The cost of printer ink cartridges and the speed with which some printers seem to guzzle ink is a constant gripe for many inkjet printer owners.
You could easily find yourself spending £40 on a set of inks for a printer that cost just £30. Why? Well, the printer industry has long been selling printers on the razor and blade model, charging less for the main bit of kit and making money from the consumables. For a printer, this is the ink.
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Epson’s new EcoTank printers, the L355 and L555 are looking to change all that. At £250 for the cheaper L355 you pay more for the printer, but what you get is a printer with a claimed two years’ worth of ink included in the box. That means a lower cost for ink in the long run and less hassle around replacing ink cartridges.
Two years without a refill?
Epson’s claims that you’ll get two years’ of prints from the first set of inks is based on an average monthly print volume. Of course, if you print a thesis a day you’ll burn through more.
You get 70ml of each ink to start you off – that’s a lot when you consider that you only get 7.5ml of black ink in an HP 364 cartridge that costs around £6. When you do need more the Epson refill bottles cost just £7.99 each, which seems reasonable for the amount of ink.
For the last two years Which? has tested printers for ink based on occasional use, revealing just how much extra ink some printers use to clean and maintain themselves when you leave time between prints.
Only when we get the printers to the Which? test lab will we be sure of the true cost of printing only a few pages a week.
Short term prints
The new Epson EcoTank models use different ink formulation to the ink used in other printers in the current Epson range.
The EcoTank models use a dye ink, rather than a pigment ink. Dye inks tend to be less colourfast than pigment inks and Epson says that these printers have been designed for regular printing and the sorts of document you keep for a relatively short term, rather than for photo prints to keep on your wall for years and years.
Which? Expert view – a welcome step towards ink cost clarity
Part of the problem with printing at home is the lack of clarity around how much ink you get for your money. People feel cheated by the seemingly high cost of ink and speedy fashion that some printers seem to drink it.
Yes, the EcoTank printers are on the expensive side at £250 for the L355 and £330 for the L555, but it’s clearer what you’re paying for.
You can see the ink in the tanks, so you can be sure the cartridge isn’t cheating you out of ink – you’ll know when it’s full and you can see when it’s empty.
The cartridges aren’t chipped either, so in theory, when the ink runs dry – two years down the line if the printers are true to Epson’s claims – you can fill it with whatever ink you like. The replacement bottles aren’t outrageously priced either.
The only remaining mystery is in the amount of ink that’s automatically used by the printers to clean and maintain themselves. This ink use will have an impact on the true value of the printers. Epson says these EcoTank printers are no more thirsty than other Epson printers when you leave time between prints, but we’ll have to wait until we get the printer to our lab to see how they really measure up to the competition for print value.