Introduction, Design, Features
A while back, during a briefing on some new Epson EcoTank printers, we asked the company why there were no consumer-grade EcoTank photo printers. At the time, the answer seemed obvious to us: that offering a volume discount on consumables for these ink-guzzlers wouldn’t be profitable. But Epson’s answer surprised us. The company rep simply said, “Stay tuned.” And sure enough, a few months later Epson announced the topic of today’s review, the $449.99-street-priced, 28-syllable-named Epson Expression Premium ET-7700 EcoTank All-in-One Supertank Printer, as well as its higher-end, tabloid-size sibling, the Epson Expression Premium ET-7750 Wide-Format Supertank All-In-One Printer.
Both of these Expression Premium AIOs are part of a larger, seven-product debut of new EcoTank machines, ranging from the lower-end ET-2700 to the impressive ET-7750. Among this sweeping upgrade are three Expression models, two WorkForce AIOs, and these two Expression Premium models.
While there are several ways in which Expression Premium AIOs distinguish themselves from non-Premium Expression models, in this case the primary distinction is that the ET-7700 and ET-7750 deploy five inks, rather than the more common four process colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, or CMYK) used in most standard color inkjet (and laser) printers. The fifth ink here, dubbed Photo Black or PB, is pigment-based rather than dye-based. Pigment-based inks tend to provide a wider color range and take longer to fade than their dye-based counterparts.
The real news here, though, is that the ET-7700 can print borderless photos up to legal-size (8.5 by 14 inches) for not very much money (on a per-page cost-of-ink basis). Enough ink comes in the box for printing thousands of documents and hundreds of photos. When it comes time to buy more, as you’ll see later in the Cost Per Page section, refill bottles that hold literally thousands of document pages and photos are quite inexpensive, on both a per-page and by-the-bottle basis.
In other words, once you burn through the initial allotment for the machine (ten bottles of ink, or two sets of CMYK PB), the ET-7700 starts printing your document pages and photos for some of the lowest running costs in the inkjet printer market, especially for consumer-grade photo printers.
Otherwise, the ET-7700 is, for the price, not a very well-endowed all-in-one printer. As you’ll see in the Performance section later on, it’s slow, its paper input capacity is low, and it lacks an automatic document feeder (ADF) for copying or scanning multipage documents. And all of that is a lot to give up in a $450 machine.
If, on the other hand, what you need is primarily great-looking artwork and photos at a highly reasonable cost per page, with perhaps an occasional scan or copy thrown in, the only reason we can think of not to buy the ET-7700 is that you need wide-format artwork and photos. In that case, you can get the ET-7750 for about an additional $100.
Among these home-based office and consumer-grade bulk-ink photo AIOs, perhaps only the ET-7700’s wider sibling, the ET-7750, is too big for the average desktop, with its footprint of 17.8 by 20.7 by 29.3 inches and its 24.3-pound weight. Then again, there’s Epson’s own WorkForce ET-16500 EcoTank Wide-Format All-in-One Supertank Printer (16.5 by 26.2 by 32.2 inches (HWD) and 51 pounds). Granted, that supertank AIO is a full-blown office printer, complete with an automatic document feeder, two large paper drawers, and the ability to print 13-by-19-inch pages (and it costs a few hundred dollars more than the Expression Premium AIOs we’ve been discussing here, too).
The ET-7700, on the other hand, measures 7.7 inches high by 16.7 inches across by 23.5 inches from front to back, and weighs 18.1 pounds, which is a comfortable size for a printer in this class. Canon’s MegaTank bulk-ink G3200 AIO, on the other hand, measures 6.5 by 17.6 by 13.0 inches and weighs 12.7 pounds, making it more than small enough to fit comfortably on most desktops.
When it comes to connectivity, the ET-7700 has you covered. In addition to Wi-Fi and connecting to a single PC via USB, you also get 10/100Mbps Ethernet, Wi-Fi Direct (for connecting your mobile devices to the printer without either being connected to a network), as well as a host of mobile connectivity options, including a handful of apps, such as Epson Email Print and Epson Remote Print, in the company’s Epson Connect collection. You also get support for several third-party solutions, such as Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, Fire OS printing, and Mopria Print Service.
