Epson's recent EcoTank Pro rollout is a big deal for small-to-midsize offices seeking a bulk-ink all-in-one printer for medium-volume output. Part of this new wave is the EcoTank Pro ET-5880 All-In-One Cartridge-Free Supertank Printer with PCL Support ($899.99), the next step up from the Editors' Choice-winning ET-5850 reviewed here recently. Aside from a few variations in features, the primary difference between them is that, in addition to Epson's default printer language, the ET-5880 emulates Adobe PostScript and HP's printer command language (PCL), which expands the printer's prowess into the realms of graphics design and desktop publishing (which we'll look at in some detail shortly). If you or members of your team require graphics and document design- or prepress-friendly output, you'll want to shell out the additional $50 Epson wants for this immensely useful upgrade.
Before delving into the virtues of the PCL and PostScript printer languages—better known as page description languages (PDLs)—Epson's newest product line, EcoTank Pro, deserves a little discussion of its own. While the concept behind bulk-ink products like EcoTank (as well as Canon's MegaTank, HP's Smart Tank Plus, and Brother's INKvestment Tank) has been around for a few years now, those printers' huge trade-offs in features for lower per-page ink costs have been drastic. Severe enough, in fact, to render these types of printers and AIOs unattractive to many busy businesses.
Meanwhile, the ET-5880 is one of the first four EcoTank Pro AIOs to hit the North American market. There are two wide-format (supertabloid size, or 13 by 19 inches) models, the Editors' Choice EcoTank Pro ET-16650 and the soon-to-be-reviewed ET-16600, and two standard (letter/legal size) models, the Editors' Choice EcoTank Pro ET-5850 and today's ET-5880. As I said earlier, the primary difference between the latter two is that the ET-5880 comes with Adobe PostScript and HP PCL emulation; the ET-5850 doesn't.
These are, of course, the page description languages used in most of today's professional printing, desktop publishing, typesetting, and graphics design environments. Furthermore, PostScript is the well-entrenched native language of Adobe's state-of-the-art graphics design software, Illustrator, not to mention the code Adobe Acrobat uses to "draw" or image PDF pages. In fact, Adobe's PostScript printer language, favored among designers, artists, and publishers alike for its superior halftone screens, smooth curves, and intricate detail, has played a key historical role in bringing graphics and document design to the desktop (Mac and Windows) environments.
Frankly, if you plan to use your in-house printer for producing prepress proofs, or perhaps even short runs of brochures and other marketing material, spending the additional $50 for the ET-5880's PCL and PostScript emulation is a no-brainer.
Now, let's talk specifics about the EcoTank Pro ET-5880. At 16.7 by 19.7 by 18.1 inches (HWD) and a neat 39.2 pounds, compared to competing inkjet and midrange color laser models, this slender and relatively light all-in-one packs a lot of productivity into a comparatively small footprint.
Other convenience and productivity features (compared to most other EcoTank and bulk-ink AIOs in general) abound, starting with its 50-page single-pass auto-duplexing automatic document feeder (ADF).
Most midrange printers in this class, including HP's OfficeJet Pro Premier, Brother's MFC-J6945DW, and Epson's WorkForce Pro WF-C5790 (yet another inkjet-based laser alternative), come with auto-duplexing ADFs. Of these three, though, the HP's ADF holds only 35 pages and is reverse auto-duplexing, meaning that instead of scanning both sides of a two-sided page in one pass, the mechanism must, after scanning the first side, pull the sheet back in, flip it, and then scan the other side.
You can control walk-up tasks, such as scanning to a local drive or the cloud, making copies, or making configuration changes, via the ET-5880's spacious 4.3-inch color touch screen, which as you can see in the image below, except for power, home, and help buttons, makes up the entire control panel.
You can also configure, monitor usage and consumables, generate reports, set security options, and much more from the Epson's built-in web portal from virtually any browser, including the one on your smartphone or tablet.
Like the other three EcoTank Pro AIOs, the ET-5880's paper capacity is 550 sheets from three separate sources: two 250-sheet cassettes, and a 50-sheet multipurpose tray that pulls up and out from the back of the chassis, as shown here.
By comparison, the HP OfficeJet Pro Premier holds just 250 sheets from one input source, as does our Editors' Choice for midrange color laser AIOs, Lexmark's MC2535adwe. (The latter also comes with a one-sheet override tray and can be expanded to a total of 1,451 sheets.) The Brother MFC-J6945DW holds 600 sheets from three sources, and the Epson WF-C5790 supports 330 sheets (expandable to 830) from two input trays.
Also like the other three EcoTank Pros, the ET-5880's maximum monthly duty cycle is 66,000 pages, with a recommended monthly print volume of 3,300 prints. This is one of the highest among the other midrange color AIOs discussed here, though the Lexmark, at 85,000 maximum and 8,500 recommended, is tops. The OfficeJet Pro Premier, with a 25,000-print duty cycle and 2,500-page recommended volume, is the lowest.
When it comes to connecting to computing devices and cloud sites, like most higher-end business-oriented all-in-one printers nowadays, the EcoTank Pro ET-5880 has you covered. Hardware interfaces include Ethernet (up to 100Mbps), connecting to a single PC via USB, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, and Bluetooth BLE (Bluetooth Lite Edition). Those last two provide peer-to-peer connections that allow you to connect your smartphones and tablets to the printer without either it or them being part of the same local area network (LAN). You can also print from and scan to USB thumb drives via a port located on the left side of the chassis.
