iTWire – test report: Epson EcoTank ET-4850
The Epson ET-4850 is the high-end model of the company’s latest EcoTank inkjet printer collection.
EcoTank models dispense with conventional (and expensive) ink cartridges in favor of tanks that are refilled from ink bottles.
The design has definitely improved since Epson’s early EcoTank models like the ET-4550. The tanks are integrated into the outline of the printer instead of being pinned to the side. It’s not just a matter of looks: it was a good idea to wear disposable gloves when refilling the old models, but the redesigned nozzles and ink orifices make the process clean, at least in our experience.
The ink supplied with the ET-4850 is said to be sufficient for 14,000 black and 5,200 color pages, while the replacement bottle nominally supplies 7,500 black and 6,000 color pages.
The usual interfaces are available: USB 2, Wi-Fi (802.11n) and 100Mbps Ethernet. We tested with WiFi.
If, like us, you like to leave your printer switched on, it is good to know that the ET-4850 consumes just 1W in sleep mode.
Physical controls are minimal thanks to the touchscreen, though it’s a bit small at 6.1 cm – an extra inch would likely make a disproportionate difference. It’s much easier to use the Epson Smart Panel app on a phone or tablet, especially when you need to enter a network password or something similar. Over time, while we got used to the touchscreen, it was easy to touch a UI element besides the intended one, and “drag” gestures were often misinterpreted as typing.
The “?” (Help) button is a nice touch. It provides access to troubleshooting steps and how-to animations for common operations. This is more convenient than having to look for the manual, especially since it is not supplied in printed form.
Once the printer is set up, five sets of test patterns are printed: one to check that all the nozzles are working, the other four to check head alignment.
An on-screen warning prompted us to install a firmware update, but the app didn’t mention this. Despite a warning that it might take a few minutes, the update was completed in less than a minute.
At the time of our test, there was no software available for macOS Monterey. So we initially printed via AirPrint without installing any additional software. This worked despite the “An error occurred while adding the selected device” warning at the end of the setup process.
For Big Sur and earlier, Epson offers downloadable printer and scanner drivers, Epson Photo + (for arranging and printing photos), a software updater, and an uninstaller.
There’s a web-based setup wizard if you don’t want to use the mobile app, but this process essentially involves a downloaded installer. It installs the print, scan, and fax drivers, a scanner utility, extensions to create OCR and password-protected PDFs, Photo +, a low-ink reminder utility, a network configuration tool, remote printing assistance, the software updater, and documentation .
We installed the Big Sur compatible software and it appeared to work with Monterey – at least as far as we didn’t notice any problems.
Before we turn to operation, note that the ET-4850 comes with a one-year warranty, as is customary with Epson, which is extended to a second year if the product is registered within the first warranty period.
The ET-4850 is an A4 printer that accepts paper up to 215.9 x 355.6 mm.
The paper tray has a capacity of 250 sheets (half a ream), which is reasonable for the SOHO market targeted by Epson. On the other hand, it’s a single tray. To print on envelopes (C6 or DL) or photo paper, remove the normal paper, adjust the paper guides, reload the other media and reinsert the tray, and then reverse the process to A4. So, if envelopes printing is still a regular chore in your office, this is probably not the printer for you. Instead, look for a model with two compartments, or at least one bypass.
Support for AirPrint and Epson Print Enabler or Mopria Print Service covers the basics for printing from iOS and Android devices. The ET-4850 also supports Epson Connect for remote printing: email a file (such as a PDF file) to a dedicated email address and it will print.
It took 33 seconds from click to file to print our standard test document (two pages, with a mix of text and business graphics). That blows to 47 seconds in duplex – the biggest difference is due to a relatively long pause between the pages, presumably to let the ink dry. There doesn’t seem to be a way to fine-tune this interval.
The print quality was everything we expect from a modern inkjet.
A variety of Epson photo papers are supported for photo printing, but since we didn’t have one on hand, we cannot say how well it works in this regard.
It took 12 seconds to preview and 28 seconds to scan an A4 page at 150 dpi. The scanner driver includes the usual adjustments for unsharp mask, descreening and dust removal as well as backlight correction and Epsons color restoration function, which in our opinion gives very good results when scanning old and faded color prints.
The common file formats such as JPEG, PDF and TIFF as well as the increasingly popular HEIC are supported.
We suspect most macOS users will be using the native Mac scanning software, but Epson’s ScanSmart app has some useful features, including scanning multiple photos into separate files at the same time. The Epson Smart Panel app supports scanning to mobile devices and scanning to the cloud (Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive and OneDrive) is handled via Epson Connect. WSD support takes care of scanning on Windows PCs.
In terms of image quality, very few SOHO employees would be dissatisfied with the results.
As a copier, the ET-4850 provided very good color rendering. The only problem we noticed was that some brick reds came out a little on the pink side. It took 30 seconds to copy an A4 page.
The main disadvantage of this model is that the ADF is one-sided, so it is not convenient for you to copy a multi-sided, two-sided original. At least one side at a time is intended to be copied into a two-sided copy.
You either need a fax or you don’t. We no longer have anyone to fax to and we only use IP handsets, so we weren’t able to test this aspect of the ET-4850’s functionality. According to the documentation, faxes can be sent manually or directly from Windows or macOS through a printer driver, while incoming faxes can be printed, stored in memory or in PDF format on a connected computer.
It goes without saying that a home or office printer is either inexpensive to purchase and expensive to operate, or relatively expensive to purchase and operate. The ET-4850 is clearly in the latter category at $ 649. But a $ 30 bottle of black ink is said to be enough to print 7,500 pages (we have to take Epson at their word for it because we’re unwilling to waste 15 stacks of paper to prove that point) which is less than half a half Cents per page. So it’s not difficult to find out if you have enough print volume to justify the purchase price.
The other big advantage of the EcoTank system is that the tanks need to be refilled far less often than the cartridges on a traditional inkjet printer.
We wish Epson had a duplex ADF built in, even if it meant leaving out the fax feature to match the price, but we accept that fax is still important in certain circumstances (we understand it’s still a common Means of communication in Epson home market).
All in all, the ET-4850 is an inexpensive, compact and quite stylish all-in-one.