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Epson EcoTank ET-8550 review: An expensive six-ink tank A3 printer, but prints are cheap and look great

29 Jul 2021
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
729
inc VAT

A versatile six-colour A3 ink-tank printer that prints photos well and is cheap to run, but the initial cost is high

Pros 
Low running costs
Prints thousands of pages out of the box
Great photo prints
Fast performance
Cons 
Low paper capacity
Some questionable colour reproduction
Expensive initial cost
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The Epson EcoTank ET-8550 has so many features to talk about, it’s hard to know where to start. The six ink tanks are probably as good a place as any. With extra photo black and grey inks, as well as the usual black, cyan, magenta and yellow, this printer promises photo printing on a par with six-colour cartridge-based inkjets. However, its ink tanks can be refilled with bottled ink, which is much cheaper than cartridges.

It’s a wide format printer, which means it can take paper up to A3+ in size, and it has two paper trays and a rear feed, so you can effectively have three types of paper loaded and ready to print on, depending on what kind of project you’re working on. Last but certainly not least, Epson has built in a scanner and copier, making this a true multifunctional marvel.

This is all good news and sets out the stall for a very promising printer, but the asking price of £729 is eye-wateringly expensive. Can it possibly be worth it?

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Epson EcoTank ET-8550 review: What do you get for the money?

As you’d expect from an A3 printer, the ET-8550 is a bit larger than average. The unit itself measures 523‎ x 379 x 169mm (WDH) when it’s folded up and and on standby and you’ll need plenty of space and above it to open up its rear feeder – where the A3 paper is stored – and in front for the output tray, which pops out automatically when you send a job to the printer. It weighs a hefty 11.1kg, which is meaty for an inkjet, but you shouldn’t need to move it around too often.

The printer has three paper trays, but they’re relatively low capacity. The main A4 paper tray can only take a maximum of 100 sheets, so if you print a lot of documents it will need regular refilling.

The second paper tray is designed to hold photo paper but can take only 20 sheets. The rear feed is where you’ll put A3 paper, and that can take up to 50 sheets. Note that this rear tray can be used to feed in longer paper types, such as banners up to 2m long. The printer is capable of automatic duplex printing on both sides of a sheet but only from the A4 paper tray.

To control the printer and use the copier function, there’s a 10.9in colour touchscreen. This is large, clear and easy to use, and it can be tilted out from the bottom edge so you can still use it if you’re standing in front of the printer.

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Epson EcoTank ET-8550 review: Is it easy to use?

Setting up the ET-8550 is very simple. If you have a smartphone, Epson recommends you use that, which keeps things relatively straightforward. The step-by-step instructions then appear on the screen, as if you’re being guided through the process by a knowledgeable tech support assistant.

You also use the app to set up Wi-Fi printing. This isn’t quite as seamless as the HP method I saw recently on the OfficeJet Pro 9022e as I had to manually tap in my Wi-Fi password, but it’s still relatively smooth. If you don’t want to connect with Wi-Fi, there’s an Ethernet port, or you can hook it straight up to a PC via USB.

Although there are two more colours than we’re used to, filling the tanks is as straightforward as with Epson’s other ink tank printers. Each bottle has a unique key-shaped pattern moulded into the nozzle, so you can’t put it onto the wrong tank. The 700ml bottles don’t start emptying until they’re upside down and latched onto the tank nozzle, but then they empty quickly without any squeezing or wiggling required.

Using the printer in Windows is typically straightforward, integrating nicely into Windows’ existing print settings, with a breakout set of options on a sub-menu if you want to control the finer details.

For printing from mobile devices, Epson provides its Smart Panel app. This is easy to use and provides a choice of printing and scanning possibilities, from photo printing to document capture. The app even has a power button so you can turn the printer on and off remotely, and it also tells you how much ink you have left.

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Epson EcoTank ET-8550 review: What’s the print quality like?

The extra inks really do their work when printing dark photos. I thought the dark colour tones produced by the Canon Pixma G650 were impressive, but the ET-8550 took my test prints a step further, matching the depth of black on the cartridge-based Canon Pixma Pro-200.