Other mobile connectivity options include Apple AirPrint and Mopria. Also in the mix: Scan to Cloud, Email Print, Remote Printer Driver, and a bunch of others in the company's Epson Connect collection of connectors and utilities. On top of those is Epson iPrint Mobile App, for printing from and scanning directly to your company's Android and iOS smartphones and tablets.
With a 25-page-per-minute (ppm) rating for both monochrome and color pages, the ET-5880 and the rest of the EcoTank Pro line are a bit sluggish compared to midrange color laser AIOs. The Lexmark MC2535adwe, for example, is rated at 35ppm, while the other three inkjet AIOs mentioned here are rated 2ppm or 3ppm slower than the EcoTank Pro models. To see how well it held up to these others in real-world use, I connected the EcoTank Pro ET-5880 via Ethernet to our standard Intel Core i5 testbed PC running Windows 10 Pro. (See how we test printers.)
When printing our 12-page Microsoft Word text document, the ET-5880 managed 30ppm, or 5ppm faster than its rating, 3.7ppm faster than its ET-5850 sibling and 4.7ppm ahead of the Epson WF-C5790 I just mentioned. It beat the Brother by a significant 7ppm, but the Lexmark laser AIO trounced it by 9.8ppm.
To continue my tests, I clocked the ET-5880 as it churned out our collection of complex color Adobe Acrobat PDF business documents, Excel spreadsheets and accompanying charts and graphs, and PowerPoint handouts featuring colorful graphics and typefaces at varying sizes, weights, and colors. Then I combined these scores with those from printing the 12-page Word document and came up with a comprehensive score of 18.5ppm for printing our entire business test suite.
Though in most cases by only 1ppm or 2ppm, the ET-5880's was the speediest showing in this portion of our tests, though the Brother and HP models were slower by 6.3ppm and 6.9ppm, respectively. In any case, this EcoTank Pro held its own against its competitors. Furthermore, it printed our colorful and detailed 4-by-6-inch snapshots in 25 seconds apiece, about average for this class of printer.
Like Epson's business-oriented WorkForce Pro printers and AIOs, the new EcoTank Pro machines utilize the printer giant's PrecisionCore 4S Heat-Free printhead. The 4S comprises two ink chips made up of minuscule, tightly clustered nozzles. PrecisionCore 4S (and to a somewhat smaller extent 2S) printheads produce notable detail and brilliant, accurate colors.
The ET-5880's text looks well-shaped and highly legible down to the smallest we test (4 points), which is plenty good enough for most business-document output. The full-page Excel charts and graphs and PowerPoint handouts I printed looked good, too. Colors were bright and accurate, and intricate details such as hairlines (rules 1 point or smaller) came out unbroken from end to end.
Photos also printed well, and like the other EcoTank Pro machines I’ve reviewed so far, the ET-5880 supports borderless output on prints up to legal size (8.5 by 14 inches). As I've pointed out here many times, documents (especially photographs) often take on a more finished appearance when borderless output (known as "bleeds" in the document design field) is used properly. As I said about the ET-5850, the ET-5880 should make your business correspondence look good.
Until EcoTank Pro, EcoTank machines typically printed both color and black pages for under one cent each. But the trade-offs in terms of features versus the savings on running costs have been drastic, especially where many busy small to midsize offices are concerned. Epson has addressed that issue by up-ticking the per-page cost to 2 cents for both monochrome and color pages, and in turn delivering a business-class machine with a feature set designed to hold up to the needs of busy offices.
As if that's not enough, the company is, through the first quarter of next year, offering all-you-can-eat ink for the first two years that you own the printer. That's right—while you pay a premium for the printer itself, for the first two years all you have to do is send in your ink receipts, and Epson will reimburse you. Depending on how much you print, your consumables costs could easily fall well under one penny per page.
Currently, only HP's OfficeJet Pro Premier, which comes with a free Instant Ink subscription equivalent to 300 pages per month for a year (a $120 value), offers anything remotely comparable. Of the other printers discussed here, Brother's MFC-J6945DW prints black pages for 0.9 cent each, and color pages for about 4.7 cents each. Epson's own WF-C5790 comes with enough ink in the box to print up to 20,000 monochrome or 15,000 color pages. After that, if you buy the company's XL ink bags, that AIO's running costs should come out to about 1.6 cents per page for monochrome and 6.4 cents for color.
Clearly, if you print a lot of color pages, the EcoTank Pro machines offer the best value—even more so if you print thousands of pages each month during the first two years. The more you print, the more you save, and the more incredible this value.
If you need a multifunction printer for printing and copying a few thousand color pages each month, I can think of only two reasons not to buy this printer: either, for some reason, your output must be laser (toner), or you just don't care about money—at least not the few thousand dollars per year that the EcoTank Pro ET-5880 can save you. It prints well at a relatively fast clip; it prints, scans, and copies two-sided multipage documents automatically; and each ink refill yields several thousand pages, thereby reducing upkeep and downtime.
Then, too, there are the two years of unlimited ink. You can print or copy more than 3,000 pages each month without spending another penny on your printer, assuming you are diligent about submitting your ink receipts for reimbursement. If you don't need this model's PCL and PostScript emulation, of course, you can save $50 with the Editors' Choice ET-5850, but otherwise, the ET-5880 is the best deal around for printing in its volume class.