The Epson EcoTank ET-M2170 ($399.99) is a monochrome all-in-one printer that's a step down from the Editors' Choice ET-M3170, the flagship model in Epson's recent series of bulk-ink machines. Both entry-level models print at reasonable but not blazingly fast speeds and have the lowest running costs in the consumer- and small-business-grade printer business. For the $50 difference between the ET-M2170 and the ET-M3170, you give up an automatic document feeder (ADF), the ability to send and receive faxes, a larger touch-screen control panel, and a few other less significant options. If your small or home-based office doesn't need these features, the ET-M2170 is a solid, slightly less-expensive alternative.
With the ET-M2170 AIO, the ET-M3170 AIO, and the ET-M1170 print-only EcoTank inkjets, Epson has squared off against the many lower-end monochrome laser printers and AIOs available.
While Epson's recent efforts may impact the monochrome printer market, its primary meaning for you, the end user, is much lower operational costs. But we'll get to that shortly. As mentioned, the ET-M2170 is a dumbed-down iteration of the ET-M3170, sans an ADF and fax functionality, and a non-touch display, shown here.3.5Good $450.30See Itat AmazonRead Our Brother MFC-L2750DW XL Review 4.0Excellent $699.95See Itat AmazonRead Our Lexmark MB2236adw Review 4.0Excellent $806.71See Itat AmazonRead Our Canon imageClass MF424dw Review 4.0Excellent $528.00See Itat AmazonRead Our Epson WorkForce Pro WF-M5799 Review 4.5Outstanding $379.99See Itat Office Depot® & OfficeMax®Read Our Brother MFC-J6945DW INKvestment Tank Color Inkjet All-In-One Printer Review 4.0Excellent $409.98 See Itat AmazonRead Our Canon imageClass MF269dw Review 4.0Excellent $899.99See Itat AmazonRead Our Canon Pixma TS9120 Wireless Inkjet All-in-One Review 4.0Excellent $499.99See Itat Dell TechnologiesRead Our Epson EcoTank ET-4760 All-In-One Printer Review 4.0Excellent $429.51See Itat AmazonRead Our Epson Expression Premium XP-7100 Small-in-One Printer Review 4.0Excellent $299.99See Itat DellRead Our Epson WorkForce Pro WF-4740 Review Our Experts Have Tested 53 Products in the Printers Category in the Past YearSince 1982, PCMag has tested and rated thousands of products to help you make better buying decisions. (See how we test.)
The most significant difference between this model and its beefier sibling is the lack of an ADF, which severely curtails the convenience and productivity factors of the scanner. Without an ADF, you must place each page on the platen one at a time; for two-sided pages, one side at a time. The more pages in your document or stack of originals, the more tedious and time-consuming the scan job becomes. Considering how much time and frustration an ADF can save you, you should think carefully about whether $50 is ample enough savings to warrant a pass on this feature.
While several monochrome laser AIOs come without ADFs, the higher-rated ones, such as the Editors' Choice Canon imageClass MF269dw, Brother's MFC-L2750DW XL, and Lexmark's MB2236adw, all have them.
Most higher-volume models, though, including the Editors' Choice Canon MF424dw (300 sheets) and the WorkForce Pro WF-M5799 (Epson's monochrome inkjet laser alternative), not only hold more sheets of paper out of the box but can expand their capacity, in this instance, 900 and 830 sheets, respectively.
The ET-M2170 measures 11.9 by 14.8 by 13.7 inches (HWD) and weighs 13.7 pounds, which, due primarily to the ADF, is somewhat shorter and lighter than its ET-M3170 sibling. The other competing models mentioned here so far are a bit bigger and bulkier, too, but not so much that they gobble up enough additional desk or counter space to make a big difference. In any case, the ET-M2170's footprint is quite frugal.
Where this AIO and its higher-end sibling fall short, though, is in monthly volume ratings. The maximum monthly duty cycle is a mere 2,000 pages, and the recommended monthly print volume is 1,500 prints. All the other machines mentioned here have duty cycles of at least 15,000 pages higher, with the Epson WF-M5799 and Canon MF424dw rated at 45,000 and 50,000 pages, respectively. However, as you'll see in the How Low Can You Go section later on, just because a printer has a high-volume rating doesn't mean that pushing it that hard is always practical.
