Epson EcoTank Workforce ET-4550 Printer

      Photo Review 8.8

      In summary

      We’ve awarded the ET-4550 an Editor’s Choice based on our assessment of its capabilities and performance as a general-purpose home and small office printer that could be called upon at times to produce photo prints. For many people, the convenience and long-term value for money of the EcoTank system will fully justify the higher up-front prices of these printers (with some  some reservations – see full review).

      While photo prints from these printers will be suitable for short-term display on bulletin boards or fridge doors, don’t expect them to last long enough for handing down to your grandchildren. With the current ink set, it seems 18-25 years is the best you can hope for in album storage, compared with up to 300 years for Epson’s Claria dye inks.


      Full review

      This won’t be a typical review because the printers released by Epson under its EcoTank label are designed for general-purpose office applications, rather than photo printers. We’re only looking at them because they address a long-held complaint that has dogged inkjet printing since its inception: the ink tanks supplied with consumer-level printers are much too small and too expensive. For our review we received the top-of-the-range EcoTank Workforce ET-4550.


      The flagship ET-4550 model from Epson’s new EcoTank range of multifunction printers. (Source: Epson.)

      Australian consumers are only seeing four models out of the total range ““ with a fifth A3+ model, the EcoTank Expression ET-14000, scheduled for release some time down the track. All of them use only four ink colours supplied in bottles that Epson says contain enough ink to last the average person for two years.

      Incidentally, Epson’s Singapore website lists 18 ink tank system printers: four single-function printers (one of them A3+ size), 11 multi-function printers and three photo printers (one of them A3+ size), the latter being six-ink models.  Details can be found on the Epson website. (It would be great to see that six-ink A3+ model on sale in Australia.)

      The main selling point for these printers is their user-refillable ink tanks. The printers actually cost more up front than their regular equivalents but Epson claims that in long-term use, purchasers will be better off. And, according to published specifications, this seems to be true.

      We have compared the ET-4550 with Epson’s Expression Premium XP-820, the top model in the multi-function printer range that also uses a combination of dye (for colours) and pigment (for black) inks.  Note: the XP-820 uses a 5-cartridge ink set with separate photo and matte blacks because it’s a ‘photo’ printer, while but the ET-4550 comes with a 140 ml bottle of black ink, which puts it on a similar footing. We have used multi-packs of  XP-820 high-capacity cartridges in the price/productivity comparisons.


      Epson ET-4550

      Epson XP-820

      Nozzle configuration

      400 nozzles Black, 128 nozzles in each colour (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow)

      360 nozzles Black, 180 nozzles in each colour (Cyan, Yellow, Magenta, Photo Black)

      Min. droplet volume

      3 Picolitres

      1.5 Picolitres

      Print resolution

      5760 x 1440 optimised dpi with (with Variable Sized Droplet Technology)

      Ink type

      Dye (unspecified)

      Dye (Claria Premium)

      Ink yields

      Black 6,000 pages; Colour Composite 6,500 pages

      Black 500 pages; Colour Composite 650 pages,
       Photo Black approx. 400 photos

      Print permanence


      Up to 300 years album storage

      Noise level



      Power consumption

      Approx. 11W Standalone copying (ISO/IEC 24712)
       Approx. 1.5W (Sleep Mode)

      Approx. 20W (copying, ISO/IEC 24712), 6.9W (Ready Mode), 1.6W (Sleep Mode)


      515 x 360 x 241 mm

      390 x 339 x 191 mm


      7.4 kg

      8.4 kg

      RRP of printer



      Replacement ink cost

      $24.99 for T774 Black, $16.99 each for C, M and Y refill bottles   (total for set = $75.96)

      $142 per set of high-capacity cartridges

      ($20.99 each for standard cartridges, $31.99 for high-capacity cartridges)

      For both printers the ink yields are based upon the number of A4 pages carrying the ISO/IEC24712 standard test pattern. However, the ET-4550 is supplied with two bottles each of the Black, Cyan, Magenta and Yellow inks, although the C, M and Y inks are ‘bonus’ bottles that each hold 40 ml.


