The Epson EcoTank-18100 is a photo printer that aims to change the way we view printing high quantities of quality photos and prints. Designed to fit large, relatively low-cost ink bottles (which are stunning, by the way), and have low energy costs, too, if you're a creative who needs to print colour-rich designs often, this printer is geared towards your workflow.
But how does it work in practice? I put the Epson EcoTank 1800 through its paces to find out. It's not a cheap printer to buy, by any means, so it needs to earn its keep through performance. Will it be good enough for inclusion in our best art printers guide?
Setup and design: Epson EcoTank-18100
Keeping in mind my aversion to unboxing of any kind, this printer was very straightforward to set up. It came out of the box and onto my desk in a flash. The initial instructions are in a booklet, but once your printer has power, the app takes over with its step-by-step instructions.
Given this is an A3 printer, and is quite sizeable, I was pleasantly surprised by how unobtrusive it is on my desk (though my desk is enormous, to be honest). It looks super-sleek.
I couldn't get the printer to connect to my Wi-Fi as it kept telling me it was out of range (my laptop and phone were both connected), but I was able to easily connect my phone via the 'WiFi Direct' functionality, and printed that way without issue. However, I didn't manage to print from my laptop during the review process, which was a shame.
When using this printer, you're pretty phone-reliant overall as there's no display on the printer itself, only a few buttons and flashing lights. You have to use your app to understand any issues or communication from the printer itself. This isn't the end of the world but a nice LCD display would make things simpler.
Setting the inks up was simple, though. The six stunningly vivid bottles pour in and automatically stop when the canister is full. Also, the bottles are ever so slightly larger than the canisters on the printer, which is a nice touch as when your printer runs out you know you'll have some extra waiting as back up.
Print speed and quality: Epson EcoTank-18100
First I printed out some floral art prints, and then a couple of A3 photos. The Epson EcoTank 18100 rose to the challenge very well overall, with a couple of niggles.
The vibrant colours were printed beautifully on the A4 prints, with no loss of pigmentation at all, and the lines were clean and crisp. The only issue was that the prints had a mottled background of varying colours (all pale), and the printer managed well with some and not so well with others. Some backgrounds came out very close to plain white compared to the digital file.
Setting the paper type in the app made a massive difference to how this detail was presented, though. When the paper type was wrong, the background came out almost pure white, but when set to the matte presentation paper setting, the pattern and colour came out better (though not perfect).
Colour accuracy is brilliant generally, and I was taken aback by how well the printer handled textured brushstrokes within the A3 art prints I tackled next (see above) – the quality was tremendous on fine detail. The prints above could have been professionally printed and I'm delighted with them.
Perhaps to be expected, paper quality played a big part. As mentioned, the colours printed tremendously on the high-quality A4 and A3 paper I used, and pretty well on the low-quality A3 paper, but the low-quality paper scrunched up in the printer halfway through when printing intense colours (and the colour was a little washed out).
As promised, the printer worked quickly, responding well to the app and when printing the images. Epson says it takes around 12 seconds to print borderless 12x15cm photos – and our printing seemed to be about in line with that. The A4 prints took around a minute, and the A3 prints (which were very colour rich) took around two minutes.
Price: Epson EcoTank-18100
Now, this isn't a cheap printer – currently Epson is selling it for £699. But given its running costs, it should even out in the long term. Each bottle of ink costs around £9.99 but should last for approximately 1500 prints when printing at standard quality (about 12 times more than other brands).
Should you buy the Epson EcoTank-18100?
If you are printing a lot of photos or high-quality prints on a daily basis, and care about running costs – this is the printer for you. It's easy to use and pretty speedy to boot. The printer handles colour and texture remarkably well, it was a joy to see the prints quality that came out.
You need to be specifically in the market for a photo printer, as it doesn't scan or copy. It’s pretty perfect for designers or artists printing projects regularly as its colour credentials also don't make sense if you are mostly printing black and white documents.
Overall, I enjoyed using the ET-18100 a lot – it is simple and capable, with some great features – and I got some beautiful prints out of it.