best inkjet printers – Epson Expression, 2017

The Epson Expression ET-2550 EcoTank isn’t the best printer out there, but it does offer something no other printer does – it has the lowest operating cost of any printer we reviewed by a large margin. The printer comes with enough ink to last the average household more than two years, and refills sell at low prices that average out to a penny a page. If you want the most economical inkjet printer on the market, this is it.

Summary

While it has an unbeatable cost per page, the printer does have some real weaknesses, not least among them print quality that many will find unacceptable. In our testing, documents were filled with errors like stray spots of ink and ink smudges on black and white documents and prominent banding and uneven color mixtures on color documents. It’s also the slowest printer of the bunch, chugging along at 8.5 pages per minute (ppm) for black and white documents and an even slower 3.3 ppm when printing color. Despite all of this, it actually is a decent inkjet printer for photos, producing good print quality, albeit at a very slow speed of 0.5 photos per minute. If time isn’t a factor, this may be the best photo inkjet printer to buy, since the quality is quite good and the ink is so very affordable.

The printer’s design gives it its EcoTank name, with large built-in ink reservoirs instead of the usual removable ink cartridges. Instead of buying new cartridges, you buy bottles of ink and refill the tanks by hand, a process that many will find quite inconvenient. When we filled the tanks initially, we were grateful rubber gloves were included with our review unit, but you won’t find any included with the printer when you buy it. That said, the inconvenience of refilling the ink may be worth it if ink costs are a big concern, since a single refill provides enough ink for thousands of pages. There’s no high-capacity option but only because the bottle-based refill system already makes this the leading cheap inkjet printer in terms of ink prices.

While the ultra-affordable ink can save you money, you pay in other ways, namely by giving up several features that are common on other home inkjet printers. The printer has a basic 100-page paper tray but no secondary tray, not even for photo paper. There’s also no automatic duplexing, meaning printing on both sides of the page requires flipping every page by hand.

Networking is Wi-Fi only, with no Ethernet connection. Direct printing is also out for everything but media cards, since it doesn’t support USB printing or PictBridge for cameras, wired or otherwise. The one area it does well as a wireless inkjet printer is mobile devices, thanks to support for both Apple Air Print and Google Cloud Print, which should cover most smartphones and tablets.

Epson covers the Expression ET-2550 EcoTank with a generous two-year warranty, which is twice as long as the standard one-year guarantee on most printers. Epson also offers tech support via phone, live chat and email. Online you’ll find a number of helpful support materials, including an online manual and FAQs.

The Epson Expression ET-2550 EcoTank may not be perfect, thanks in no small part to its relatively poor print quality and paucity of features, but it does deliver best-in-class affordability. If you value budget-friendly printing over convenience and print quality, it’s easy to recommend the Epson Expression ET-2550 EcoTank. For everyone else, however, you may want to pass.