Inkjet printers can be one of the more expensive devices in your home office.
Sure, they start out cheap enough — you can buy a decent all-in-one inkjet printer for $99 or even less.
Where they get you is with the ink cartridges.
A full set of four ink cartridges for that $99 printer will run you $38. That same set of ink cartridges with an extra-large black cartridge costs $58.
It’s easy to see how inkjet printing can get expensive.
My wife is a teacher, and we print a lot at home. We’ve gone through a lot of printers in the last 15 years, including models from HP, Canon and Epson.
A few years back, Epson introduced inkjet printers that use onboard ink tanks instead of replaceable cartridges. You fill the tanks from bottles of ink, and the bottles can last for years. It was a genius move and a no-brainer if you print a lot, but you will pay more for the printer up front.
I’ve been testing Epson’s new EcoTank ET-4760 All-In-One printer, and it’s the best inkjet printer I’ve ever used. At $499.99, it’s the most expensive printer I’ve ever tried at home, too. Epson has a full line of EcoTank printers with prices up over $1,000 for wide-format printers.
The ET-4760 is designed for heavy home users or small businesses.
It’s easy to set up, and it has features that make it easy to connect to a network.
The all-in-one is a printer, copier, scanner and fax machine. The flatbed copier/scanner on top has a document feeder with a 30-sheet capacity.
The 4760 has only one feed tray, and it holds 250 sheets of paper. There are no extra trays for loading a quick envelope or letterhead page.
The tray is easy to access, and when you open it to change the paper, you’ll be asked on the 2.4-inch color touch screen to verify what paper type and size you’re loading. You can even set favorites if you switch between a few types all the time.
The printer can take paper as small as 3 by 5 inches all the way up to 8.5 by 14 inches.
It is also possible to print banners that are 8.5 inches wide and up to 47 inches long.
The 4760 can print black pages at up to 15 pages per minute and color at up to 8 pages per minute. The printer can also print on both sides of the paper (duplex).
This printer has almost any connection you could ask for — USB, Ethernet and wireless, including Wi-Fi direct for printing from phones and tablets directly.
It can handle Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, Android Printing and Fire OS printing.
I set it up to print via Wi-Fi at my house.
Once it finds your home network, you will have to type on the printer’s tiny screen to enter your password.
Epson puts some of the OK and Cancel buttons very close to the edge of the screen, and with my big fingers, I had a hard time pressing those buttons on the first try. If you have big fingers, too, try using your pinkie to press the buttons on the edge.
I had no problem printing from my phone and my Mac.
Getting the 4760 loaded up with ink is a different experience.
After you unbox the printer and remove all the packing tape, you lift the lid to expose the print heads and ink tanks. The printer ships with four bottles of ink (cyan, magenta, yellow and black.).
The ink bottles have four differently shaped plastic tips that correspond to the four ink tanks. You flip open the cover to the black tank, twist the cap off the black ink bottle and tip it up and connect it to the tank. There is a small valve on each bottle’s tip that keeps the ink from spilling. Once you press the bottle down onto the top of the tank, the ink starts filling the tank, which only takes 30 seconds or so.
Follow the same process for the other three ink bottles and then plug in the printer to charge the ink. This pumps ink through the tubes between the tanks and the printheads.
You’ll notice that the bottles of ink have a bit left in them after the initial fill procedure.
After the ink system is charged, you’ll be able to put the rest of the ink in the tanks using the same method.
When you close the ink tank lid, the printer is smart enough to ask whether you’ve filled the tanks and asks you to reset the ink levels to “full.”
The tanks are visible on the lower right side of the printer, and it’s easy to tell when you’re running low on ink.
Epson says the bottles should last the average user up to two years, but the number of pages you’ll be able to print from a full tank will vary depending on how much coverage is printed on each page.
The black tank is larger than the color tanks. You can buy and replace the inks individually.
Black ink costs $20 per bottle. The other three colors cost between $10 to $13 each.
Epson says you can expect to print up to 7,500 black pages and 6,000 color pages per tank.
Each set of ink gives the equivalent of 80 individual print cartridges.
The per-page cost is pretty low as well. Epson says each color page costs about 1 cent.
The recommended monthly page volume is 800 pages.
Printing from the 4760 was pretty straightforward. Once I set up the printer to print wirelessly from my laptop, it never failed to print when I asked. The computer never complained about not being connected.
Text was crisp and looked as good as laser printing for average-sized text (I’d say under 24-point type).
Graphics looked nice, and the color and gray gradations were smooth.
The 4760 isn’t a photo printer, but it can print pretty nice-looking pictures on glossy photo paper.
It isn’t the quietest printer, although there is a quiet mode available that will reduce the printing speed.
I really like the EcoTank ET-4760. It has all the features you’d want in an all-in-one for your home office or even a small business.
Ethernet networking and a 250-sheet tray mean this printer can service multiple users, and the ink refills in bottles rather than tiny cartridges means printing is pretty darn cheap.
One last tip: Any inkjet printer will give you problems if you don’t use it regularly. There is ink in the tubing and printheads, just ready for you to print. If you go a few weeks without printing, that ink will start to gum up, and the printer will need to charge the system (pump fresh ink through to get things flowing).
It is important to print some pages at least weekly, if not daily. The best thing you can do for an inkjet printer is to use it regularly.
Pros:Easy to set up. Enough ink for two years. Cheap ink refills. Nice-looking output.
Cons:A little loud, expensive up front, no extra paper trays.
Bottom line:If you print a lot, ink tanks are definitely the way to go.