While vendors such as Epson and HP have significantly reduced the cost of inkjet printing over the last several years - in some cases matching or beating the total cost per page from comparable laser printers - inkjets aimed at the home market still tend to feature low-capacity and relatively expensive ink tanks. This has encouraged some users to buy aftermarket tanks or refill kits, with mixed results in terms of quality and print head longevity.
Epson is changing that with the introduction of its new EcoTank range of home and home office all-in-one inkjets.
"Our EcoTank system is paradigm-shifting," said Epson Australia managing director Bruno Turcato.
The range comprises the Expression ET-2500, Expression ET-2550 and WorkForce ET-4500 intended for home use, and the WorkForce ET-4550 for home offices.
When the ink does run out, it's just a matter of refilling the tanks, and bottles of ink cost just $16.99 - far less than some manufacturers charge for an ink tank containing far less ink, yet they yield around 4,000 black and white pages and 6,500 colour pages. A large black ink bottle for the ET-4550 is a little more expensive at $24.99, but is good for 6,000 pages.
The ET-2500 is an entry-level print/scan/copy device, but offers scan resolutions of up to 2400dpi and compatibility with Android and iOS devices via Epson’s free iPrint app.
The ET-2550 (pictured above) adds a 1.44in colour LCD screen, Wi-Fi Direct so devices can use the printer without connecting to the main network, AirPrint support for iOS devices, and Google Cloud Print support for printing from tablets, smartphones, Chromebooks and the Google Chrome browser.
The ET-4500 features a 2.2in screen as well as a 30 page automatic document feeder.
The top of the range WorkForce ET-4550 features Epson's PrecisionCore 'like a laser, only better' inkjet technology - faster, more cost effective, more reliable and better for the environment, according to Epson Australia consumer division general manager of sales and marketing Bruce Bealby - plus tanks that hold enough ink to print up to 11,000 pages in black and 8,500 in colour, and auto two-sided printing.
Epson's research shows that users are frustrated by interrupted print jobs caused by limited ink capacity, the inconvenience of having to purchase replacement tanks ('Which type do I need?' and 'Where should I buy them?'), and the high cost of ink, Bealby said.
But he warned that the EcoTank range is "not for all our customers" - those printing as few as five to ten pages a week are unlikely to benefit from the reduced running costs.
Also, these printers do a decent job of photo printing judging by a sample shown at the launch event, but they don't equal Epson's Photo range and they don't offer borderless prints.
These new models reverse the usual approach of selling cheap printers and expensive inks. The list prices are $449 for the Expression ET-2500, $499 for the ET-2550, $599 for the WorkForce ET-4500 and $699 for the WorkForce ET-4550, but based on our experience with inkjet printers you wouldn't have to print all that many pages to come out ahead over two or three years.
Note that your choice of model determines where you need to buy it. The Expression ET-2550 and the WorkForce ET-4550 are available now from Harvey Norman, while the Expression ET-2500 and the WorkForce ET-4500 are sold through Bing Lee, JB HiFi and The Good Guys.
The usual one-year warranty applies unless you register the purchase online with Epson within 30 days, in which case it is extended to two years.