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Epson EcoTank ET-18100 review: Affordable A3 prints but short on features

Our Rating :
£629.99 from
Price when reviewed : £700
inc VAT

The Epson EcoTank ET-18100 can print thousands of pages between each refill, but has fewer features than its similarly-priced predecessor


  • Prints huge documents
  • Affordable printing
  • Six-colour system good for photos


  • Few frills
  • Limited paper-handling
  • Expensive to buy

The Epson EcoTank ET-18100 is an intriguing proposition – a six-ink A3 tank printer that’s designed to bring the affordability of ink tanks to large photo printing up to A3+ size. However, Epson already has a similarly-priced six-ink A3 tank printer in the form of the ET-8550. So which one should you buy?

The ET-18100 we’re reviewing here has a lower RRP of £700, compared to the £780 RRP of the ET-8550. Epson has cut several key features to make that £80 saving, though, including the multifunction scanner and copier, making the ET-18100 a very different proposition.

Epson EcoTank ET-18100 review: What do you get for the money?

As with any A3 printer, the Epson EcoTank ET-18100 is something of a beast in terms of size. It measures 523 x 369 x 150mm (WDH), which is slightly smaller than the all-in-one ET-8550, but not to the extent that you’re actually saving that much space.

That measurement is taken with the unit folded up – if you want to keep it ready to print, you need to open out its paper holders. These are necessarily large, extending out of the upper rear to support A3 paper going in, and stretching out at the front to catch large sheets as they’re ejected.

The rear paper tray is the only mechanism for getting paper into the device. It can only hold 80 sheets at a time and you’ll need to change the paper manually if you want to switch between A3 and A4, for example. This is more voluminous than the 50-sheet A3 rear tray of the ET-8550, but that also came with an additional 100-sheet A4 tray at the bottom, so you didn’t need to keep switching stacks of paper to alternate between them.

The ET-8550 could also print on both sides of a sheet from its A4 tray automatically, though not the rear-feeding A3 tray. The ET-18100 can only print on both sides if you flip and refeed them manually during printing. If you do this through the printer software, a handy guide to aligning the paper pops up, but it’s still a lot more hassle to print on both sides than the ET-8550.

As well as the scanner and copier function, the other feature of the ET-8550 that’s missing from the ET-18100 is the colour touchscreen. Arguably a printer that doesn’t need to be controlled separately from a device, to make copies, for example, doesn’t really need a screen. However, it means that if something goes wrong, you’re going to need to interpret the meaning behind various flashing lights, rather than having a screen explain the problem.

As with the ET-8550, the printer uses six inks to get the most out of photo printing. However, the two printers don’t use the same six colours. In the ET-18100 you get 70ml bottles of the standard black, cyan, magenta and yellow, with light cyan and light magenta to add subtle colouring to photos. The ET-8550 used a second photo black and a grey ink instead of these lighter colour shades.

This change of ink has taken its toll on Epson’s estimated page yield for both colour and mono photo prints, which are rated at 1,500 10x15cm photos on the ET-18100. Epson claimed the ET-8550 could print 1,800 of each type of photo from the ink in the box. It sounds like a significant drop but it remains remarkably generous if you compare it to cartridge printers, such as the Canon Pixma PRO 200, which doesn’t come with enough ink to print 150 photos.

There’s one last thing missing from this printer, which is the option to connect it to a network using an Ethernet cable. It can still connect to Wi-Fi, though, or print directly to a computer via USB.

Epson Eco-Tank ET-18100 review: Is it easy to use?

I’ve admired Epson’s setup and configuration tools for years and the EcoTank ET-18100 follows the familiar formula. It’s well worth following the guidance on the included setup sheet and downloading the Epson Smart Panel on your mobile device, as it automatically finds your printer, sets up Wi-Fi and guides you through the installation process, including the process of filling it with ink.

All this is performed using an interactive chatbot. It explains what you need to do at each stage, using illustrations and animations where necessary. The conversational appearance of the instructions makes it easy to scroll back if you find you’ve missed something, and the app knows exactly where you are in the process to provide extra help if you run into problems.

Even filling the printer from the supplied bottles is simple and impossible to get wrong. Each bottle will only fit on its particular tank and doesn’t start emptying before it’s completely locked in place.

Once the printer is installed and you’ve filled it with ink, the app turns into the tool you need to print from your phone. Note that you can also use it as a rudimentary scanner by taking a photo of a document, straightening it up and printing that.

To print from a computer, you need to install its driver software, which you can do from a link that takes you straight to the files you need for your particular operating system. It couldn’t really be much simpler.

Then, in everyday use, most of the interaction with the printer is performed through the software, though it can do all the usual tricks you’d expect of a Windows printer, such as controlling the paper type and print quality, managing the number of copies, and choosing individual pages for printing.