       The replacement ink set for the ET-4550, showing the 140 ml bottle of black ink plus the 70 ml bottles of cyan, magenta and yellow ink. (Source: Epson.)

      There are a couple of other points worth noting. For starters, while the XP-820 is listed as a photo printer, no mention of photo printing is made in the promotional materials for the   EcoTank printers. And the six-ink ‘photo’ printers listed on Epson’s Singapore website appear to use the same type of ink as the four-ink printers released locally.

      Dig a little deeper and the reason lies in each printer’s ink set. Wilhelm Imaging Research ( has tested prints from the L355 multifunction 4-ink printer and the L800 6-ink ‘photo’ printer and found ‘the dye inks supplied with the printers have poor light stability and also have very poor resistance to atmospheric ozone‘ and ‘when used with plain papers, the waterfastness of the inks is very poor‘. In other words, they’re using cheap inks.

      Depending on which paper is used, these inks have been rated at between 2 and 18 years for prints displayed under glass. Testing of album storage is currently underway.

      In contrast, the  Expression Premium printers use Epson’s Claria dye inks, which are rated by for 98 years when displayed under glass or up to 300 years in albums.

      Who are they for?
      The ink set provides the answer here: EcoTank printers have been developed for consumers who make a lot of prints and are very budget-conscious. Consequently, they will appeal to clubs, social groups, schools and small businesses as well as households who want an everyday printer/copier unit for copying and printing tasks associated with domestic, school or university projects. As long as the printout remains readable for a year or so these consumers will be satisfied.

      Photographers who need a general-purpose multifunction printer that is cheap to run could consider an EcoTank printer, particularly the ET-4550 model if they only make occasional photo prints that aren’t destined for long-term display or storage. Prints that are posted on fridge doors or cork boards could easily me produced with this printer. It could provide an affordable option for anyone wanting to experiment with printing their own photo books, despite its many limitations (outlined below).

      Epson is promoting its EcoTank printers as alternatives to colour laser printers, which have relatively expensive toner cartridges but are faster than inkjets and can support much higher printing volumes. They also seem to be targeted at consumers who use third-party cartridges instead of Epson’s more expensive but longer-lasting inks and those who refill cartridges or fit out their printers with continuous ink systems.

      However, there is an established network of businesses supplying alternative cartridges with cheap inks.  More adventurous and cost-conscious buyers are also well catered for with several online resellers offering refillable cartridges and ink in bottles with capacities between 100 ml and one litre. We found prices ranging between AU$56 and AU$250 for the CMYK set or AU$75-AU$380 for the six ink set. At least three continuous ink supply systems (CISS) companies have selling ink in bulk in Australia for at least 3 years.

      Unfortunately for Epson, their EcoTank inks cost more than these alternatives and provides few quantifiable advantages, so there’s some competition to overcome. It will be interesting to see how the company addresses this situation.

      Multi-function capabilities
       The four EcoTank models sold in Australia share the same basic characteristics: A4 size, CMYK inks, multi-functionality (print/scan/copy/ Wi-Fi). While providing the key functions of a multifunction printer, each model differs in minor ways including the presence or absence of an LCD screen, support for Wi-Fi Direct printing, automatic document feeding and duplexing, memory card slots and technological sophistication.  

      The    ET-2500, ET-2550 and ET-4500 are configured for home use as document printers and have 180 nozzles for the black ink plus 59 nozzles for each colour. The main difference between these models is that the ET-2550 has a 1.44-inch LCD screen and card slot, while the ET-2500 lacks both. Neither includes a fax.

      The  ET-4500 has no card slot and a larger 2.2-inch LCD screen plus fax capabilities but the same print head as the cheaper models.   The  flagship ET-4550 model is configured for more serious office usage and has 400 nozzles for the black ink plus 128 nozzles for each colour. It has the same LCD screen as the ET-4500 but, again, no card slot. It’s also the only one to support automatic duplex printing (printing on both sides of the paper), albeit with severe restrictions.

      With more than double the number of ink nozzles of the other models, the ET-4550 should, in theory, deliver finer detail. It is also the only model with Epson’s PrecisionCore technology, which uses a high-density print chip to generate up to 40 million dots per second for fine detail and ‘laser-like’ text.

