Epson Premium EcoTank ET-7700

      Photo Review 8.7

       

      In summary

      The Epson Premium EcoTank ET-7700 has plenty of potential for use as a photo printer, best suited for prints destined for relatively short-term use and documents like school projects with text, graphics and photos.

      The black pigment ink has potential for printing longer-lasting books containing text plus B&W photos, such as family histories. And it can also be used to make photo prints that are surprisingly high in quality, provided you print on matte paper.

      Features that also commend this printer for home office use include auto duplexing for easy double-sided printing, Wi-Fi support and the built-in slots that can accept USB 2.0 thumb drives and SD cards.

      While EcoTank printers cost more up-front, if you do a lot of printing you’ll quickly recoup the difference between an EcoTank printer and a standard Workforce printer that uses cartridges. Furthermore, you won’t have to worry about what to do with cartridges that are depleted.

       

      Full review

      Two-and-a half years after reviewing Epson’s EcoTank Expression Premium ET-7750 printer we’ve been given the opportunity to take a look at its ‘little brother’ the ET-7700, which was announced at the same time but is restricted to A4-sized output. Like the ET-7750, it’s a five-ink multi-function printer/scanner/copier device with a flip-out control panel and SD card slot plus refillable ink tanks. Epson supplies this printer with enough ink in the box to print for ‘up to two years’ (equivalent to roughly 176 individual cartridges).

      Angled view of the ET-7700 multi-function printer. (Source: Epson.)

      The printer comes with two bottles of each of the five inks. They include 140 ml bottles of the black pigment ink that is used for document printing and is labelled ‘BK’  plus 70 ml bottles containing dye inks in cyan, magenta, yellow and photo black (‘PB’), which are used for printing photos. Replacement pigment black bottles are priced at AU$29.99, while the dye ink bottles cost AU$22.99 each.

      Like the ET-7750, the ET-7700 is a relatively basic multi-function device for home and office printing, but it’s still only a four-colour printer. We’re still waiting for a six-ink model designed for photo printing like the A3+ L1800 model which has been on sale since 2014 in Singapore, Malaysia, Europe, the UK, Russia, India, South Africa, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Brazil, to name some of the places where it’s listed.

      Ink Issues
      The big issue with this printer is its ink set. Nobody is prepared (or able?) to say how long prints made with it might last. While we’ve been assured the latest ink sets use ‘a more advanced formula than previous ET models’ and ‘are much more fade resistant’, neither Aardenberg nor Wilhelm Imaging Research – the world’s leading independent testing organisations – has released durability data for these inks.

      Wilhelm Imaging Research tested the earlier L800 six-ink model back in 2014 and rated prints at between 17 and 18 years. But the inks had poor resistance to ozone (so they shouldn’t be stuck on the fridge door). It is for this reason we can’t give the ET-7700 an Editor’s Choice rating, which is a pity because otherwise it’s a fine performer.

      The ink set is a key issue that makes the ET-7700 (and also the ET-7750) unsuitable for archival printing. However, when making judgements, it’s worth remembering that most traditional silver halide photo media had permanence ratings of between 13 and 18 years, with Fujicolor Crystal Archive media being the exception at 60 years.

      Many of us were quite content to have our films processed and printed at the local photolab in the past, even though the resulting prints have probably faded by now. Interestingly, the latest multi-function printers, including the ET-7700 include colour restoration functions in their scanning facilities (see below).

      But there’s another factor to consider: four-colour printers aren’t ideal for printing photos due to their restricted colour and tonal gamut. It’s clear that Epson recognises this because since 2014 it has been selling its six-ink A3+ L1800 photo printer in Singapore, Malaysia, Europe, the UK, Russia, India, South Africa, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Brazil, to name some of the places where it’s listed.  The L805 and L850 are its A4 equivalents.

      The question arises: why aren’t these printers available in Australia? They’ve certainly been around for long enough.

      But there’s yet another question readers of Photo Review will likely be asking: why not produce Eco-Tank photo printers that use Epson’s dye-based Claria inks, which have been tested for durability and rated for 80-100 years? Given the quality of prints on glossy paper that we’ve obtained with the ET-7700’s basic CMKY ink set this should be a no-brainer.

      A six-tank Claria printer would also reinforce Epson’s commitment to realising the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. It would be particularly welcomed in the current social climate where consumers are much more environmentally aware and waste-averse than they were in 2014 and also more discerning in how they spend their money.

      Epson would have everything to gain and little to lose. More durable inks with a wider gamut would encourage more people to print at home – and make more prints, thereby using more of Epson’s papers. Just think of the marketing potential!

      Who’s it For?
      Unfortunately, given the lack of ink durability data, it’s best to view this printer as a general-purpose device for the home or small office. Like the ET-7750, it has plenty of potential for use as a photo printer but would be best suited for prints destined for relatively short-term use and documents like school projects with text, graphics and photos.

