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Epson EcoTank ET-4550 review

Simon Handby
20 Oct 2015
Front right view of the Epson EcoTank ET-4550
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
361
inc VAT

The ET-4550 is eye-wateringly expensive for a simple inkjet MFP, but low ink costs could make up for it

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EcoTank sounds like a leading brand of compost bins, but it's actually Epson's range of printers that use refillable ink tanks, rather than cartridges. We love the concept, but the basic EcoTank L555 we reviewed last year just wasn't a good enough MFP. Perhaps the ET-4550 will make amends: it's faster, supports both wired and wireless networking, and has automatic duplex (double-sided) printing.

The ET-4550's price, which puts it head to head with HP's peerless Officejet Pro X476dw, might look like a typo, but this printer comes with two full sets of ink bottles that should last for a claimed total of 11,000 pages. When they do run out, new ink is so cheap that the cost per page is only 0.49p - even the most competitive cartridge-based inkjets, the X476dw included, will cost about six times that to run.

Having two sets of ink bottles rather than something like 20 sets of cartridges doubtless saves plastic waste and reduces hassle, but the system isn't without its frustrations. While you don't have to remove this MFP's tanks to fill them, as you do with the L555, you still have to be careful to empty the right bottle into the right tank, and be patient to avoid any splashes. Although the printer gamely tries to measure ink usage, the tanks don't have a level gauge, so you need to look every now and then to avoid running them dry.

 

Filling the black ink tank, Epson EcoTank ET-4550

^ You'll probably only do this once or twice a year. Getting it wrong will ruin the printer, so no pressure

Elsewhere, the ET-4550 is still quite an ordinary inkjet MFP. It has a 35-page automatic document feeder (ADF) for unattended faxes or copies, and a button-based control panel with a simple, backlit mono screen. Despite having room for four lines of text, this only displays a single menu item at a time, making navigation more cumbersome than necessary.

Although it's no match for similarly priced MFPs, the ET-4550 is still reasonably swift, delivering black text at 13.9 pages per minute (ppm), or an impressive 23.1ppm in draft mode. At 3.8ppm, its colour graphics speed was fair. Thanks to a lethargic ADF, a 10-page mono copy took three minutes, with a further 30 seconds needed for colour. Faint draft text aside, we've no criticisms of the ET-4550's print quality, and despite the lack of borderless printing its photos were surprisingly good for an office-biased device. Photocopies were also fine, while scans more than lived up to Epson's usual high-quality: demonstrating good focus, accurate colours, and exceptional dynamic range.

Screenshot of Epson's print driver

^ Epson's print driver covers all the bases, but in this case there's no borderless printing

Screenshot of Epson's scan interface and preview window

^ Epson's TWAIN scan interface is our favourite. This MFP's scan quality was exceptional

Based solely on purchase price, features and performance, we'd much rather have the HP Officejet Pro X476dw. However, the ET-4550 is more fairly compared to a mid-range home office inkjet, such as Epson's own WorkForce WF-3620DWF. While the latter costs around £250 less to buy, its 5p-per-page ink costs mean that within about 6,000 pages the EcoTank ET-4550 would work out cheaper.

Even so, we've two reservations about recommending the ET-4550 to those looking for long-term low ink costs. While Epson's reliability is good, a failure outside this MFP's one-year warranty could leave you with lots of unusable ink before you've recouped its purchase premium. More importantly, it's still not a brilliant MFP - we're not sure why Epson doesn't just make EcoTank standard across the WorkForce range, and take over the world. For our best standard printers see the regularly-updated Best printers and buying guide

Hardware
TechnologyPiezo inkjet
Maximum print resolution4,800x1,200dpi
Maximum optical scan resolution (output bit depth)1,200x2,400dpi
Number of colours (cartridges)4 (4)
Maximum number of colours (cartridges)4 (4)
Quoted photo durability (source)Not stated
Standard interfacesUSB, Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless
Optional interfacesNone
Dimensions (HxWxD)241x515x360mm
Weight7.4kg
Duty cycle (pages per month)Not stated
Paper handling
Maximum paper sizeA4/legal
Maximum paper weightNot stated
Standard paper trays (capacity)1 (150)
Maximum paper trays (capacity)1 (150)
DuplexYes
3530
Photo features
Borderless printingNo
Direct (PC-less) printingNo
Memory card supportNone
Supported operating systemsWindows XP or later, Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later, Android, iOS
Other features5.6cm mono LCD screen

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