      Interestingly, the scanner appears to be the same in all four models as they all list the resolution at 1200 x 2400 dpi. However, Epson uses different measurement systems for listing copying speeds so you can’t compare them. The ET-2500 specs list the time taken to copy one page, the ET-2550 lists ‘cpm’ (copies per minute?) and the ET-4500 and ET-4550 speeds are both listed in ‘ipm’ (images per minute?). The ET-4550 is slightly faster.

      Only the ET-4500 and ET-4550 are capable of sending and receiving faxes and both come with ports for connecting a phone line or external telecommunications device. The faxing capabilities are the same for both models, with a maximum speed of up to three seconds/page, speed dialling for up to 60 names and numbers and a 100 page memory.

      Setting up
      Weighing only 7.4 kg, the ET-4550 is light enough for one person to lift onto a desk once the Styrofoam packing has been removed. Its 515 x 558 mm footprint (with the paper tray extended) is also small enough to fit comfortably on most desktops.


       Setting up an EcoTank printer is fairly straightforward, with most steps the same as for a normal inkjet printer. When you’ve removed all the packaging tapes (14 strips) you must install the software from the supplied CD and follow the steps in the on-screen installation wizard.


      The first step is to select which mode of connection you’ll use: Wi-Fi, Ethernet or USB. Then you’re prompted to open the ink tank unit cover on the right hand side of the printer and install the inks.

      The ET-4550 comes with eight bottles of ink; two 140 ml bottles holding black ink and one 70 ml bottle each for the cyan, magenta and yellow inks. There are also three 40 ml bottles (one for each colour) labelled ‘Bonus’.

      Handling the inks can be a messy process so you’re advised to wear rubber gloves and protect the working area around the ink tank unit by laying down an old newspaper.


      Step 1: Open the ink tank unit cover.  Then take off the cap on the ink tank and ‘park’ it on the ledge above the tank.


       Step 2: Snap off the top of the bottle cap, unscrew the cap and carefully remove the seal from the bottle.

      Be very careful when removing the foil seal to ensure the ink doesn’t get into contact with your skin, your clothing or anything in the working area. Place the seal in a plastic bag (the one the bottle came in is ideal) and screw the cap back onto the bottle, making sure it is tightly fitted.


      Step 3: Carefully insert the tip of the bottle cap into the matching (colour coded) ink tank and fill the tank with all of the ink.

      The neck of each bottle is narrow enough to fit into the tank opening without spilling its contents. However, because it’s quite narrow, although the ink is fluid, you will need to squeeze the bottle several times to transfer its contents to the ink tanks. Keep squeezing until as much of the ink as possible has been transferred.


       Step 4: Replace the top of the bottle cap on the cap of the ink bottle.


       Step 5: Replace the ink tank cap securely.


       Step 6: Repeat steps 2 to 5 to fill the remaining ink tanks.


       Step 7: Then close the ink tank unit cover and press one of the Start buttons on the right hand side of the control panel to start charging the ink. This process takes about 20 minutes.

      Paper is loaded with the face to be printed downwards in the pull-out cassette in the base of the printer. It can hold up to 120 sheets of Epson Bright White Ink Jet paper, up to 80 sheets of Epson Photo Quality Ink Jet paper or up to 20 sheets of Epson Premium Glossy or Matte photo papers. Plain papers can be loaded up to a line marked in the cassette.


       Loading paper in the cassette.

      While the cassette is quite sturdily built, the paper output tray is rather flimsy. It pulls out over the cassette and they are in very close proximity so we had to lift the output tray in order to pull out the cassette. This can be inconvenient when re-loading paper in the cassette or when printing on both sides of a sheet of thicker paper to produce a book or brochure.

      There’s a lift-up flap at the end of the paper tray to stop prints from shooting out onto the floor. It must be folded down into a recess in the end tray before the paper tray is closed. If you leave it up and close the paper tray, it’s even more difficult to pull out the paper cassette because a lip on the lower edge of the flap blocks the way.

      There are two ways to insert documents for copying or scanning. They can be placed face down on the scanner’s platen or, more conveniently, fed in face up through the automatic document feeder (ADF) on the top of the printer. The ADF has priority when both are used and it’s easier to get documents square with the ADF.

