Epson Ecotank L555 review
Inkjet printers are traditionally sold at very low prices, and the manufacturers then make most of their profit by charging really high prices for the replacement ink cartridges. That's starting to change, though, with both HP and Epson recently launching new printers that adopt different pricing models. We weren't entirely convinced by HP's ‘instant ink' subscription service, but Epson's new Ecotank printers take a much more radical approach.
The Ecotank printers genuinely turn the traditional printer business on its head, with a higher initial purchase price for the printer itself but much lower costs for ink supplies. And, instead of using small ink cartridges that can only print a few hundred pages at a time, the Ecotank printers have large built-in ink tanks that can hold enough ink to print several thousand pages. (
Epson Ecotank L555 review: exploring the Ecotank range
There are currently two printers available in the Ecotank range. The L555 reviewed here is a four-in-one multifunction device that costs £330 and includes a 5760x1440dpi printer, 1200dpi scanner and copier, along with a fax machine and 30-page document feeder. It provides USB and wifi connectivity, but there's no Ethernet, which seems like an oversight in a printer that will primarily appeal to business users. The 100-sheet paper tray also seems a little small for a printer that needs to run at high volumes in order to maximize savings.
There's also a less expensive model called the L355, which has essentially the same specification but omits the fax machine and document feeder, bringing the price down to £250.
Rather than inserting a set of small ink cartridges into the print mechanism, the L555 has a set of large ink tanks bolted onto the right-hand side of the printer. It's a clever idea, but filling the L555 up with ink for the first time is a bit nerve-wracking, as you have to unhook the tanks from the side of the machine and then squirt the ink in using four separate bottles for the cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks.
Epson quotes speeds of 9 pages per minute for mono printing and 4.5 pages for colour. We actually got 8.5 and 4 pages per minute respectively, which is fairly modest for a printer in this price range. We can't fault the print quality, though, as the L555 produces text that is close to laser-quality, and good graphics output. It can also produce bright and bold photo output when using glossy photo papers. Again, a speed of three minutes for an A4 photo print isn't particularly fast, but the quality is more than adequate for printing marketing brochures and product photos.
Epson Ecotank L555 review: cheap to run
The real attraction, though, is the long-term cost of using the printer. The L555 costs £330, and includes enough ink to print 4000 mono pages and 6,500 pages in colour. We estimate that producing the same number of pages with a conventional inkjet printer would cost more than £500 in ink alone. That makes the L555 a real bargain in the long run, even if the initial purchase price is relatively high.
Replacement inks are very affordable too. A bottle of black ink costs £8 and will last for another 4000 pages, which works out at just 0.2p per page. The three coloured inks also cost £8 each but last for 6,500 pages, which comes to just under 0.4p per page. Those prices are far lower than any conventional inkjet printer currently available, so you'll definitely save a lot of money in the long run.
If you just need a personal printer for occasional use then you may still be better off buying a conventional low-cost inkjet printer. However, the Ecotank printers offer big savings for businesses that need to print text and graphics documents on a daily basis. There are a few rough edges, but Epson's Ecotank printers represent a real breakthrough in the cost of printing.