However, other colours weren’t as vibrant, and I found subtler colours were slightly oversaturated in some of my test prints. It’s a vast improvement over the results achieved by Epson’s four-colour A4 EcoTank ET-2750, but both the A3 Canon Pixma PRO-200 and the Canon Pixma G650 produced more balanced results.

The Epson didn’t print documents as cleanly as the Canon Pixma PRO-200, either. On our mono text test, printed at standard settings, text characters looked a bit rough around the edges, which you can see even without getting the magnifying glass out. You can refine this by switching to higher-quality settings, but standard settings ought to be good enough for a crisp letter. Note, however, that we don’t recommend the PRO-200 for general printing tasks for price-per-page reasons, which we’ll get to in the next section. The ET-8550’s tank-based printing doesn’t have the same problem.

The copier on the Epson worked well, producing an accurate representation of the source material. Equally, the scanner function was great, with the resolution of 1,200 x 4,800dpi providing as much detail as you could want.

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Epson EcoTank ET-8550 review: What are speeds and running costs like?

Epson includes six full bottles of ink in the box, which according to the quoted yields, should be enough for thousands of pages. This isn’t quite as many as you’ll get from replacement inks, because although they’re the same size, a fair amount of ink is used during the initialisation process.

Once you need to replace ink, each 70ml bottle costs £15.99, regardless of what colour it is. The black ink has a quoted yield of 6,700 A4 pages, which works out to 0.2p per print. As you can see from our chart below, this matches the cost per page of the Epson ET-2750 and Canon’s four-colour MegaTank Pixma G7050 printer and is half the cost of printing mono pages with the six-colour A4 Canon G650.

I expected colour printing to cost more than the four-colour systems because there’s simply more ink involved. This proved to be the case, with the price per page rising to 1p. That’s still not bad, however, and significantly it’s hugely cheaper than the A3-capable Canon Pixma PRO-200, which has per-page costs of around 13p for mono and 13.4p for colour prints.

Epson also quotes yields in terms of 6 x 4in photos. A full set of colour inks will print 2,300 photos, which works out to 3.4p per print, based on the presumption that all the inks are used up at the same rate. Canon’s Pixma PRO-200 inks yield an average of 550 photos for a full set of inks, which works out to around 27p per print. The ET-8550’s prints might not be quite as good, but they’re a lot cheaper.

When it comes to speed, it’s a mixed picture. Printing an A3 photo at its best settings, the ET-8550 lags a long way behind the Pixma PRO-200. While Canon’s A3 printer can produce a stunning photo in just over three minutes, the ET-8550 takes well over ten minutes. It’s more competitive at a smaller scale, though, with six 6x4in photos printing in 8mins 47secs, only two seconds behind the Pixma PRO-200.

However, when it isn’t printing at best quality, the Epson really ramps up the speed. When printing multiple copies of the same letter, using only black ink, the ET-8550 averages 15ppm (pages per minute), with the first sheet landing on the out tray in 13 seconds. The Pixma PRO-200, on the other hand, only reaches 2.4ppm and takes 58 seconds to warm up and churn out the first page.

This also beats Canon’s G650 and G7050 A4 ink-tank printers and beats the speeds achieved by Epson’s four-colour ET-2750. Colour prints arrived fast, too, produced at 6.1ppm – three times faster than Canon’s six-colour G650.

Epson has also slightly improved its duplex printing speed, adding an extra 0.1ppm to the print speed of the ET-2750. This is much better than Canon’s duplex printing speeds, whether it’s being done automatically on the G7050 or manually on the G650.

Epson EcoTank ET-8550 review: Should you buy it?

The only question mark hanging over the Epson ET-8550 is its price. There’s no denying that it’s a solid A3 printer with all the right features, but a price in excess of £700 is a formidable hurdle to overcome, especially when the Canon Pixma PRO-200 is available at around £450 and can produce even better-looking photos.

If your needs are less intense, then, buying the Epson doesn’t make a lot of financial sense and you’d be better off choosing the Canon instead.

If, however, you’re using the Epson ET-8550 as intended – to print a lot of large A3 photos and other content – you’ll soon break even. And, once you’ve started saving money, you’ll not regret choosing the Epson over the Canon, notwithstanding the slightly inferior print quality.

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