The high running cost of traditional inkjet printers is legendary. In 2015 Epson introduced the first EcoTank printers with the goal of lowering the cost-per-page of printing. By avoiding constant replacement of cartridges with “supertank” printers, Epson was reducing material wastage and as a flow on effect, be more environmentally friendly.
Just last month in May 2021, Epson partnered with National Geographic and launched their “Turn Down the Heat” campaign with the aim of raising awareness of how people can reduce their own impact of global warming.
DRN got the opportunity to review the new Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8500 featuring Epson’s patented Micro Piezo Heat-Free Technology, aimed at keen amateur photographers. The EcoTank Photo ET-8500 is the first six-ink model in the Epson range.
For something that is constrained by minimum size, the EcoTank Photo ET-8500 is quite a compact unit. The DRN review unit is in gloss white, nothing offensive there and by and large, the printer is not going to be a showpiece. The footprint is 40cm wide by 36 cm deep when closed.
The elephant in the inkjet room is clearly on display rather than hidden away. The ink tanks are right there, in the bottom right corner. All six of them with their translucent plastic clearly showing how much is left in the tank. The colour of the ink barely shows through the bottle, but if you flip up the LCD panel above it then you can seen the labelling above each tank.
The 4.3″ LCD is fairly bright and of good resolution. Navigation on the screen is responsive and the clarity is good. I could discern reasonable amounts of details when I want to preview a photo on the printer itself.
There is no ADF (Automatic Document Feeder), just a flat bed scanner under the hood. There is a dedicated photo paper tray (5×7″ or smaller) and an A4 tray.
Getting things going is pretty simple. The main connectivity is WiFi, either onto your network or Wi-Fi Direct. I dialled it into my home network and it showed up ready to use on our phones. On the PC side it was a matter of installing the driver on Windows and we were rocking and rolling.
There are other ways of connecting to your printer. The ET-8500 has support for ethernet, USB, WiFi or Epson Smart Panel app on your smart phone as options for connectivity. I had no issues finding the ET-8500 via different means as long as it was turned on and connected to my network. It also made for a nice change to have a (working) Wi-Fi enabled printer in the house.
Opening up the paper tray adds an additional 4cm in front. The output tray adds 18cm bringing it to a footprint of 40cm wide by 54cm deep. The ET-8500 can and will push the output tray out automatically so make sure you do leave enough room in front of the unit.
When you put paper in the tray, upon pushing the paper tray back into position, it will ask to confirm paper type. This part is all well and good except it did not have the full list of paper available initially. It got up to Premium Glossy but not Ultra Glossy. The printer driver has a few more options, including borderless printing which requires the user to explicitly tick a box to enable.
After I selected the correct paper from my computer, the Ultra Glossy option became available on the LCD screen.
The Epson Smart Panel app provides a full range of paper options as well as full functionality such as borderless printing selection.
The great part is, the printer is very quiet in operation. The initial wake up peaks the noise level. Once the print process starts though, it is very quiet. You can hear the head movement in the background but it is not much over ambient background noise. After a while I don’t even notice it and would have to look to see if the printing is done.
My use case for printers is fairly simple. At a high level, these are:
- Connotes for shipping review gear.
- The occasional work document that requires a physical signature.
- Whatever the kids may need from time to time.
- Transient photos to put up around the house on rotation.
The ET-8500 eats the first three for breakfast. A simple black and white connote is spat out so fast I didn’t even have time to get off my chair before it was done.
Photo printing can take a bit longer, especially if you set the print to the best quality for an A4 print.
The big question is, how is the print quality? Focusing on the photo printing aspect, I was provided with the best quality paper Epson has available – the Ultra Glossy photo paper.
My partner ran off a bunch of family photos in the 4×6″ size. The photos are gorgeous, vibrant and were quickly put up on the wall. I ran off some A4 prints to push the colour reproduction capabilities.
Bearing in mind the ET-8500 is “aimed at keen amateur photographers”, it certainly reproduces photo prints enough to satisfy the average punter. For example I am perfectly content with the quality of the prints that we peg on rotation in our photo frames.
However for some prints where I look for full accuracy of colour and tonal reproduction, the ET-8500 is falling short. Compared to a calibrated monitor, there is a variance that occurs across the board. Generally there is a darkening of scene but the tonal variation is dependent on the colours on the page. All the details are definitely there, even in something as challenging as the skin of a F-117A Nighthawk taken on a sunny (gasp!) British day at RAF Fairford.
As a multifunction device (MFD), there are other standard features such as copying and scanning. All of these can be controlled by the smartphone app or on the LCD screen. Alternatively if you are old school you can download the scanner driver to your computer and control the scanning from there.
In my tests, scanning of text based documents is relatively quick and painless. There is little drama as expected.
However when scanning photos for the purposes of comparison in this review, it is apparent that there is some distortion in the scan output. This is quite obvious when the photos are overlay on each other and it required some work from me to align them for comparison. The scanner also tend to lighten the overall image which I post processed to match the actual print quality.
There are scan to cloud options directly from the ET-8500, this requires a Epson Cloud Connect account which then makes available options such as:
- scan to email
- Google Drive
You can configure up to 60 destinations which makes it handy for the whole family to use.
There is a straight passthrough paper feeder which allows printing on media up to 1.33mm thick such as card stock or poster board, and banners up to 2m long.