      The black pigment ink has potential for printing longer-lasting books containing text plus B&W photos, such as family histories. And it can also be used to make photo prints that are surprisingly high in quality, provided you print on matte paper (NOT glossy). Simply set the paper type to plain paper and use the highest print quality setting, with the High-Speed button unchecked.

      Features that also commend this printer for home office use include auto duplexing for easy double-sided printing, Wi-Fi support and the built-in slots that can accept USB 2.0 thumb drives and SD cards. Although the settings provided by the on-board menu are relatively limited, copying and scanning capabilities are sufficient for basic tasks.

      Key Features
      The ET-7700 provides most of the same multi-function capabilities as the ET-7750 in a more compact package with a smaller footprint of 425 x 359 mm plus a weight of only eight kilograms. It has the same 2.7-inch LCD panel and the same SD card slot and USB 2.0 interface on the front panel for direct scanning and printing from external media and can connect to a computer via Ethernet, Wi-Fi and USB 2.0 (although no USB cable is supplied with the printer).

      With two paper cassettes plus a rear sheet feeder slot, the ET-7700 is able to use both office and photo papers. Cassette 1 (the upper cassette) is designed for printing photos and can handle cut sheets from 89 x 127 mm to 127 x 178 mm as well as 102 x 181 mm ‘panorama’ sheets. Up to 20 sheets of Epson photo paper can be loaded at a time, printable side facing down.

      Cassette 2 is used for regular office paper between A4 (210 x 297) and A6 (105 x 148 mm) sizes but can also accept photo paper, which must be loaded with the printable side facing down. Up to 80 sheets of office paper or 20 sheets of photo paper or 10 envelopes can be loaded at a time.

      Both cassettes pull out from the printer to make loading paper quick and easy. We found Cassette 2 wouldn’t pull out all the way unless Cassette 1 was pushed all the way in.

      The rear feed slot will only accept one sheet at a time and it can be used for printing on envelopes. Both papers and envelopes must be loaded with the printable side facing up. Beneath Cassette 2 is a CD/DVD tray, which slots into the printer above the output tray, which is located just above Cassette 1. The printable side of the disk must face up.

      Build and Ergonomics
      Build quality is similar to that of the ET-7750 and not quite as solid as slightly larger but similarly featured the ET-4550 we reviewed in October 2015. The tilting control panel is reasonably sturdy, securely mounted, and adjustable through 90 degrees. The colour LCD panel and button controls are simpler than those on the ET-4550 but we found them to be logically configured and easy to use, although a bit limited in their scope.

      The front of the ET-7700 with the control panel tilted up and the two paper cassettes pulled out. (Source: Epson.)

      The two paper cassettes are stacked vertically with Cassette 1 for smaller papers above Cassette 2, which is used for A4 sheets. The output tray pulls out above Cassette 1.

      We found the paper cassettes just as flimsy and difficult to slip back into their slots as those on the ET-7750 and Cassette 2 wouldn’t pull out all the way unless Cassette 1 was pushed all the way in. It shouldn’t be that difficult to fix this problem.

      Both the cover of the rear feed slot and the pull-up support attached to it were also flimsy. But the slot width adjustment sliders were a bit more solid and easy to set for different paper widths.


      Refilling the ink tanks on the printer. (Source: Epson.)

      The ink bottles are the same as those provided with the ET-7750 and feature ‘auto stop’ nozzles, which click into locks above each tank in the ink bay. When the bottles are upended, the ink flows into the tanks.

      When the printer is new the tanks are empty and each tank should accommodate the contents of a single bottle. Any ink that doesn’t drain into the tank can be saved and used for topping up at a later time. (The review printer was supplied with ink in the tanks but Epson supplied a second bottle of each colour for us to use if the tanks needed topping up.)

      Connectors for the power and USB cables are located on the rear of the printer and the cables are easy enough to install. Like the ET-7750, the ET-7700 has a card slot on the front panel with a USB slot below it, although it only has USB 2.0 capability.

      Setting up the ET-7700 is the same as for the ET-7750 and covered in our review of that printer. Step-by-step instructions are provided on the supplied optical disk with the driver software, which includes Epson ScanSmart, a new scanning utility that provides more options for selecting resolution than the printer’s user interface.

      Printing
      The ET-7700 can be used as a stand-alone printer and driven through its menu and LCD screen or connected to a computer and driven by whatever software application the user selects. The LCD presents a basic suite of functions, opening with the Copy mode set by default.

      The arrow buttons adjacent to the screen allow users to toggle through the operating modes. Toggling to the right selects Print Photos, Scan, More Functions, Settings, Maintenance, Help, Quiet Mode and Wi-Fi setup before returning to the Copy mode. The vertical arrows open and close individual function menus.

