Epson’s MFP produces decent-quality prints and costs peanuts to run
- Very cheap running costs
- Prints thousands of pages out of the box
- Good-quality prints
- Four colours not ideal for photos
- Slower than cartridge printers
The Epson EcoTank ET-2850 is an update of the Epson ET-2750, and not a great deal has changed. Like its predecessor, the ET-2850 is an inkjet multifunction printer, copier and scanner that stores its ink in tanks refilled from bottles and doesn’t use disposable plastic cartridges. The result is a printer that’s phenomenally affordable to run and comes with enough ink in the box to print literally thousands of pages.
It sits in the middle of Epson’s ink tank range in terms of features, so it has most of the core essentials. However, there might be a few things you’ll miss if you have specific requirements, such as multiple paper trays or top-quality photo printing.
Epson EcoTank ET-2850 review: What do you get for the money?
The ET-2850 copies and scans from the flatbed scanner on the top of the device and prints from the machine below. It doesn’t have a fax mode or an automatic document feeder for the scanner, but for a modest home office setup it has most of the key elements you’ll need.
The device itself is reasonably compact, measuring 375 x 347 x 187mm (WDH). A bit of extra space is required in front for the output tray to pull out, and the scanner lid hinges at the back, along its longest side, so you need some space behind, too. However, it can rest in a nearly vertical position if needed.
The control panel on the front has a small 1.5in colour screen, which is controlled using a set of buttons to its right-hand side, and the entire panel is hinged at the top, so it can be pulled out to the most convenient viewing angle.
Prints are produced at a maximum resolution of 5,760 x 1,440dpi, while the scanner supports resolutions of up to 1,200 x 2,400ppi. It only has a single paper tray, which is the 100-sheet capacity slot at the back, but it’s capable of printing on both sides of a sheet automatically to keep wasted paper to a minimum.
In the box, you get two bottles of black ink and one bottle each of cyan, magenta and yellow. The black ink supplied is enough for 14,000 pages, while the coloured ink bottles hold enough to print 5,200 pages each – so it will be a long time before you need to top up on ink.
READ NEXT: These are the best monitors to buy right now
Epson EcoTank ET-2850 review: Is it easy to use?
If you have a smartphone to hand it’s well worth using the Epson Smart Panel app to guide you through the setup. The app connects directly to the printer, making it much easier to hook up the printer to your Wi-Fi network. It also ensures you’re doing everything in the correct order, such as filling the ink tanks before you switch the printer on.
The instructions are presented in a conversational format – a bit like having a remote session with a support assistant, which is great – and you can scroll back and forth through the instructions as you need to.
Filling the printer with ink is a relatively foolproof process, as the necks of the bottles are moulded to fit only onto the correct tanks. The bottles don’t start emptying until they’ve been clicked into place, and they don’t require any further encouragement by way of squeezing.
Once the printer was set up and connected, I found I was able to print from Windows without having to install anything. You may, however, find it useful to install the printer drivers and scanner software to get the full range of print and scanning options. You can also print via USB if you’d prefer not to use Wi-Fi, but you’ll need to supply your own cable because Epson doesn’t include one.
It’s also possible to control the printer from Epson’s Smart Panel mobile app, which lets you print things like photos straight from your smartphone, and also lets you bypass the control panel on the device to initiate a copy or a scan.
The final option is to simply use the control panel on the front of the machine. The 1.5in screen is relatively small but offers full control over all the ET-2850’s functions.
Epson EcoTank ET-2850 review: How fast is it and how much does it cost to run?
When it comes to print speed, the Epson EcoTank ET-2850 is a bit of a mixed bag. I found it printed a standard A4 letter at standard quality at a rate of 9.7 pages per minute (ppm), with the first page dropping out after 11 seconds. This is a marginal improvement over its predecessor, the ET-2750, which produced the same print at a rate of 9.5ppm. It’s about what we’d expect of a four-colour ink tank printer, with Canon’s Pixma G3051 printing mono pages only marginally slower.
If you want to print a lot of pages and don’t care about quality, the Epson ET2850’s draft mode is much faster, churning out the same document at 16.5ppm. Print quality is light and fairly rough looking but it outpaces both the aforementioned printers by a significant margin.
Colour printing slows things down to a rate of 2.9ppm for a mixed text and graphics document, although this is still competitive for an ink tank printer. It’s slow at printing on photo paper, however, with a 6x4in photo taking well over 2mins 30secs to print.
The Epson ET-2750 produced mono copies of A4 documents in 13 seconds and colour copies in 34 seconds. Scanning speed to a PC is fine, but it fell behind a little when scanning at higher resolutions.
The real strength of the printer comes in its printing costs. Refill ink comes in large bottles with enough ink to print thousands of pages, and this means the price per page is very low: 0.2p per page for mono prints and 0.4p per page for colour. This makes it one of the best-value printers around; it costs about the same to run as Canon’s current ink tank printers.
If you don’t paying up front, you can use Epson’s ReadyPrint EcoTank subscription service instead. With this you can get the printer for £80, which ties you into paying monthly. There are three levels of subscription: 300 pages of printing per month costs £7.99; 500 pages is £9.99 per month; and unlimited prints will cost you £14.99 per month.
The 300- and 500-page options don’t work out as cheap as printing from your own ink, costing 2.6p and 2p per page respectively, but that’s still better value than most cartridge printers. The unlimited print option looks more attractive, but you’ll need to print thousands of pages per month to get close to the 0.2p per page cost delivered by simply buying the printer and ink outright.
Epson EcoTank ET-2850 review: What’s print quality like?
I was impressed with the quality of the prints that the ET-2850 produced. When compared side by side, Epson appears to have made some improvements over the ET-2750, with richer, darker colours in our photo tests. It still falls behind six-colour ink tank printers such as the Canon Pixma G650, however, and the best cartridge printers such as the Canon Pixma TS8350.
When it comes to printing regular documents, both mono and colour prints are clear and sharp. Double-sided printing saw some bleed-through on cheap copier paper, but there’s a setting in the printer driver that lets you alter drying time and reduce the amount of ink that’s put down on duplex prints. This should help you find the best balance depending on the quality of paper you use.
Black and white copies were also clear and detailed, but colour copies looked a touch drained of richness.
Epson EcoTank ET-2850 review: Should you buy one?
If you’re looking for an affordable multifunction printer that can churn out pages and pages of prints at the lowest possible prices, the Epson EcoTank ET-2850 is a fine choice. You could certainly spend less on a cartridge-based printer but by investing in an ink tank printer like this you’ll be saving on spending further down the line.
Indeed, with enough ink to print thousands of pages in the box, it should be some time before you need to spend any further money on anything other than paper.
For those looking to stick with ink tanks but get the most from photographs, you’re better off with the Canon Pixma G650, which uses six inks instead of the ET-2850’s four. This provides richer prints on photo paper but the running cost of colour prints is higher as a result.
If you’d prefer to have a printer that can churn out pages at a faster rate, the HP OfficeJet Pro 9022e is the device you need, with print speeds in excess of 20ppm. The costs are higher as it uses cartridges but you can get cheaper prints by using HP’s subscription service.