Ask any inkjet printer owner about the thing they like least about their printer, and it's almost always going to be the cost of replacement ink cartridges. Name a luxury item outside Bitcoin, and printer ink is going to be more expensive than it by volume.
Epson has been offering its ecotank printers for some years now, somewhat switching around the ink cartridge metaphor by using what are effectively ink wells on the side of the printer. You still pay an ink premium, but you're buying far more affordable bottles of ink rather than pricey single-use cartridges.
The Epson ET-4750 is a general use Ecotank printer that does a very solid job for small office use, although you'd need to be ploughing through a lot of printed pages for it to make sense for home users, even with Ecotank's economic advantages.
Printer designs usually don't opt for the flashy, and that's certainly true of the Epson ET-4750. It's a square block of a multifunction printer designed primarily for office work, where the key metrics are far more likely going to revolve around whether it will fit on that corner desk nicely.
Measuring in at a compact 375 x 347 x 231mm the answer to that question is quite likely to be "yes", because while it's a squat little box, it's not a terribly wide or deep one.
From the front you can access the paper tray, which sits beneath a swing-out panel that includes the power button, home button, help key and a rather small 2.4-inch touchscreen for print function selection. Not only is it small, it's also got pretty poor viewing angles. No, you're not likely (or indeed able) to watch your next Netflix binge on it, but the issue here is that the size and viewing angle issue means that it's just a little bit trickier to quickly access functions via the touchscreen as needed if you're in a hurry.
The front also houses clear panels that show the ink levels for each of the black, cyan, magenta and yellow ink tanks, so you can generally see at glance if you're going to run out of ink soon. One caveat here from some years of using another ink tank printer is that over time it can become harder to judge this absolutely, as dried ink on the inside of the ink wells can leave obscuring residue.
I haven't tested the Epson ET-4750 for long enough to know if that's going to be an issue, although the printer itself is also quite adept at telling you how much ink is left via software anyway.
The rear of the printer houses power, ethernet, USB B and RJ-11 connectors to cover just about every potential connectivity need, but that's pretty standard for any office printer these days.
The core set-up process for the Epson ET-4750 should be a fairly simple one, although for my review the model provided by Epson was already partially assembled, so I was able to skip a few steps. Still, you should expect the usual process of removing bits of tape, unpacking power cables, printer alignment pages and such along the way.
The one area that may catch you out is the ink cartridges – or in this case, the complete lack thereof. In the box – and a large part of the Epson ET-4750's initial asking price – you'll find bottles of black, cyan, magenta and yellow ink that you use to fill each corresponding ink well within the printer body.
There's a shaped head on each bottle, so you're not quite squirting them into each tank, although a little care is advisable to avoid any spare ink getting on your hands from the open cap. If nothing else, ink is still expensive!
The Epson ET-4750 supports connectivity over Ethernet, USB or Wi-Fi, with inbuilt support for print services such as Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print from compatible devices. There's also support for fax services via a PSTN line.
I'll be honest here; I haven't tested the faxing capability on the Epson ET-4750, partly because I don't have a regular phone line any more, but mostly because I no longer live in 1996.
In terms of print speeds, Epson rates the Epson ET-4750 as capable of up to 11 pages per minute for black and white documents, or 5.5 pages per minute for colour. Your speed is going to naturally vary depending on coverage and to a lesser extent network conditions.
Testing with a standard text-only document rated over Epson's claims, with 15 crisply printed pages ejected from the ET-4750 in a minute on average, although switching that to a mixed text, colour and photo document dropped that down to a more sedate 3 pages per minute.
While the Epson ET-4750 isn't sold as a photo printer, it can print to photo paper, although the results are naturally a little more muted than from a regular photo-centric printer. On average, the Epson ET-4750 took around 2 minutes and 45 seconds to produce a standard 4x6 photo shot onto glossy photo paper.
The real story with the Epson ET-4750 is its use of refillable ink bottles, and it's also why it carries its $649 price point. Epson says that the bottles supplied with the printer should be good for up to two years' worth of printing, which it defines as up to 14,000 black pages or up to 11,200 colour pages. Obviously those figures will vary depending on your print type, but taking that at face value, it equates out to around 4.6c per black page, or 5.8c per colour page printed just from the supplied bottles.
The official Epson ink bottles run $29.99 for black and $14.99 for any colour bottle, bearing in mind that your usage may not be identical across all colours. You can also buy an all-in set of each bottle type for a recommended price of $74.96.
Epson estimates that the black bottle will run to around 7,500 pages, which means in theoretical terms it's a printer that gets slightly cheaper once you refill it, because that equates out to around 3.9c per page for the replacement bottle. Again, your usage may vary, but that's a fairly compelling case for what is quite a flexible printer.
The Epson ET-4750's selling point is the inclusion of those high-capacity ink bottles, but that does mean that it's a printer best used by smaller businesses that need to churn through a solid quantity of documents.
You can save on ink costs over time by using this kind of refillable ink system, but you're making a significant upfront investment in order to do so.
If your printing needs are more modest, or you need more photo printing at speed and quality, there are many more lower-cost printing options available to you.