugged in, you’re greeted by a simple 5.6cm monochrome display. While quite plain, I personally like the minimal interface, and it suits the understated design of the rest of the printer. The only downside to a small display is that longer messages take a second to scroll across the screen.
The printer looks large at first glance, but in fact its footprint is relatively small at 48.9 x 30 x 16.9 cm – quite long, but not very deep, so it should fit any larger shelf or desk.
The printer can be connected via USB, Ethernet or Wi-Fi. I chose Wi-Fi due to the convenience of not have to have it plugged into my computer, and being able to print from any device on the family’s network. The set-up process to connect it to my Wi-Fi network was simple, and can be done from the printer itself or by attaching a USB cable and doing it through the computer.
The included software can be used on Windows or Macs, but if all you want to do is print or scan without any extra bells or whistles the software just gets out of the way, which I like.
For smartphones and devices, you can download Epson’s iPrint app for Apple and Android devices to print documents directly, as well as receive scans. We found we could print from Jay’s art app straight to the printer via WiFi without downloading the app.
The printer also has an SD card reader for printing documents and photos, and offers “Scan to Cloud” option, which uploads scans directly to your cloud storage of choice (e.g. Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive). These are great options if I want to get a document into my phone or over to the printer quickly without having to go through my desktop.
The internal paper tray can hold 150 sheets of A4 paper, which is pretty average, but since the printer has such a great ink capacity, it would be great if the paper tray was a little bigger.
I like that the tray is internal, as it looks tidier and it means the paper doesn’t get dusty or curl up if it isn’t used for a few weeks. The printer can also able to handle letters and photos, so it’s a good, solid family or home office machine.
Now call me a nerd, but when a gadget promises certain specs, I like to make sure it’s living up to its word. I can’t say I’ve printed 10,000 documents just yet, but I was able to test the printer’s performance in terms of speed and quality.
I first printed a standard 100-page black and white Word document at normal quality, which took 8m 9s, which equates to 12.25 pages per minute – very close to the advertised rate of 13ppm. The text quality is good if not better than you’d expect from a printer in this price range with rich, crisp blacks and very little spidering.
A full colour 20 page document took 3m 40s, which equates to 5.45 – again, not far off the advertised rate of 7.3 – while a full A4 colour photo took 38 seconds.
The quality of colour prints is very good, with no noticeable colour banding or saturation issues. As with any printer, if you want the best colour prints you can get then it’s important to configure the printer profile settings correctly. The type of paper you use will play a big part in how the end results look too.
Black and white and colour photocopying are both quick, and colour reproduction is very good. I colour photocopied the front of a clothing catalogue and it was actually hard to tell the difference between the copy and the original.
Noise-wise, it’s not terrible. Printing at night, you’d want to close the office door, but I’ve certainly had noisier printers in the past.
Overall, I’m pleased with the print quality and speed of the EcoTank ET-3600. With a retail value of around £400, it certainly isn’t the cheapest inkjet on the market, but some of that cost is taken up by the generous two full sets of black and colour refills supplied in the box, and the remaining investment is easily justified by the speed and quality of the print.
I can see this model doing well in busy homes or small offices that do a lot of printing and are willing to invest in higher than average upfront costs for long term savings.
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Epson supplied the printers for review and giveaway