Many printer consumers have been troubled by high cartridge prices for some time. Last fall, Epson changed things up with their EcoTank® printer line, a continuous ink system that hopes to get customers (and the print industry) to reconsider their relationship with ink.
But depending on your printing habits, the savings may not be all that remarkable.
The EcoTank series includes a few different models, all of which are under the Workforce® umbrella. The ET-2550 is the most basic model of the bunch and is intended for home office users. Epson sells the printer for $299.99 it includes enough ink to print up to 4,000 black pages and 6,500 color pages. Each ink tank goes for $12.99 apiece. 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.
Consumer Reports conducted some independent research when the series was first released and their 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.
It is fairly common for consumers to replace their printer after a few years, and due to the newness of the series, the longevity of the Ecotank series remains to be seen.
If you print a few times a month you might be better off paying for compatible ink cartridges as needed.
Compare the price and you’ll find that many compatible cartridges are on par with the Eco Tank series. Compatibles allow consumers the freedom to spend money on ink as they need it, rather than paying for the printer and ink upfront.
As the EcoTank series increases in price the savings are harder to find. The Ecotank WF-R4640 is ideal for small business owners 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 and every bag holds enough ink to yield 20,000 pages per color. The savings become a bit suspect 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 confirmed, in terms of features, that the standard functioning WF-4640 series is very similar to the EcoTank WF-R4640. Both have an identical print speed and the same print, scan, and fax capabilities. Other than the ink system, the main difference is the cost of the machine. Epson sells the EcoTank for $1,199.99 while the WF-4640 is only $249.99, just on printer price alone you would be ahead $950 if you were to choose the conventional Epson Workforce.
If you add in the price of ink the operating cost of the EcoTank continues to add up. The EcoTank’s 20,000 page high yield black ink bag is sold for $179.99, and each color is offered at $99.99 apiece. We crunched some numbers 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 remarkable. If purchased as a bundle, a 2,600 yield LD brand 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 LD brand compatible color cartridge also is sold for $9.00 when bundled, 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.
If you look at the price of the EcoTank printer alone ($1,199.99) and subtract it from the total price 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. For a quick breakdown, check out the chart below:
Depending on your business, the EcoTank series simply may not be worth the money. If you take a moment to do the math, you can buy 60,000 pages worth of compatible ink with a conventional Workforce before you break even on the EcoTank. (339.30 x 3 =$1,017.90).
New print technology like the EcoTank series is encouraging. Manufacturers are offering other print solutions besides the well-known razor-and-blades model that’s been a fixture 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 a compelling option for most. But with other manufacturers like HP and Brother coming out with similar ink tank systems in the coming months, it will be interesting to see what sort of impact these printers will have on the market. No matter what printer you choose to go with, always consider the long term cost.
*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.