The high price of printer ink has been a source of frustration for many consumers. In the fall of 2015, Epson® switched things up with the release of their EcoTank® series, a continuous ink system printer that hopes to shake up the print industry and get people to reconsider their relationship with ink.
What we’ve found is that depending on your printing habits, the savings may not be all that remarkable.
Like other Epson printers under the Workforce® umbrella, the EcoTank series features a few different models, each with varying price points and features. The ET-2550 series is intended for the average home user and includes enough ink to print up to 4,000 black pages and 6,500 color pages. Epson sells the machine for $299.99 and each ink tank sells for $12.99 each. On paper the ET-2550 seems like a very enticing option and for the right customer it might be. But if you only print occasionally, the overall cost savings is minimal.
A recent Consumer Reports survey found that the average user prints 23 pages of text, nine pages of graphics and about nine photos per month. After testing the 2550 against similarly classed standard inkjet printers, they found that the cost savings of the EcoTank only begins to add up after five years.
Most consumers replace their machines after a couple of years, and according to recent consumer questions and reviews, full confidence on the actual longevity of the EcoTank series remains to be seen.
If you print only a few times a month, you are better off paying for aftermarket or third-party ink cartridges on an as-needed basis.
The price of most aftermarket ink cartridges is on par with the Eco Tank series, allowing consumers the freedom to spend money on ink as they need it, rather than paying for the printer and ink upfront.
As the printers in the EcoTank series get more expensive, the savings become considerably more suspect.
For example, the Ecotank WF-R4640 is designed with the small business owner in mind and at first glance, its print capabilities are compelling. Instead of the ink tank system, a black and a color ink pack is included with each printer. Every bag has enough ink to yield 20,000 pages per color, a competitive value for any business oriented machine. The savings get murky when you start comparing the upfront cost of the machine and consumables to a comparable, but far less expensive Epson inkjet.
A $950 Price Difference on Printers
Action Intell notes, in terms of features, the standard (non-EcoTank) functioning WF-4640 is incredibly similar to the EcoTank WF-R4640. Both have the same print speed and identical print, scan, and fax capabilities. Other than the ink system, the main difference is the price tag. The EcoTank sells for $1,199.99 while the standard WF-4640 is only $249.99, just on printer price alone you would already be ahead $950 sticking with a conventional Epson Workforce.
Bring the cost of ink into the fold and the cost of the EcoTank continues to add up. The EcoTank’s 20,000 page high yield black ink bag costs $179.99, and each color goes for $99.99 apiece. We did a bit of math to figure out what the cost would be for a compatible cartridge if you wanted to match that same 20,000 page yield offered by the EcoTank, and the savings on compatible ink is significant. If bought in a bundle, a 2,600 yield compatible black ink cartridge costs $9.00*. You would need to spend around $69.30, or buy 7.7 compatible cartridges to match the 20,000 page yield offered by one black EcoTank ink pack. Each compatible color cartridge also goes for $9.00 when bought in a bundle, and yields 2,000 pages. You would need to spend $270 to buy the 30 color cartridges needed to match the 20,000 page color ink pack.
When all is said and done, if you look at the total cost of the EcoTank printer alone ($1,199.99) and subtract it from the total cost of a new WF-4640 printer ($249.99) plus the number of cartridges needed to give you a yield of 20,000 pages ($339.30), you would be ahead $610.70. We’ve broken down the math for each cartridge in the chart below.
For some business owners, the EcoTank series simply may not be worth the money. If you really crunch the numbers, you can buy 60,000 pages worth of compatible ink sticking with a conventional Workforce before you break even on the EcoTank. (339.30 x 3 =$1,017.90).
In general, new technology like the EcoTank series is promising. Manufacturers are slowly moving away from usual razor-and-blades model that’s dominated the printer market for decades, and ink tank system printers could be the new normal in a few short years. For now, a cheaper printer paired with compatible cartridges is still the best choice for most. But with other manufacturers like HP® and Brother® coming out with similar ink tank systems shortly, it will be interesting to see what sort of impact continuous ink will have on the market. No matter what printer you choose to go with, always scrutinize the cost in the long term. Print manufacturers are quick to sell you their latest and greatest machine but if you peel back that new coat of paint, the innovation and overall cost may be underwhelming.
*Savings based on price comparison between remanufactured/compatible cartridge prices and printer brand (OEM) cartridges effective as of March 1, 2016 on www.LDProducts.com. OEM names are registered trademarks of their respective owners and are not affiliated with, and do not endorse LD Products.