      Scanned documents looked almost identical to the originals. Scanned photo prints were slightly less detailed due to increased contrast but could be considered acceptable for casual usage. Naturally, the condition of the original image was a key determinant of output quality.

      We have made separate assessments of the ET-4550’s performance for normal office printing and photo printing, because they are quite different. However, the same driver and control panel functions are used for both and the driver is very basic and designed primarily for office tasks.


       The main page of the printer driver.

      Only four types of paper are supported in the printer driver and the printer’s controls panel: plain paper, Premium Glossy, Matte and envelope. Paper sizes supported include Letter, A4, B5, A5, A6, Legal and User Defined, which has a maximum size of 210 x 1200 mm. When printing at a User Defined size, only Standard or Normal print quality settings are available.

      For office-style document printing, most applications are covered by the default plain paper setting (which includes copy paper) and the additional envelope setting in the setup sub-menu (with #10, DL and C6 sizes). It’s easy to choose between greyscale (B&W) and colour, either in the driver or via the control panel, where there are large, clearly-identified buttons.


       Duplexing options are located in the drop-down menu for 2-sided printing.

      We measured printing speeds for typical office tasks and found an A4 document took roughly 10 seconds to print at standard quality on plain paper, while a double-sided document was output in approximately 28 seconds. Using the Eco setting in the printer driver had little effect on printing times but reduced the amount of ink used. The High-Quality setting increased printing times by less than 20%.

      The printer driver provides default printing presets to cover printing speed and quality as well as 2-sided and 2-up (two pages on one sheet). There’s also a 4-up option in the Multi-page sub-menu and an option to fit the page to the paper size loaded in the   cassette, which lets you reduce A4 sized documents to, say, A5 size or smaller.

      Windows users can also print one image on up to four sheets to create a poster and include alignment marks to help stick them together. For printing brochures with coloured pictures, selecting the PhotoEnhance setting in the Colour Corrections section of the More Options tab will deliver sharper images with more vivid colours. Windows users can also watermark sheets to prevent illegal copying and print headers and footers on each sheet of a document.
      Selecting some operations will disable functions you may wish to use. For example, while you might like to use the duplexing function for printing a photo book, it can only be used with plain paper and the Standard quality setting. Try selecting either the matte or Premium Glossy paper settings  of High Quality and it doesn’t function, forcing you to do the job manually.

      Paper feeding procedures complicate matters when printing on both sides of a sheet. The lower surface of the paper is printed, so a stack of paper must be loaded into the cassette face downwards.  Deposition of ink starts with the top (or right hand end of a landscape sheet) of the page. Both factors must be taken into account when checking the paper’s orientation.

      You must also choose correctly when selecting the duplexing options in the driver (long-edge binding or short-edge binding) because if you select the wrong one you can end up with the reverse side printed upside-down. We made a few mistakes before getting the hang of it and we expect others will, too.

      Print quality is more dependent on the quality of the paper you’re using than the quality setting. The default speed setting is ‘High’, which means the print head deposits ink while moving in both directions. Unchecking this button makes ink deposition occur in only one direction and should result in better quality.

      We found a small drop in quality when the High speed setting was used, although standard quality quite good enough for most documents printed on plain paper, although the nature of the paper meant that printed images looked rather flat, even when the high quality setting was selected.

      Document printing times were pretty snappy, with an average of between 10 and 16 seconds per A4 sheet with the High-speed button checked, depending on the document’s complexity (text or text plus images) and the quality setting. With the High-speed button unchecked and quality set to High, a complex A4 document took just over 2 minutes to print.

      Duplexing was also quite fast. A double-page document was printed on both sides of an A4 sheet in less than 30 seconds with the Eco Document 2-sided setting. Printing two pages on the same sheet took slightly less time, averaging   20 seconds.

      Document copying took slightly longer because it included the scanning times, with an A4 sheet fed through the ADF (auto document feeder) on the top of the printer taking around one minute and 17 seconds, on average with the High-speed button checked. The same document placed on the scanner platen took just under a minute and a half. Print quality was identical in both cases and very close to the original page.

