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Fill ‘er up! Epson’s EcoTank ET-2850 wastes less so you can print more

The Epson EcoTank ET-2850 is a versatile all-in-one with good photo print quality.
Epson EcoTank ET-2850
MSRP $350.00
“Epson's EcoTank ET-2850 costs a little more upfront, but includes more than a year's supply of ink and great quality.”
Pros
  • Large ink reservoirs last a long time
  • Ink levels visible at a glance
  • Great print quality
  • Very high-resolution scans
  • Two-year warranty
Cons
  • Print speed is a bit slow
  • Mobile app setup didn't work
  • Blueish tone to some prints

Epson knows how frustrating ink cartridges can be, which inspired the creation of its EcoTank printer. With large, refillable tanks, your inkjet lasts a long time without needing to fuss with ink. When it is time to top up the EcoTank, you refill from bottles, eliminating the waste that is inherent with ink cartridges.

It sounds like a great idea, so we put it to the test to see how well it works with the low-cost Epson EcoTank ET-2850 all-in-one printer.

Design

The Epson EcoTank ET-2850 is attractive and small for an all-in-one.
The Epson EcoTank ET-2850 is attractive and small for an all-in-one. Image used with permission by copyright holder

The EcoTank ET-2850 looks attractive with a neutral white body that can blend into the home and office, or in black if you prefer. It’s very compact for an all-in-one, measuring 17.6 by 22.3 inches and standing just 10.7 inches tall.

Epson wants you to know this is no mere ordinary inkjet, and visible ink reservoirs on the front panel do the trick. The cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink tanks have translucent panels that show the remaining ink. You can’t make out the individual colors behind the plastic, but it’s reassuring to see the ink levels and massive printing capacity at a glance.

You fill these reservoirs from Epson ink bottles, which each hold enough ink for over a year of printing. It’s easy: Just unscrew the bottle, tip it into the correct tank, and wait until the printer drinks its fill. A diagram inside the printer reminds you not to squeeze the bottles during refilling, in case you forget in the long period between. To completely fill black takes over a minute, but colors only need about 30 seconds each.

Epson notes that some of included ink gets used in the initial setup to charge the system. Future replacement inks should provide more prints per bottle.

The center panel tilts up for easy viewing and contains a 1.4-inch color display with buttons on either side for operation. The display guides you through tasks with ease, but two of the buttons have unusual symbols that can be confusing on such a small display. A touchscreen would have been more convenient.

The small display and unusual buttons are a bit confusing.
The small display and unusual buttons are a bit confusing. Image used with permission by copyright holder

The paper tray at the back holds up to 100 sheets, which is on the low side, but the Epson EcoTank ET-2850 isn’t a business printer, so that’s not a problem. You’ll probably be switching between plain and photo paper regularly. The clearly labeled tray lets you know which side faces up when loading paper, and the size guides are easy to adjust.

Printing performance

The Epson EcoTank ET-2850 has great photo print quality, but watch out for blue tints
The Epson EcoTank ET-2850 has great photo print quality, but watch out for blue tints. Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Epson EcoTank ET-2850 isn’t the fastest printer, but you probably won’t mind unless you expect it to blast through a stack of documents quickly. Black-and-white documents print at about 10 pages per minute (ppm), while color cuts that in half. If you want speed, laser printers are often much faster than inkjets when printing several pages.

Photo prints on 4-by-6-inch paper come out quickly and look great. The print resolution is 4800-by-1200 dpi, eliminating pixelation in high-quality photos. The EcoTank ET-2850 prints are crisp and colorful enough to satisfy my daily printing needs and might even suffice for special projects. If you need more vivid and precise color, Epson makes 6-color EcoTank printers dedicated to photo-quality printing for professionals.

I did notice a slight blue tint a couple of times, but after setting the paper type to Photo Quality Ink Jet, the photos came out with accurate tones. I chose this setting even when printing on glossy paper.

