The relatively low cost of this ink tank printer is reflected in its flimsy construction, but it prints very well, and the cost per page is meagre. It also has potential for those wanting to explore sublimation printing on a tight budget.
Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide
Epson has made the EcoTank printer the hardware to own, as it addresses the annoying inkjet issue of the diabolically expensive ink cartridges.
The snag for any printer maker is that ink tank designs need to be more expensive to get some of the money back that they made previously on cartridges, increasing the purchasing cost of the printers.
That initial high price puts off many customers who want that low-cost-per-page goodness that EcoTank designs deliver but without paying up front.
One possible answer is the Epson EcoTank ET-1810, its cheapest colour model yet. Here the functionality of the machine has been boiled down to only printing but delivered at a price range home users can afford.
Low-cost devices are generally about compromise, so is the ET-1810 enough EcoTank to make it worth the investment?
Design & Build
Basic printer design
Lightweight but flimsy
Four ink tanks
No ADF on top
To make the ET-1810 affordable, some things common to its more expensive brethren had to go. Therefore, this is exclusively a printer, with no scanner, copying, Fax or coffee maker inbuilt. The more expensive EcoTank ET-3850 has some of those features.
Once removed from the box, the design of the ET-1810 suggests, possibly wrongly, that the mechanics of this printer were once a cartridge design where EcoTank technology was an afterthought. The odd extension to the case on the right indicates that when the internals were designed, no ergonomic consideration for the ink tanks was made.
Not that this is a big issue, but it’s a curious design aspect of the ET-1810 and its ET-2810 stablemate.
Another striking aspect of this design is its lightweight, at just 2.9kg. Its primarily plastic construction is best described as minimalist, though I’d also accept the word ‘flimsy’. The low weight makes it easy to relocate, but it doesn’t send positive messages about how much abuse this hardware might take before failing.
Printers don’t tend to be subjected to much though and in all other respects, this is a by-the-numbers inkjet printer, with a direct paper path from the rear to the front and a holding capacity of just 100 sheets.
With no display, the only indicators are the LED light around the power button and the semi-transparent ink tanks that reveal how much ink is left. On the rear are the power inlet and USB connection for a computer. But with WiFi included, the machine can be widely networked easily.
Set Up, Apps & Wireless Printing
Epson Smart app
Wi-Fi and USB
Without a display on this printer’s control panel, the only way to configure this machine is to connect it to a computer or a mobile device using Wi-Fi.
Using the Epson Smart application on a mobile device (iOS or Android), it doesn’t take long to configure the ET-1810 for a Wi-Fi connection. Once complete, you can print directly from a phone or tablet using WiFi Direct, even if there is no wireless network.
Feedback on the machine is limited to LED indicators on the front left edge but the Epson Smart app gives you more information. For those not wanting to network, it also accepts a USB cable. Epson has not included the standard Type-A to Type-B cable needed, so you will need to supply your own. It may, possibly not unreasonably, assume that you might have one spare from all the other USB printers you might have owned over the years.
Ink installation is remarkably straightforward, as I have experienced before on Epson EcoTank designs. The four dyes come in plastic bottles that include a shaped nozzle that only engages with the filling point of the correct tank to avoid costly mistakes.
Once inserted, the ink glugs satisfyingly down into the tank until it is full or the bottle is empty.
Epson has two general EcoTank designs based on the different print head technologies it deploys. This printer uses a Micro Piezo print head where all the inks are dyes, and none are pigments.
Once the filling is complete, the printer will perform a priming routine where ink is drawn into the system readying it for use. The priming causes the tank levels to drop, but usually, there is some ink left in the bottles to refill them back up.
Out of the box, Epson provides four bottles of each dye, enough for 3,600 pages of black print and 6,500 of colour. Because of the once-only priming, each subsequent refill should net 4,500 pages of black and 7,500 of colour output. The differences between those numbers show that roughly 1000 pages of ink are required for priming, but only the first time it is used.
