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5 April 2022

Print for less than half a cent per page: ink tank printers trump models that use ink cartridges in Consumer NZ review

A Consumer NZ comparison has found that ink tank printers are about 16 times cheaper to print than a similar ink cartridge model.

Consumer purchased two printer models, the refillable ink tank Epson ET-2850 ($499), and a near-identical Epson XP-3100 ($149) ink cartridge model to identify the differences.

“The ET-2850 EcoTank printer looks expensive next to the seemingly identical XP-3100,” said Consumer test manager Paul Smith.

“I picked up the more affordable printer on sale for just $49, so it seemed a bargain. But manufacturers can be sneaky. You pay much less for cartridge-based printers like this because they know you’ll end up paying much more for ink in the long run.”

In the box, the XP-3100 Epson includes black and colour ink cartridges that’ll print 130 pages each. However, the ET-2850 EcoTank printer is supplied with enough ink to print about 6500 black and white pages and 5200 colour pages.

“You’ll need to buy 13 of the best-value, high-capacity ink cartridges to match the out-of-the-box printing from the ink tank printer. That $49 printer doesn’t look such a bargain when you add in those extra cartridges – it works out costing $170 more than the ink tank printer.”

“It gets worse, too,” Smith said. “If I was to go on and print another 7500 black and white pages, the extra ink for the EcoTank would cost just $35 compared to $600 for the equivalent cartridges. That’s less than half a cent per page to refill the ink tank, compared to 8 cents per page if you buy cartridges. And it’s even worse if you print in colour.”

All four major home-printer companies sell ink tank models alongside a range of cartridge-based printers. They say customer preferences vary and the cartridge models are good value for people who don’t need to print very often.

“However, if you’re looking to get a printer at home, you’re better off getting something that doesn’t drain money every time you need to replace the ink,” Smith said. “Even if you only print occasionally, the cartridge costs soon add up.”

In the trial, there was very little difference in the performance of the two printers. Both produced good-quality printing, easily connected wirelessly to WiFi, printed directly from connected devices and were intuitive to use through the Epson print app. They are both multifunction devices, so they can duplex print, copy and scan.


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