Epson EcoTank ET-8550 is different to dedicated A3+/13x19-inch dedicated inkjet photo printers being much more more of a multi-purpose, multi-function device. This all-in-one printer has a pigment-based black ink for delivering crisp black text, along with five dye-based inks for photo output, comprising cyan, magenta, yellow, photo black and grey.
The grey ink not only enhances the color space but also enables greater fidelity for black & white photo printing. That’s ok up to a point, but it comes up short compared with A3+ printers like the pigment-based Epson SureColor P700 and Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300, and the dye-based Canon PIXMA PRO-200, which run on ten inks and eight inks respectively. As specialist photo printers, these have a significantly wider color space or gamut, compared with the ET-8550, as well as having a larger range of black and grey inks for superior black & white photo printing.
Epson EcoTank ET-8550 specs
Inks/type: 1x pigment black, 5x dye
Max print size: A3+/13x19-inch, 2m panoramic
Max print resolution: 5700x1440dpi
Input trays: 2x cassette, 1x CD, 2x rear feeder
Scanner: 1200x4800dpi, 8.5x14 inches
Display screen: 10.9cm colour touchscreen
Interfaces: Hi-speed USB, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, SD/HC/XC
Dimensions (WxDxH): 523x379x169mm
Epson EcoTank ET-8550: features
As with other Epson EcoTank printers, a key feature of the ET-8550 is that it has tanks of ink, rather than cartridges, which are replenished via 70ml bottles, at a cost of around $17.50/£16 each. That compares very favorably with printers like the 6-ink, cartridge-based Epson Expression Photo XP-970 A3/11-inch model, which only has 9ml of ink even in its ‘XL’ cartridges, at a similar cost of around £16/$17 each. Epson says that the ink cost is reduced by around 80 per cent overall and that, for photos, it comes down from around 40c/40p to about 4c/4p per 6x4-inch print. The flip side is that the ET-8500 costs nearly three times as much to buy in the first place.
Although 70ml looks and sounds like a lot of ink per bottle, it’s worth bearing in mind that Epson’s large-format A3+/13-inch SureColor P700 and A2/17-inch SureColor P900 printers run on upsized 25ml and 50ml cartridges. For the latter, there’s not a huge difference in the capacity of cartridges versus bottles. Even so, P900 cartridges cost around $42/£38 each so are much pricier than replacement ink bottles.
Another factor is that the SureColor printers are sold with low-capacity ‘setup’ cartridges, which only last for a few large-format prints, so you’d need to buy an expensive full set of replacement cartridges very quickly. By stark contrast, the ET-8500 impressively comes with a set of full-capacity 70ml ink bottles, sufficient for printing around 2,300 6x4-inch photo prints.
As a printer that’s much better suited to office work than specialist large-format photo printers, the ET-8500 features multiple input cassettes for loading different types and sizes of paper, auto duplex printing, and a large-format 8.5x14-inch scanner to enable direct scanning and photocopying. Everything’s brought together by a handy 10.9cm color touchscreen with an intuitive interface and, for remote operation via a smartphone or tablet, there’s the ‘Epson Smart Panel’ app. Connectivity options include USB, Wi-Fi and Ethernet, and the printer also features an SD/HC/XC card slot and PictBridge port.
For printing on larger-format paper up to A3+/13x17-inch, there’s an upright feeder which pulls up from the back of the printer, plus a horizontal feeder that enables you to print banners and panoramic photos up to 2m in length, as well as allowing for specialist media up to 1.3mm thick.
Epson EcoTank ET-8550: Performance
Setting up the printer is very straightforward and only takes about 20 minutes, from taking it out of the box and removing all the packing tape and protective inserts, through filling the ink tanks, to competing the 7-minute automatic initialization process. Subsequent optional extras that are well worth carrying out are a nozzle check and print head alignment routine. The latter uses six sheets of plain paper, loaded into the lower input cassette. The output tray is motorized, which is a nice touch.
Print speeds are rapid in standard photo quality mode. In our tests, printing 6x4, A4 and A3+ borderless color photos on glossy paper took 22 seconds, 1 minute and 2 minutes respectively. However, switching to high quality mode kills the speed, with the same sizes of borderless color photo prints taking a lengthy 1 minute 25 seconds, 4 minutes, and 9 minutes 22 seconds. The latter set of speeds is the same when using Black & White Photo mode, in which only a high quality setting is available. Those speeds are slow compared with most dye-based, cartridge-fuelled printers, but still quicker than Canon’s A4/8.5-inch PIXMA G650 ‘MegaTank’ printer, which runs on six photo-friendly dye-based inks.
For photo quality, the ET-8850 does very well. Inkjet printers traditionally struggle to produce bold, bright reds but, despite lacking the additional red ink of the Canon PIXMA G650, and not even featuring light cyan and light magenta inks, the Epson produces rich, bright and vibrant color rendition. Indeed, the ‘Photo Enhance’ feature is switched on by default and can make colors look a little too saturated and artificial. We found it best to use the ‘Custom’ color management setting and switch Photo Enhance off, especially if you’ve edited your images for best effect. Again, despite featuring only one photo black and one grey cartridge, black & white photo output is also impressive, with good definition and tonal range. Even so, it can’t compete with high-end pigment-based photo printers for rich, deep blacks on matte photo paper and fine art media.
Epson EcoTank ET-8550: Verdict
There’s a lot to like in this large-format printer, including its upsized scanner, handy 10.9cm color touchscreen, memory card slot and wide range of connectivity options. It’s a good compromise for printing both documents and photos, and while it lacks the outright photo quality of more specialist A3+/13-inch photo printers like the Canon PIXMA PRO-200, Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300 and Epson SureColor P700, it produces punchy output for both color and black & white photos.
It’s fairly pricey to buy but cheap running costs should see you breaking even before too long, while also avoiding the hassle of ink cartridges constantly running dry.
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