      While neither the driver nor the control panel provides much scope for photo printing, both the driver and control panel provide additional settings for glossy and matte papers. However, the printer driver can’t re-set the paper type so if you change the option in the driver you must also do so via the control panel or expect an error message.


       Printing an image through Windows Viewer.


       Printing through Epson Easy Photo Print.

      You can print photos through either your computer’s operating system, Epson’s Easy Photo Print software or an image editor like Photoshop, Lightroom or GIMP. Wireless printing is supported through Epson’s iPrint app, which can be installed on a smart device by downloading it from or using the QR code in the printer’s user manual. Alternatively, you can sign up to the Epson Connect service to print from the internet or cloud storage. In each case, selecting the printer provides access to the printer driver and the settings on the driver must match those in the printer.

      We printed the same image on plain paper using the standard and High quality settings with the High-speed button unchecked and then on Epson Photo Paper, which has a low-gloss surface, Epson Premium Semi-Gloss (using the Glossy setting) and Longbottom 170 gsm double-sided matte paper, which we often use for printing books. Naturally, the images printed on the plain paper appeared flat by comparison with those printed on the photo papers. Printing times were also longer on the photo papers.

      In general, we were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the photo prints we made with the ET-4550, which looked very good for a four-ink printer. As an experiment, we printed a photo book on 32 pages of A4 double-sided matte paper using Microsoft Publisher for the layout. The printer’s driver can be accessed through Publisher in the same way as through Windows Viewer.

      When printing photo books,  it’s best to print all right-hand pages and then flip the stack of prints over to print the left-hand ones because it gives the ink time to dry completely. Make sure you keep track of which image goes on the reverse side of each sheet and remember the printer prints on the side of the paper that faces down in the cassette.

      Incidentally, these printers are also configured for Letter (215 x 279.4 mm) and Legal (215.9 x 355.6 mm) papers, both of which are sold in North America and would be suitable for book printing. You can also print panoramic images up to a maximum length of 1200 mm, with a maximum width of 210 mm supported in the User Defined menu. But you’d need to cut your own sheets from larger papers.

      None of the EcoTank printers supports ICC profiling but when printing photos through Photoshop (as we did for our tests) you can choose whether to let Photoshop or the printer manage the colours. If the former is selected, the default printer profile displayed is Epson IJ Printer 07.

      We found setting the printer to manage the colours produced prints with noticeably higher contrast and saturation than when we used Photoshop to manage the colours. It’s worth bearing this in mind when editing original images for printing.

      Aside from that, we couldn’t see significant differences in the amount of detail reproduced in the prints, although the tonal rendition was more natural looking when Photoshop managed the colours.  Nor could we see much difference in prints made through Photoshop with the printer managing the colours and through the other software we used (Windows Viewer, Microsoft Publisher and Epson Easy Photo Print), probably because in each case the printer controlled the colour management.

      Printing times varied slightly, depending on the paper used, as shown below.

      A4 Photo on Matte paper via EasyPhotoPrint standard quality: 3 minutes 0 seconds

      A4 Photo on Matte paper via EasyPhotoPrint high quality: 3 min 40 sec.

      A4 Photo on Matte paper via Microsoft Publisher – high quality: 5 min 5 sec. to 5 min 20 sec.

      A4 Photo on Epson Photo Paper via Windows Viewer – high quality: 3 min 40 sec.

      A4 Photo on Epson Photo Paper via Photoshop – high quality: 6 min 38 sec.

      It was almost impossible to detect any differences in output quality in the prints we made on the different papers and with different quality settings. With very close examination you could just see a marginally better tonal rendition in the brightest highlights and deepest shadows in the prints made on matte paper. There was no trace of gloss differential or bronzing on prints made on glossy or semi-gloss papers, which is as you would expect when using dye inks.

      We also asked a colleague who was reviewing the ET-4500 to make prints of one of the images we were using to compare print quality on different papers. Once again, any differences in output quality were negligible, suggesting you don’t actually need the higher nozzle count and PrecisionCore technology for making decent-looking photo prints.