Standard connectivity on the ET-M2170 consists of Ethernet up to 1000Base-T (aka Gigabit Ethernet), Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/ns), connection to a single PC via USB 2.0, and Wi-Fi Direct (a peer-to-peer wireless networking protocol for connecting mobile devices to the printer without any of them being part of a local area network (LAN) or connected to a router).
In addition to Wi-Fi Direct, other mobile connectivity options are Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, and Epson Connect. That last one is a collection of mobile utilities that includes Epson E-mail Print, Epson iPrint App (Android and iOS), and Epson Remote Print. Missing, though, is the ability to print from and scan to USB thumb drives.
Epson rates the ET-M2170 at 20 pages per minute (ppm), which is the same as the ET-M3170 but slow compared with entry-level monochrome laser AIOs. I tested it over Ethernet via our standard Intel Core i5 testbed PC running Windows 10 Professional. On the first part of our tests, where I printed a 12-page Microsoft Word text document several times and then averaged the results, the ET-M2170 met its rated speed of 20ppm exactly.
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That is a negligible 1.3ppm behind the ET-M3170 and about 4.4ppm slower than the Epson WF-M5799. As for its entry-level monochrome laser competitors mentioned here, which are all rated over 30ppm, they all outpaced the ET-M2170 by at least 10ppm.
The next part of our testing regimen entailed printing a diverse and complex set of PDF documents, Excel spreadsheets and charts, and PowerPoint handouts containing intricate business graphics. Then, I combined these results with those from printing the 12-page text document in the previous text and came up with a score of 15.8ppm.
Here, that score is about average, tying the ET-M3170, beating the Brother MFC-L2750DW XL by 1.3ppm, and falling behind Lexmark MB2236adw and Canon MF424dw by 3.7ppm and 5.5ppm, respectively. (Keep in mind that the Canon model is rated at 40ppm.)
Epson has deployed its PrecisionCore printhead in the ET-M2170 and its siblings, the same printheads the company uses in its WorkForce and WorkForce Pro business-oriented printers. (In this case, we're talking the 1S PrecisionCore ink nozzle chip in the non-Pro machines, as opposed to the 2S chip used in the Pro models, which contains twice the ink nozzles.) Typically, PrecisionCore printheads contain more, smaller, and tightly condensed ink nozzles, thereby increasing detail and, in this case, grayscale shade subtleties.
All this translates to better quality prints, especially grayscale graphics and photos. But text looks good, too—with well-shaped characters legible down to point sizes more than acceptable for business applications. I've no complaints about the ET-M2170's print quality.
Like most EcoTank printers, the ET-M2170 prints monochrome pages for 0.3 cents per page. Most entry-level monochrome laser AIOs, on the other hand, deliver a cost per page (CPP) between about 2.5 to 3.5 cents. Most entry-level lasers' CPPs, then, are around 2.2 to 3.2 cents higher. As I pointed out about the ET-M3170, if you print the ET-M2170's recommended monthly print volume of 800 pages, a laser model will cost you an additional $20 to $30 to use each month, or $240 to $360 per year.
Sixteen hundred pages per month will double that. Combine these savings with Epson's two-year warranty (you get an additional year upon registration), and the ET-M2170 becomes a terrific value over time. But keep in mind that given this AIO's purchase price, you must print hundreds, even a thousand or more pages each month to reap its real value.
A different proposition is Epson's WF-M5799, which is designed for higher volumes. Epson offers a 40,000-page replacement ink pack that delivers a CPP of about 0.75 cents per page. As I also pointed out about the ET-M3170, though, to get this low running cost, you must spend $300 or so for each refill, whereas the ET-M3710's 6,000-page bottle lists for $17.99. Besides, that half-a-cent difference between the WF-M5799's and the ET-M3710's running costs will, if you print a lot, add up to hundreds, even thousands of dollars over the life of the printer.
The Epson EcoTank ET-M2170 is a great little printer and a good value, but we always have trouble recommending an ADF-less AIO over a higher-end sibling—especially when the cost difference between the two machines is just $50. If you scan or copy only a few multipage documents a month, or even just now and then, the time and tedium you save seems worth a few extra bucks. We're sure there are small and home-based offices out there, though, that just don't need that multipage scanner functionality but still have a relatively heavy print and copy load. If that describes your environment, the ET-M2170 is a sensible, slightly lower-cost alternative to its Editors' Choice ET-M3170 sibling.
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