      If you select Print Photos, the only option provided via the control panel is printing from an SD card. Unless a card is inserted you can’t go any further. With a card in the slot the menu provides the following settings: Browse, Select Photos, Display Mode, Print Settings, Photo Adjustments, Filter and Crop/Zoom.

      Options are also limited within each setting, with the Browse setting only letting you browse by date, the Select Photos only offering all photos and cancel options and the Display Mode allowing you to choose between 1-up (with and without information) and 9-up. You can also select the number of copies you want to print (up to 99)

      The Print Settings sub-menu is more comprehensive with a choice of four paper sizes (selected by toggling the left/right arrows), three paper types (all glossy), the paper source (Cassette 1 or Cassette 2 or Rear Paper Feed Slot), Bordered or Borderless, Draft, Standard or Best quality and Expansion of the white border around the image. You can also opt to print the date on the photo or label it with Camera Text info or the name of a landmark. Other settings include Fit Frame, which automatically crops the photo to fit into the selected photo layout, and Bidirectional, which slows down printing to improve print quality.

      The Photo Adjustments sub-menu offers the following selections: Enhance (covering PhotoEnhance, Print Image Management and Off), Scene Detection (Automatic, People, Landscape, Night Scene) and Fix Red-Eye. There are also five-step adjustments for each of the following parameters: Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness and Saturation.

      Filter options let you choose between Sepia and B&W, with Off the default setting.  The Sepia prints had an attractive warm tone suggestive of old photos and since they’re made with the colour inks, residual colour casts become irrelevant.

      Cropping is based upon the paper size selected for printing. The arrows are used to select the area to print, while the Home button rotates the crop through 90 degrees and the + and – buttons zoom in or out.

      The adjustments are quite limited and cannot be fine-tuned easily. You can’t straighten images that are slightly askew, and if you make a mistake and want to change a setting like the paper source selection you must cancel printing and start again.

      Printing from a computer was relatively easy and provided a much wider range of adjustments. We were also able to print from all the software applications we commonly use.  Documents ranged from simple draft quality copies of emails through to PDF documents containing text and graphics.  The printer was also easy to interface with image editors like Affinity Photo and Photoshop for printing photos.

      Wireless printing includes both standard infrastructure mode and Wi-Fi Direct for communicating with a computer via a wireless router or access point. Setting up is wizard-based and the link is password protected. Once set up, you can use the wireless connection to print directly from a PictBridge compatible camera.

      Scanning and Copying
      Like the ET-7750, the scanner uses an LED light source plus CIS (contact image sensors) technology. The copying function is only available for standard paper sizes, which range from 102 x 152mm (snapshot size) through to A4 and Letter 216 x 279 mm) sizes. You can’t use other functions while copying is taking place.

      Standard copy features include density adjustment, auto background removal for text, two-sided copying, layout adjustments (border or borderless), fit to page, automatic reduction and enlargement (25-400%), photo reprints and enlargements, colour restoration of old faded photos and copy onto a CD/DVD. Photo prints can be made in various layouts, such as 2-up or 4-up.

      When driven from the LCD screen only three scanning resolutions are available: 200 dpi, 300 dpi and 600 dpi. However, if you scan through Epson’s bundled ScanSmart software, you can choose from multiple resolution settings up to 9600 dpi.

      Interestingly, when we scanned an old photo print through ScanSmart, it defaulted to the older Epson Scan 2 application (which had been previously installed on our computer) for the actual scanning process, as shown in the screen grab below.

      Aside from that, the ScanSmart is slick and easy to use, thanks to moderate levels of automation. Screen grabs illustrating the user interface are shown below.


      The opening screen for Epson ScanSmart.


      Photo scanning options.


      Options for using scans.


      Reviewing a scan.


      Saving to a computer. Note the choice of file types and options for renaming the file and choosing the folder to save it in.

      Other Functions
      The More Functions menu opens with a Copy/Restore Photos setting and includes a Photo Layout Sheet mode with 10 options, including 2-up, 4-up, 8-up and 20-up plus index print and top/bottom half selection.  Other modes include Print Photo Greeting Card and Copy to CD/DVD as well as Print on CD/DVD. A CD/DVD tray is stored in the base of the printer.


      Printing on a coated optical disk. (Source: Epson.)

      The menu also includes a Personal Stationery mode with options to produce lined paper, writing papers, weekly or monthly calendar pages, message cards or origami folds for creating envelopes. The final item is a Colouring Book setting that prints only the outlines of subjects in photos, allowing the colours to be added with pencil, pen or paint.

