By now, most of us are aware of the ‘game’ played by printer manufacturers: Offer an inkjet or small-office laser printer at a price lower than the cost of manufacturing, then make significant profits on the exorbitantly priced printer cartridges, known as “consumables” by industry insiders. Epson, with their new line of Ecotank SOHO (Small Office/Home Office) inkjet printers seeks to bring back some honesty to the retail inkjet printer market by pricing both the printer and the ink more honestly, and also doing away with inkjet cartridges by using durable print heads and refillable CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, & Black) ink tanks that Epson calls “Supertanks.”
Finance Colombia got its hands on an Epson L455 printer, provided courtesy of the manufacturer, to test for suitability as a printer for a small, workgroup, or home office. Already released in Colombia, and several other global markets, the Ecotank Printers are scheduled for a September, 2015 release in the North American market. We will report back after putting the printer through a thousand or so pages.
Setting up the printer was a straightforward affair, though for some odd reason, the printer, if connecting through the Wi-Fi connection, temporarily disrupts the computer’s connection to the router. A CD is provided that has software for both PCs and Macs. The printer also comes with a 3-foot USB cable for direct computer connections.
There are four ink bottles in the package. According to Epson, these should provide up to 20 times the capacity as a set of ink cartridges; up to 4000 black pages, and up to 6,500 color pages. Printing this much purchasing standard cartridges could cost up to $800, so the new Ecotank system offers significant savings on TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). According to an advertising circular for Office Depot in Medellin for August, 2015, the refill bottles are on sale for $28,800 COP, or under $10 USD each, thanks to Colombia’s weak peso. The same flyer lists the Epson Ecotank Inkjet Printer at a sale price of $524,250 COP ($170.49 USD as of 30 August) reflecting a 25% discount off the normal price of $699,000 COP ($227.32 USD).
A word of caution: be very careful, and prepared in advance to fill the four ink tanks. Be very careful, and be sure to get each bottle of ink in the correct tank. Who knows what fate befalls the user who messes this procedure up. Getting the wrong ink in the wrong tank may very well be an irreversible error. We were unable to fill the tanks without getting a few stray drops of ink on the desktop, and without soiling our hands with ink, which took a day to fade away. Do not wear important clothes when filling the tanks, and if you are clumsy, just get someone more dexterous to perform this task.
Once the tanks are full and the printer has been fully connected, the printer must initialize, and prime the print heads with ink. This automated process will take approximately 20 minutes, and until this process is complete, you will not be able to print anything.
Print quality and print speed is good. For some reason, the first few pages were tricky, and seemed to jam. This problem went away after a couple of days of printing. There is a setting to limit the speed on the fastest settings to prevent feed errors. Epson does not call this a photo printer and does not claim that it prints photo quality. The standard print dialogue box does not include photo quality settings. However, there is a photo printing application packaged with the installed software. We tested these settings printing several photos on Covers Design brand calcium coated matte 8×10” 4800 dpi 110 gram-weight and high gloss 4×6” 180 gram-weight photo paper. The photo quality was better than expected! This printer will be no match for dedicated graphic arts printers purpose built to print photographs with higher quality colorfast inks, but using inkjet photo paper, and the provided software, that apparently optimizes settings for this line of printer, the Ecoprint line will have no trouble serving as office or home printers that are called upon to print occasional photographs for framing, presentations, or projects. Just remember, this is an office/home printer that can print acceptable photographs, it is not a dedicated graphic arts/photography printer.
One annoyance: There is another intermittent problem of ink staining on photographs that takes place outside the margins, on the bottom of the printed page. This does not happen every time, and we could not figure out what the cause was.
The scanner worked well using either the Windows dialogue, or the Epson scanning software. The document scanning shows notable improvements in the contrast and resolution over previous versions. The scan quality is more than adequate for office or home purposes, but again, this is an all-in-one device and it would be unreasonable to expect this to perform at the level of purpose built photography scanners.
Scanning and copying can be done from the control panel, and don’t necessarily need computer inputs. The computer also has an integrated SD memory card slot, and can print directly from an SD card without requiring the use of a computer. The Wi-Fi connectivity is stable and can connect the printer to one or more computers simultaneously. The printer can be set up and operated without ever using the included USB cable.
We will report back in a month with a progress report and judgment on the L455’s ongoing use, reliability, and any glitches that appear (or don’t).