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It's well known that printer manufacturers sell their hardware as cheaply as possible, making their real profit through repeat sales of replacement ink and toner. But, after years of criticism, manufacturers are finally starting to explore alternatives that offer lower cost-per-page printing and TCO throughout the printer's lifetime.
Epson's EcoTank range of inkjet printers turns the traditional business model on its head. The initial purchase price is relatively high, but rather than using expensive replacement cartridges, the EcoTank printers contain a large internal ink tank. This tank can hold far more ink than a conventional ink cartridge, has lower environmental impact than using plastic cartridges and — most importantly — can be refilled using low-cost bottles of ink that drastically reduce running costs.
The EcoTank range has been around for a couple of years, but the first models were primarily aimed at smaller offices and home users. However, Epson has recently launched a number of new 'EcoTank Monochrome' models, which are high-speed mono printers aimed at workgroups in larger businesses. The EcoTank Monochrome range was launched in Europe and Asia at the end of 2018, but isn't available in the US at the moment.
Prices for this new 'low TCO' range start at £213.27 (ex. VAT or £255.92 inc. VAT) for the ET-M1100, which is an entry-level, single-function printer with USB connectivity for smaller offices. The ET-1120 model adds wi-fi connectivity to the mix for £220.20 (ex. VAT, or £266.64 inc. VAT). Businesses requiring a more fully-featured model might choose the multi-function ET-M2140, which costs £356.05 (ex. VAT, or £427.26 inc. VAT). This is a 1200-by-2400dpi mono printer, with a scanner, copier and automatic document feeder. Print speeds are rated at 39 pages per minute (ppm), with a 250-sheet paper tray and maximum duty cycle of 20,000 pages per month, which should be suitable for workgroups in many small/medium-sized businesses. There's also a model called the ET-M3140, which adds Ethernet and wi-fi connectivity to USB for networked workgroups. The ET-M3140 costs £400.67 (ex. VAT, or £480.80 inc. VAT) and adds a fax machine as well as a larger, touch-sensitive control screen.
There are certainly less expensive inkjet and laser printer rivals with similar specifications, but that price also includes two large bottles of black ink that will last for up to 11,000 mono pages — compared to just a few hundred pages worth of ink included with most conventional inkjet printers. The real savings, though, come when it's time to buy additional bottles of black ink, which cost just £11.18 (ex. VAT or £13.41 inc. VAT) and last for approximately 6,000 pages each. That works out at around 0.2p per page — far cheaper than buying replacement ink or toner cartridges for conventional inkjet or laser printers. In comparison, Epson's Workforce range of inkjet printers may offer a lower upfront purchase price, but running costs work out at around 2p per page for mono printing.
Printer ink is often referred to as 'black gold' because of its high price, so it's good to see Epson taking a different approach to running costs with its EcoTank range. The high initial purchase price might deter smaller businesses on a more limited budget, but the EcoTank printers offer genuine savings to larger organisations that need to print hundreds or even thousands of pages every month.