Where this design slightly differs from other EcoTank designs aimed at business is that the black tank is the same size as the colour holding ones, where it is usually larger than the others.
The assumption is that home users will be printing more coloured images than text, though I’d be interested to see the data that Epson based that decision on.
Epson’s Micro Piezo print head system is common to many of the cheaper Epson EcoTank designs. It has 180 black nozzles and 59 for each colour. Using them all, it can generate impressive 5,760 x 1,440 DPI output.
The resolution is higher than the PrecisionCore print heads used in others of the EcoTank line including the ET-3850, but the print speed is only about 60% of that technology.
Up to 10ppm
No duplex printing
Borderless printing has limits
Being a much cheaper EcoTank design, I expected some limitations, and the ET-1810 has a few significant ones to be aware of.
The first that most owners will notice is that the print speed is rather slow. Epson quotes ISO/IEC 24734 performance of 10 pages per minute (ppm) mono, half that speed for colour and 69 seconds for a 10 x 15cm borderless photo.
All inkjet printers are usually sluggish to begin printing, and the ET-1810 takes ten seconds to spit out its first mono print and sixteen for colour.
In business, waiting for this printer might prove frustrating, but for home users, it’s fast enough unless someone decides to print a full-colour calendar five minutes before heading to school.
These numbers assume the best quality settings. By using the draft mode, it is possible to go triple that speed with an expected trade-off in quality.
In my tests, it managed to spit out the first mono page of 5% coverage in 10 seconds and another four pages by the 29 seconds. If we ignore the first-page transmission delay, the speed is close to five seconds per mono page or 12ppm in the best quality.
Amusingly, Epson describes duplex printing as ‘manual’, or running the paper through the printer more than once, a technique that arguably makes any printer duplex. Yes, the printer driver tells you what to do, but you can do the same things entirely by hand.
Epson has been making printers for a long time, and therefore I expected the quality of the output to be high, and it was. Using black dye instead of a pigment gives photos a more balanced look, and the print resolution is so high that individual ink pixels aren’t truly discernible.
Anyone considering the ET-1810 needs to understand that there is a caveat to photo printing on this machine. Borderless printing is limited to just 15 x 10cm prints. You can print bordered photos up to A4 or Letter, but the borderless options stop at the oddly much smaller size.
The obvious question any reviewer might ask is if that size restriction is arbitrary, or does a good reason exist?
Taking an image and printing it at full A4 page produces a print that extends within a few mm of each side with a total size of 28.8 x 20.2cm. With scissors or a guillotine, that’s the absolute limit, and the small borderless prints seem to be only a driver-determined maximum.
Once a picture is in a frame, the full-page prints have such small borders that this probably isn’t a deal-breaker and something that could, in theory, be fixed with a firmware update.
Very cheap per page
Even cheaper 3rd-party ink
No unlimited ink options
Paying extra for an EcoTank means buyers will expect cheaper printing, and they do get that with the ET-1810. I’ve already mentioned the included ink that should be good for at least 3,600 pages of black and 6,500 of colour, at 5% coverage.
A replacement set boosts those numbers to 4,500 pages of black and 7,500 of colour, with a complete set of Epson 104 type ink costing £36.49. Individual bottles can be bought for £9.49 each should you print lots of blue, for example.
Because colour printing can also use black, the calculations for cost are a bit more complicated than they might seem. But black printing works out at around 21p a page at 5% coverage, and colour printing based on the four-bottle pack is 48p per page (assuming you don’t run out of black before the colour).
Compared with a cartridge printer, those are excellent numbers, though more expensive EcoTank designs have still larger tanks and ink replacement bottles, making them even cheaper.
But as ink isn’t controlled by a cartridge chip, it is possible to source alternative brand inks that should work fine in this printer, though I can’t guarantee that.
