Epson's EcoTank inkjet printers axe the ink cartridge

Epson is taking an axe to the inkjet cartridge business model with the release of its new EcoTank desktop inkjet printers. As the name implies, these new models feature owner-refillable ink tanks, which are claimed to last as long as dozens of disposable cartridge sets.

The ink tank concept has already been in use in large format printers for quite a few years, and Epson already has an EcoTank lineup available in Europe and South America. The company seems to think this concept is ready for the US market, and it's introducing five new EcoTank models here: the ET-2500 and ET-2550 are aimed at everyday users, while the ET-4500 and ET-4550 models target business environments. The big daddy WF-R4640 is a high-volume printing workhorse that uses huge "ink packs," which are essentially ink bags.

To say that disposable ink cartridges are an annoyance is probably the understatement of the century—it's safe to say they're universally hated. Cartridge sets can easily cost $70 or more, and they need replacement as often as every couple hundred pages. In contrast, Epson says the new printers come preloaded with enough ink for 2 years' worth of printing. The ET-2500, 2550 and 4500 models have tanks with enough ink for a claimed 4,000 black and 6,500 color pages, while the ET-4550 goes even further, with its larger tanks meant to output 11,000 black and 8,500 color pages respectively. Last but not least, the WF-R4640's ink bags should be good for a whopping 20,000 pages of monochrome or color prints alike.

The new printers will be available in September, and Best Buy has them up for pre-order. You'll pay $380 and $400 for the ET-2500 and ET-2550 printers, while the ET-4500 and ET-4550 will cost $430 and $500, respectively. Finally, the WF-R4640 WorkForce Pro is available for $1,200.

Those prices may look daunting, but the refills are much cheaper than their cartridge counterparts: black refills are $13 to $20 from Epson for the consumer models, while cyan, magenta, and yellow inks are $13—and each tank can be refilled as needed, compared to the all-or-nothing nature of disposable cartridges. That sounds like a win to us.

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