      Built-in wired USB 2.0 and Ethernet and wireless Wi-Fi connectivity enable users to set up and access the printer wherever and however they wish, while the direct USB port and SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card slot provide somewhere to store scanned photos and documents or access images for printing from portable storage devices. The ET-7700 is ENERGY STAR certified, RoHS compliant and also claims to be made from recyclable materials.

      Performance
      Like all printers that use dye-based inks, the ET-7700 delivered the best-looking prints on glossy paper and, even on Epson’s basic Photo Paper GLOSSY media, the results we obtained were impressive for a CMYK printer. Colour prints on Epson’s Double Sided Matte paper were also very good, although they lacked the vividness of the glossy prints.

      Prints from B&W originals were also quite impressive. When we left the driver settings unchanged from those we used for colour printing, the prints we obtained were very close to ‘true’ black-and-white with a faint magenta cast. The same image printed on matte paper using the black ink with the method outlined above came out cast-free with excellent reproduction of details. This is a very good result, considering only the pigment black ink was used.

      Printing times were slightly slower than those we obtained with the ET-7750, which is surprising since they use the same inks and, presumably the same print head and driver. Average times are shown in the table below.

      Paper size       Standard quality       Best quality

      15 x 10 cm      45 seconds                  1 minute 50 seconds

      A4                   1 minute 32 seconds   3 minutes 50 seconds

      The scanner did a reasonably good job of restoring colours and tones when old photos were copied. As expected, the quality of the original played a vital role in the results it could deliver. When the original had been correctly exposed and retained a fair amount of its original colours, the scans provided a decent foundation for further restoration.


      These three illustrations show an original 50-year-old colour print (left), the result of scanning this print with colour restoration applied (centre) and the scan after editing in photo editing software (right).

      Scanning times depended on the size of the original image and the resolution selected; whether the original was B&W or in colour made little difference. A scan of an A4 print with narrow white borders took approximately 14 seconds at 300 dpi resolution, whereas scans of postcard-sized (15 x 10 cm) originals ranged from less than 10 seconds at 300 dpi through 36 seconds at 3200 dpi to one minute and 19 seconds at 4800 dpi.


      Scans of prints on stippled paper were generally poor because the scanner reproduced the dimples in the paper’s surface, as shown in this enlarged section of a scan.


      In contrast, scans of old B&W photos printed on glossy paper were as sharp as the original prints.

      As we found with the ET-7750, none of the photos we printed showed signs of gloss differential or bronzing and none was printed with banding or off-colours. Both borderless and bordered prints came out dry and smear-resistant.

      We had no problems with any of the maintenance procedures, which are easy to drive from either the on-board controls or through the printer driver. There was no need to clean the print head during our tests.

      It’s difficult to gauge ink usage because the status monitor (shown above) is relatively crude. The ink tanks have translucent panels that provide a visual check but they still only permit a rough estimation of the amount of ink remaining. Still, they’re better than the tanks on the original EcoTank printers.

      Conclusion

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      SPECS

      Printer type: Thermal inkjet with refillable ink tanks
      Printing method: On-demand piezoelectric
      Nozzle configuration: 360 nozzles Black, 180 nozzles, each colour (Black, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow) (Dye)
      Minimum droplet size: 1.5 picolitres
      Resolution: 5760 x 1440 dpi (with Variable-Sized Droplet Technology)
      Paper sizes: Up to A4
      Paper handling: Friction feed with 3 trays; rear feed for photo papers 5×7 or smaller; duplexing supported
      Ink system: T512:  Black, Photo Black, Cyan, Magenta, YellowInk type: Black – Pigment; CMYK – dye
      Ink yield: 14,000 pgs black, 9,000 pgs colour based on the ISO/IEC 24712 pattern
      Scanner: A4 Flatbed colour image scanner; 1200 x 2400 dpi resolutionInterfaces: Hi-Speed USB (2.0), Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n),
      Power consumption: Approx. 16W Standalone copying (ISO/IEC 24712); approx. 1.0W (Sleep Mode)
      Acoustic noise: 6.0dB to 46dbLCD screen: 2.7-inch TFT Colour LCDCard slot: SD slot; compatible with SD, SDHC, SDXC, MiniSD (With Adapter), MiniSDHC (With Adapter), MicroSD (With Adapter), MicroSDHC (With Adapter), MicroSDXC (With Adapter)
      Wi-Fi Direct printing: Yes; Epson Connect (Epson Email Print + Epson iPrint), Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, Mopria, Scan to Cloud, Remote print driver
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 425 x 359 x 161 mm
      Weight: 8.0 kg
      Distributor: Epson Australia; (02) 8899 3666

       

      Rating

      RRP: AU$799; US$550

      • Build: 8.3
      • Features: 8.8
      • Photo print quality: 8.9
      • Print speed: 8.5
      • Scanning: 8.9

       

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