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Does Epson's New 2-Year Ink Cartridge Really Save You Money?

A higher than average price tag makes these printers a bad investment for the occasional home user.
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Epson EcoTank

It's been called one of the most expensive liquids on the planet, oftentimes topping the per-ounce price of a fine wine or expensive champagne. No, we're not talking about gasoline — although that can be expensive too — we're referring to printer ink.

However, Epson is hoping to change that with its new line of printers that promise to save you money and make replacing empty ink cartridges a thing of the past. Epson's new EcoTank printers feature massive "ink reservoirs" called SuperTanks that the company says you'll only need to replenish every two years, at a fraction of the cost of traditional inkjet printers.

The End of the Ink Cartridge?

Each of the company's five new printers comes fully loaded out of the box. According to Epson, the amount of ink you get will allow you to print up to 4,000 black pages (6,500 color pages) on the entry-level model and as many as 20,000 black pages (20,000 color pages) on the high-end, business model. Refills will cost $13 per bottle or $52 for a complete set of four bottles.

By comparison, Epson's current line of printers can only output around 220 pages before requiring an ink refill. Moreover, after-market kits, which are the best way to save money on ink refills, don't work with Epson's printers. As a result, 90% of all pages printed in North America are printed in black-and-white only, according to Epson. So far those SuperTanks are looking more and more appealing. Unfortunately, there is a catch.

High Price of Admission

These days it's possible to get a cheap inkjet printer for as low as $20. Ink cartridge prices can vary, but we've seen cartridge packs range from $6 to about $24. Epson's new printers, however, won't function with off-market ink cartridges and the printers themselves will start at $379 for the basic home model and climb as high as $1,199 for the top-of-the-line business model. That's a lot of money for any type of printer.

Epson is essentially trying to change the way the printing industry works. Currently, manufacturers take a loss on hardware sales and recoup their money by selling expensive printer ink. (Which is why we recommend third-party ink whenever possible). HP even invented a subscription service complete with "rollover pages" that was designed to save you money on ink.

Epson's new model would demand more upfront cost and less going forward, perhaps meaning more printing in the long term.

Based on Epson's numbers, it would take a standard home printer approximately 20 sets of cartridges to print the same number of pages included with the equivalent EcoTank printer. However, Epson is basing its numbers on average monthly print volumes of about 150 pages just for the entry-level models. So before you purchase any printer, ask if you're printing that much in the first place.

Paperless Society

When they debut next month, Epson's new printers will definitely impact the industry and they're bound to make life easier and cheaper for many people. But the real question is, how much are you printing?

For a small or large business, these printers have the potential to save money. However, for a home user who prints a few pages per month, buying one of these printers may actually be more expensive. With apps, email, and the cloud making document sharing easier than ever, printing may eventually go the way of the fax.

Will you invest in one of these new printers? Or are you trying to phase out your paper usage? Let us know in the comments below.


Senior Writer Emeritus

With over a decade of experience covering technology, Louis Ramirez has written for CNET, Laptop, Gizmodo, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @louisramirez.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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9 comments
MacsAre1
I bought a large format printer for business. Since I moved and took a new job, my printer is still in the box 7 months later.
OkieDealKing
With my Epson WF 3520 MFD I buy copycat cartridges off Ebay that ending up being about a buck something a piece. Zero long term issues with either the printer or the the carts going on 3 years now. When the printer dies I'll throw it away and repeat the process. The small or home business market is huge though and I can see those folks jumping on the chance to not have to worry about replacing ink so frequently. I suspect the gonzo tank inkjets also offer cheaper color graphics printing at a lower price point than I would suspect color lasers do as well - another small business attraction with in house graphics shops. You can bet the Epson number nerds have crunched all the numbers to the nth degree and have calculated that at least for the short term this could be a money-maker for the company.
vmnrao
Just want to join the crowd with the CISS clogging up the print heads over time. Switched to a cheap B&W laser printer and have never looked back.
gorilla800
I've used the aftermarket CISS continuous ink systems sold on ebay for years. I have printed approximately 35000 legal pages of text plus countless other images on my WF-7520 over the past 2 years and my ink cost including the cost of the initial system has been about $125 and I still have a years worth of ink! OEM carts would have cost over a thousand bucks. Yes I'm using aftermarket inks but I cannot tell the difference and I'm a stickler for ink color. I would not use this for photos that I plan to keep but this has been a great savings for me and far less than the price Epson will be charging for their own CISS. By the way, I have been using Epson printers almost exclusively since the mid 90's and I've had fewer clogging issues with this printer than any I've owned. This is the third or fourth printer that I've hooked up with a CISS-it takes only a little more time to install than changing a set of carts.
Discount_Dan
The last Epson printer I had drank like a sailor.
waynehom
Yeah, I don't know about having ink sit in a tank for 2 years. Even with regular light use, I think the ink will thicken up and end up clogging the lines and/or printheads. At least with bottled ink refills, you can shake it up before refilling. Refillable small tanks would be better.
mushen2009
Well I guess you then have to compare these to a laser printer if you are going to print in volume.
denverphotopro
I would never buy another Epson printer until they make user-replaceable printheads.
dennisavitali
good line "So before you purchase any printer, ask if you're printing that much in the first place." Be careful, I have also noticed that in-frequent use causes the inks to clog up making them useless with a almost full ink supply.
Dennis