Fielding a question from Misty Lavy over on our Facebook page, the ET-8500 can perform sublimation printing with the Epson dye sublimation inks. However this can only be done BEFORE any other ink is put into the tank. Once you start using it for other printing purposes, you are done and dusted.
Refilling the ET-8500 is not particularly difficult. You need to access the tanks by first opening the top of the ET-8500 unit, then flip up the grey cover that protects the refill ports. Helpfully located under the grey cover is a colour coded chart noting which colour belongs to which of the 6 tanks. Additionally each bottle is physically keyed to prevent filling the wrong colour into the wrong tank.
The ET-8500 uses Claria ET Premium Ink which is rated to not fade for 300 years. I am perfectly content not to hang around to test that. The 6 tanks hold Black, Photo Black, Cyan, Yellow, Magenta and Grey respectively.
From this point on, all you need to do is to unscrew the lid of the ink bottle and up-end it onto the appropriate tank. The instructions calls to avoid squeezing the bottles prevent splashing. The process stops automatically when the unit detects the tank is “full”.
When all the tanks are full, the printer will go into an approximately 7 minutes initialisation cycle to fill the ink lines and other noisy processes before it is ready for use again.
There are warnings for “repeated ink filling over 2/3 of the ink tank” and “continued used of printer when the ink level is below the lower line” will damage the printer unit.
Note to the uninitiated, an open ink bottle will need to be used up within 6 months of opening.
Epson Smart Panel
Yes there is an app for everything. The Epson Smart Panel app is available from your respective app store. Whilst I expected the basics of copy / print / scan and control of the ET-8500, I was pleasantly surprised at what Epson did here.
On the home screen is a list of quick launch icons to perform tasks such as Borderless Copy, ID Card, Book Copy, Creative Print, Guest Connection. Handily for those who have had long stints of remote learning, there is direct connection to Google Classroom for printing and scanning. Making that task just a little simpler.
Too many choices and you don’t use all of them? No problems, just go into the Customise Display option and turn off what you don’t need.
The ET-8500 is lacking ICC profiling through the driver, which means you have to rely on applications that supports it such as Photoshop. Even then the software as to establish their own profiles for each paper I choose to use.
The trays and doors all feel a bit flimsy in operation.
The USB port is in an awkward position to reach. It is located in the bottom left corner of the unit and it can be difficult to manoeuvre a small USB drive into the port and not press down on the paper tray door.
The Epson EcoTank ET-8500 is a competent printer for SOHO environment, the fast printing and MFD functions takes very little to get used to. For photo quality prints, it is adequate for casual use – photos around the house, for the grandparents etc. I found whilst it provides quality vibrant prints for personal use, it does not faithfully reproduce colours and tones as one could expect from a professional print room.
The main drawback in my opinion of the ET-8500 is the high cost of entry. It comes with a RRP of $999.00, and it’s A3 brethen has a RRP of $1149.00. Further the purchase of consumables such as photo quality paper will raise the cost of ownership and printing.
The Epson EcoTank ET-8500 is available from www.epson.com.au. DRN would like to thank Epson for providing the review unit on loan.
EcoTank Photo ET-8500: C11CJ20501
Printing method: On-demand Inkjet (piezoelectric)
Nozzle configuration: 360×2 nozzles Black (Pig Black, Dye Photo Black), 720×1 nozzles, each colour (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Grey) (Dye)
Minimum ink droplet volume: 1.5 Picolitres
Print resolution: 5760 x 1440 dpi (with Variable-Sized Droplet Technology)
Black text Normal A4: 16 ISO ppm
Colour text Normal A4: 12 ISO ppm
Max photo default (10 x 15cm): approx 15 seconds per photo
Paper feed method: Friction feed
Paper hold capacity: 100 sheets-A4 Plain paper (75g/m2), 20 sheets-PGPP, 50 sheets Rear Manual Sheet feed (Paper Thickness Up to 1.3mm), 1 Sheet Rear Straight Path
Number of paper trays: 4 (cassette 1, cassette 2, rear feed up to A4 (cassette 1 for photo papers 5×7 or smaller)), rear feed for panoramic prints up to 2m straight path
Double-sided printing: Yes
Scanner type: A4 flatbed colour image scanner
Document size: Up to A4
Scanning resolution: 1200 x 4800 dpi
Black text letter copy: 15 ISO ipm
Colour text letter copy: 8 ISO ipm
Noise level: 6.0dB / 47 db (PC printing / plain paper default in accordance with ISO7779)
Connectivity: High Speed USB — Compatible with the USB 2.0 Specification
Mobile printing: Epson Smart Panel, Apple AirPrint, Scan to Cloud, Remote print driver
Networking: 802.11b/g/n, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct
Ethernet: 100base-TX / 10base-TX
LCD screen: 4.3″ colour display
Card slots: Built-in SD
Supported cards: SD, SDHC, SDXC, MiniSD (With Adapter), MiniSDHC (With Adapter), MicroSD (With Adapter), MicroSDHC (With Adapter), MicroSDXC (With Adapter)
Operating Systems: Windows x64 7/8/8.1/10, Mac OS X 10.6.8, 10.7.x, 10.8.x, 10.9.x, 10.10.x, 10.11x, 10.12x, 10.13x, 10.14x, 10.15x