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Epson EcoTank ET-18100 review: How fast is it and how much does it cost to run?

A full set of the five colour inks at £9.99 per bottle costs £49.95. Combined, they will print 7,200 colour A4 documents or 2,100 10x15cm photos. That boils down to 0.7p per colour print or 2p per photo. Black ink goes a bit further, managing 5,700 mono pages or 3,600 photos. This works out to 0.2p per mono print or 0.3p per black and white photo.

This is a cost improvement over the ET-8550, which cost 0.2p per mono print but 1p per colour print. It’s a lot better value than the prints from the Canon Pixma PRO 200 printer, which is really only designed for high-quality photo prints and costs 13p for even a mono text print.

In terms of speed, the Epson EcoTank ET-18100 proved to be slower at general printing than its rivals, but very efficient at producing photos.

For standard printing, it produced mono pages at a rate of 8ppm, and colour prints at 5.3ppm. This is slower than the ET-8550, which is almost twice as fast, and well behind the business-focussed Brother MFC-J6955DW. However, it’s faster than the photo-centric Canon Pixma PRO 200.

Its fortunes flipped when printing photos. Here, it produced six high-quality 10x15cm photo prints in seven minutes, well over a minute faster than any of its rivals.

It’s even faster when printing photos at A3 size at its highest resolution. This took less than three minutes on the ET-18100, which is more than a minute faster than the Canon Pixma PRO 200 and the Brother MFC-J6955DW. The EcoTank ET-8550 was particularly slow at this job, taking more than 10 minutes to produce its print.

It’s a bit slower than its Epson and Brother rivals to get started in the first place but isn’t as slow as the Canon photo printer, which takes nearly a minute to warm up.

Epson EcoTank ET-18100 review: What’s the print quality like?

Photo printing on the device is superb. It compares well to both the Canon Pixma PRO 200 and the Epson EcoTank ET-8550 printers, both of which are experts in this field. The colours aren’t as rich and vibrant as we found on the ET-8550, with our test print of a colourful arrangement of fruit lacking some of the lustre it has on the older model. However, this balances out on pale skin tones, giving people a more natural look, both on light and dark skin tones.

On dark photos, the printer is capable of very dark blacks. The Canon and older Epson printers were just as good here, but on the ground of our test moonscape shot the older Epson gave the lunar surface a reddish hue, while the latest model leaves it a subtle, realistic-looking grey. Earth-bound landscapes and the sky look bright and colourful, too. It’s worth noting that the Brother MFC-J6955DW falls some way behind here – it’s more of a document printer than a photo model.

On an A4 print of a pale-skinned model on a white background, the Canon Pixma Pro 200 is the clear winner, with the least colour hue added to the background. Both the Epson printers give it a hint of cold blue. On the ET-18100, the skin on the model in the foreground doesn’t have quite the depth of detail we get from the Canon.

In terms of business printing, there wasn’t much difference in the quality of output of our standard test letter between the two Epson models and the Brother. It takes a magnifying glass to see any rough edges on the individual letters of any of the prints.

Manually duplexing documents on the ET-18100 was disappointing, and not just because you have to do it by hand. Most printers that auto-duplex throw less ink on a duplexed page because it has to dry before it can be fed back into the printer. This has the side benefit of being less likely to soak through to the other side, even when printed on relatively thin paper.

However, the ET-18100 doesn’t make any compromises to double-sided printing, and I found that it threw far too much ink down for the paper I use for these tests. You’ll need to invest in thicker, better-quality paper if you want to save paper by printing legibly on both sides.

Epson EcoTank ET-18100 review: Should you buy it?

Although the Epson EcoTank ET-18100 is a little more affordable than Epson’s previous A3+ ink tank photo printer, it still costs a lot of money – around three times the price of Epson’s cheapest A4 ink tank printer (the EcoTank ET-1810), and only £80 less than the significantly better-featured ET-8550. If you think you might miss the scanner and copier functions, it makes sense to opt for the older model.

There’s not a lot of difference between the print quality of this and its photo-printing rivals, though I found this model better with subtle skin tones, but not as bright and vibrant where swathes of colour are required. The ET-18100 also produces slightly cheaper colour prints, but we’re talking fractions of a penny.

Canon’s Pixma PRO 200is a cheaper alternative if you’re only planning on printing a few A3 photo prints every now and again, but it’s not cost-effective to run as a regular office printer. Running off cartridges instead of bottled ink is a significant price disadvantage, but it may still take you a while (and many prints) to make back the additional £200+ you have to spend on the Epson to get its tanks.

For those with less of a concern about the absolute quality of photo printing, then theBrother MFC-J6955DWis a good alternative. This is an office inkjet that is more than capable of printing in A3 and is better equipped for everyday use. The downside is that it’s more expensive to run in the long term (though again it’ll take you a lot of prints to get there) and your photo prints won’t look as good.

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