Special features

The Epson EcoTank ET-2850's flatbed scanner works well and captures great detail.
The Epson EcoTank ET-2850’s flatbed scanner works well and captures great detail. Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Epson EcoTank ET-2850 is an all-in-one printer that includes a flatbed scanner. It can scan at up to 1,200 dpi resolution, four times that of some competing printers. Scanning with that much detail takes about two minutes for an entire page, but it preserves every detail. This rivals the resolution of some of the best dedicated scanners.

An OCR feature can save a scanned document as a searchable PDF, a special feature. The OCR quality varies and works best with high-quality, modern documents. An old essay that I pounded out on a typewriter many years ago was clear to my eyes, but gave the OCR some trouble.

The EcoTank ET-2850 can also serve as a copier and includes an option to reduce or enlarge documents. Epson also offers free templates available to get you started with creative projects.

Software and compatibility

Epson’s EcoTank ET-2850 is compatible with Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. You don’t have to install drivers on Windows PC or Mac, but getting the latest software is a good idea to ensure access to every feature. iPhone and Android apps let you check ink levels and print remotely.

Installing the mobile app on your smartphone and following instructions is the quickest method for many printers, but the Epson SmartPanel app couldn’t connect to the EcoTank ET-2850 from my iPhone or Android phone for some reason.

After several minutes, I switched to manual setup, which was much simpler. I recommend installing the EcoTank ET-2850 with the physical buttons and display to avoid this hassle. Connecting via a smartphone or computer was easy after setup was complete.

Adding ink to the Epson EcoTank ET-2850.
The Epson EcoTank ET-2850 comes with a massive supply of ink. Alan Truly / Digital Trends

I began testing with my iPhone and immediately noticed that I had to set the paper size on the printer and in the mobile app whenever I changed paper. If I walked away, forgetting to select the media type and size, I had to return to the printer before printing. Thankfully, you can switch off these annoying warnings by turning off “Error Notice” under the settings for paper source.

Price

After all of these prints, the ink barely dropped below initial levels.
After all of these prints, the ink barely dropped below initial levels. Digital Trends

The Epson EcoTank ET-2850 retails for $350 but is often on sale for around $300. It comes with four starter bottles of ink. According to Epson, a complete set of ink bottles lasts for up to two years of printing. That sounds like an unbelievably long time, but I can verify that the ink tanks are massive. The ink levels barely moved even after 26 color documents, 29 4×6 photo prints, and two full-page borderless color photo prints.

Epson estimates the ink in a set of bottles is equivalent to 90 ink cartridges totaling over $1,000 in cost. By that measure, the EcoTank ET-2850 is an incredible bargain. The included ink bottles state 6,500 estimated pages for black and 5,200 estimated for color. The yield for future replacement ink bottles should be 7,500 pages for black and 6,000 for color.

Epson includes a very generous two-year warranty, twice as long as most printers in this price range. You might want to set the EcoTank ET-2850 as your default printer to take advantage of its long warranty and nearly endless supply of ink.

Is this the printer for you?

It’s hard to go wrong with the Epson EcoTank ET-2850. For home use, this is a great all-in-one that takes all of the hassle out of ink replacement. After the initial setup, you’ll only need to visit the printer to change paper, make copies, or scan.

There are a few nagging issues with the software that could make setup harder than it should be and the paper change warning was quite annoying until I figured out how to turn it off. Most things work well, but I never could get double-sided printing to work from any device, even a Windows PC.

The upfront cost is higher than budget printer models, but if you intend to print frequently, you come out way ahead after just a few months. With the EcoTank ET-2850, your biggest constraint is paper, not ink. If you expect to print long documents or color prints in high volume, the slower speed might become an issue.

Beyond that, the Epson EcoTank ET-2850 is a great all-in-one inkjet with great photo printing quality that I’d recommend to anyone that wants to avoid the waste and expense associated with ink cartridges.

Alan Truly
Alan is a Computing Writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. A tech-enthusiast since his youth, Alan stays current on what is…
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