       We’ve awarded the ET-4550 an Editor’s Choice based on our assessment of its capabilities and performance as a general-purpose home and small office printer that could be called upon at times to produce photo prints. For many people, the convenience and long-term value for money of the EcoTank system will fully justify the higher up-front prices of these printers.

      But there are some reservations: the difference in price between the ET-4550 and the XP-820 is $330 in favour of the latter, so it will take some time for most potential users to make up that difference, based on cheaper ink. If your volumes are low, the EcoTank printer probably isn’t a good investment on a cost/benefit analysis.

      By our calculations (based on Epson’s stated yields) the cost in ink to print one A4 page in colour, using the ISO29183 standard is 0.6 cents per page. Using the same standard and the Epson XP-820, the cost per page is close to seven cents. The difference is more than a factor of ten in favour of the EcoTank printers.

      But cost isn’t the only factor to consider. The inconvenience of frequent cartridge changing will tip the balance in favour of the EcoTank printers, particularly for people who live in rural areas where office supplies are limited. Never having to worry about running out of ink in the middle of important jobs will also resonate with many people.

      Anyone who moves their printer frequently, either between rooms or between dwellings should probably give the EcoTank printers a miss. The risk of spilling ink is much higher than with a cartridge-based printer.

      While photo prints from these printers will be suitable for short-term display on bulletin boards or fridge doors, don’t expect them to last long enough for handing down to your grandchildren. With the current ink set, it seems 18-25 years is the best you can hope for in album storage, compared with up to 300 years for Epson’s Claria dye inks.

      Interestingly, we found a White Paper on the Epson America website that refers to the ‘EcoTank WF-R4640 with DuraBrite ® inks’. Although no information is provided on print durability, Wilhelm Imaging Research has these inks rated at between 40 and 105 years when framed under glass or 185 and 300 years in album storage, depending on the paper. This pigment-ink printer is listed on the Epson USA website but, like the printers sold in Australia, it uses only four inks and delivers A4 output.

      Offering a 6-ink A3+ Eco Tank printer with longer-lasting DuraBrite or Claria inks, would give Epson a golden opportunity to encourage more casual photographers into printing their photos and producing photo books.   A printer similar to the L1800 model offered in Singapore would be the ideal starting point.

      Should such a printer arrive on the market, regardless of whether it’s made by Epson or Canon (in that case with the ChromaLife100 ink set), we would immediately snap it up for printing photo books. And we suspect a lot of our readers would do likewise.Printer type:On-demand Inkjet (piezo-electric)



       Printer type:On-demand Inkjet (piezo-electric)
       Nozzle configuration: 400 nozzles Black, 128 nozzles in each colour (Cyan, Yellow, Magenta)
       Resolution: 5760 x 1440 optimised dpi with (with Variable Sized Droplet Technology)
       Ink delivery system: Refillable ink tanks
       Ink bottles: T774 (Black, 140 ml), T664 (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, 70 ml each)
       Ink yield with supplied inks: 4,000 Pages Black / 6,500 Pages Colour
       Paper sizes: A4, A5, A6, B5, 10x15cm(4x6in), 13x18cm(5x7in), 9x13cm(3.5x5in), Letter(8.5x11in), Legal(8.5x14in), Half Letter(5.5×8 1/2in), 13x20cm(5x8in), 20x25cm(8x10in), 16:9 wide size, 100x148mm, Envelopes: #10(4.125×9.5in), DL(110x220mm), C6(114x162mm)
       Scanning:  A4 Flatbed colour image scanner
       Scanning resolution: 1200 x 2400 dpi
       Copy speed: Black text – 11 ipm; colour text – 5.5 ipm
       Interfaces: Hi-Speed USB (2.0), Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), Epson Email Print, Epson iPrint
       Power consumption:  Approx. 11W , 1.5W in Sleep Mode
       Acoustic noise: 50dB
       Dimensions (wxhxd): 515 x 360 x 241 mm
       Weight: 7.4 kg  

      Epson Australia  



      RRP: AU$699; US$499.99

      • Build: 8.5
      • Features: 8.8
      • Print quality for documents: 8.8
      • Print quality for photos: 8.5
      • Print speed for documents: 8.8
      • Print speed for photos: 8.5