Typically, third-party ink sets cost around £16 for a four-bottle set with 6,000 pages of each dye. That reduces the per-page cost to 0.26p for colour printing. Black printing can approach a tenth of a penny in ink cost.
Mark Pickavance / Foundry
Those numbers invariably make paper the most significant cost component in printing, not ink.
Epson doesn’t offer its Epson ReadyPrint option of unlimited ink supply for a monthly fee on this product, and given how long the ink supply should last for most home users, this isn’t a huge problem.
What isn’t built into these prices is the wear-and-tear on the printer of use. Epson only offers a year’s warranty or 30,000 pages on this design, suggesting it might not have a big life expectancy.
Price & Availability
The ET-1810 is available in Europe but not in the USA at this time. Hopefully, that will change as this might be the perfect cheap EcoTank to use for sublimation printing, which is popular there.
Epson makes an alternative version of this design, the ET-2810, where the lid is replaced with a flatbed scanner enabling copying and scanning, all for £199.99 or less from some retailers.
It’s worth considering that both come with £36.49 of ink and not the silly starter cartridges that those types of printers are delivered. For most home users, that ink should easily see them through the first year of use, and even using official Epson ink refilling it isn’t outrageously expensive.
Canon’s equivalent design is the Canon Pixma G2520, a printer that costs the same in the UK at £159.99. It offers very similar print speeds and ink capacity, but includes a scanner, can generate banners, and print borderless on A4. On paper, it looks better value than the ET-1810.
Currently, HP doesn’t offer an ink tank design that costs less than £200. Its cheapest design is the £209.99 HP Smart Tank Plus 559. It has an inbuilt scanner, uses a combination of black pigments and coloured dyes, borderless printing up to letter size and has a duty cycle of just 1,000 pages.
Its print resolution is lower than either the Epson or Canon, but it does come with two bottles of black ink along with a colour set in the box. When you factor in the duty cycle and ink capacities, this printer should take a minimum of 20 months to use the ink it is delivered with.
The idea of a more affordable EcoTank printer is an attractive one, but it comes with a few caveats.
Those are the inability to print borderless photos above a specific size and a less than robust level of construction. The first point won’t be an issue for most owners, but Canon has the Pixma G2520 if that’s an issue.
Possibly a more significant concern is the fragile nature of this model. Plastic can be a resilient material in suitable shapes and thicknesses even without reinforcement, but in the ET-1810, its spread thinly and often lacks proper support.
When opening the printer to clear a paper jam or install inks, the top cover is held on one edge and visibly sags on the unsupported side. What might happen to the ET-1810 if something fell is a concern, as it doesn’t have enough strength to resist even modest abuse.
But irrespective of how cheaply it was made, the ET-1810 is decent where it counts. It produces high-quality output reasonably smartly. And importantly, that output has a meagre cost per page, making it ideal for those situations where lots of affordable colour printing is needed.
However, where it could truly shine is for those wishing to explore sublimation inks. An ET-1810, some sublimation inks and paper, and Cricut EasyPress 2, and you have all the equipment needed for creating elaborate sublimation colour designs on polyester t-shirts, bags, etc.
Those interested in exploring that should never put the Epson 104 inks in it before using sublimation inks, and be aware that once converted, no easy path exists to repurpose it back to conventional print operations.
For those wanting an inexpensive printer, Epson and other brands make many printers of equivalent speed and print quality designs for half the price of the ET-1810. However, this is the one where you are less likely to get paranoid about the cost of each page and when you will need to refill it.
Overall, I like the price and performance of the Epson EcoTank ET-1810, but I would like Epson to make them a bit stronger in future.
Colour inkjet printer
Print Method: Epson Micro Piezo print head
Ink type: Dye tank fill
Print resolution: 5,760 x 1,440 dpi (colour and black)
Mark is an expert on displays, reviewing monitors and TVs. He also covers storage including SSDs, NAS drives and portable hard drives. He started writing in 1986 and had contributed to MicroMart, PC Format, 3D World among others.