You can also print from your smartphones’ and digital cameras’ assorted SD cards, as well as scan to and print from USB thumb drives, via the two ports located on the left-front of the chassis, as shown here…
As is the case with all of the EcoTank AIOs we’ve been discussing, the ET-7700’s control panel is a simple affair, consisting of a basic 2.7-inch non-touch LCD surrounded by a handful of navigational keys and buttons for executing walk-up tasks, such as making copies or scanning to a network drive.
Finally, there’s the new design of the EcoTank ink system itself, which, as you can see in the image below, differs significantly between iterations. (There were no five-ink EcoTank models before now, so, for demonstration purposes, we used different products to make our point.)
From left to right, these are the evolution stages of EcoTank. The first was obviously an existing printer with the EcoTank paraphernalia tacked on. It looks like a homely afterthought instead of a bulk-ink machine. Worst of all, though, you either have to crane your neck or turn the printer sideways to see the ink levels.
With the second-generation iteration in the center, Epson integrated the tanks within the printer, but annoyingly, the ink levels were still on the side. (And, no, you could not check them from within the driver interface on your PC; these earlier EcoTank models didn’t really know how to gauge their own ink levels.)
It wasn’t until this generation that Epson got it right, as displayed on the third printer (the ET-7700) in the image above. Not only is this a lot more attractive, but it’s much easier to check ink levels than on previous versions—by simply glancing at the front of the printer.
But that’s not all that Epson fixed. The EcoTank bottles and reservoirs had a tendency—even when you used the utmost care—to leak or spill during refills, making a mess in general. With the current round of EcoTank ink bottles and reservoirs, not only is pouring ink virtually mess-free, but the bottles and containers on the printer are keyed, so that you can’t inadvertently pour the wrong ink into the wrong reservoir (talk about a mess!). With this implementation, not only is it evident that Epson listened to its customers (and us journalists), but also gave the redesign a lot of thought.
Aside from filling the ink tanks from bottles, setting up the ET-7700 AIO is straightforward and simple. It’s small and light enough to avoid any lifting or other access issues. All processes, including connecting to Wi-Fi or Ethernet, filling the paper tray and ink tanks, and so on, are displayed on the small control panel. As usual, Epson’s Getting Started material is clear, well-diagrammed, and easy to read. The entire procedure, from plugging in the ET-7700 to running a several-minute initialization routine that pumps ink to the printhead, took no longer than 20 minutes.
We’ve already discussed the new keyed bottles and reservoirs; they really do make keeping the ET-7700 and its siblings inked up stress-free. The above image demonstrates just how clever and foolproof the system is.
Cost Per Page
Something else that de-stresses supplying the ET-7700 with ink: its cost. Not only are the bottles themselves relatively inexpensive, but the per-page cost of ink (that hasn’t really changed since EcoTank arrived) is phenomenal.
Given the amount of ink that comes in the box, though, it may be a while before you actually have to buy refills. According to Epson, your initial purchase includes enough ink to print 14,000 monochrome pages and/or 9,000 color pages—or a few thousand 4-by-6-inch photos. These are pretty big numbers for a home-based printer rated at 13 pages per minute (ppm), but when it does come time to buy refills, doing so isn’t very stressful at all.
The black ink bottle sells on Epson’s site for $19.99, and it’s good for up to 8,000 prints. The other four bottles (including the Photo Black bottle) sell for $13.99 each, and Epson rates them, when combined with the black ink, at 5,000 pages. Using these advertised prices and yields, we calculated the monochrome cost per page at 0.03 cent and color pages at just under 1 cent. However, there is a caveat: since we don’t know when it kicks in and, when it does, how much ink is actually used, these numbers do not include the Photo Black ink. If we treat it like the other three color inks, and then recalculate, we come up with about 1.3 cents per color page.
No matter how much this fifth ink adds to the per-page cost, though, we suspect that it’s not enough to preclude the ET-7700 from being one of the least-expensive-to-use consumer-grade photo printers available, and then some. That said (believe it or not), when it comes to low running costs, EcoTank’s per-page ink costs are not necessarily the lowest. Canon’s four MegaTank printers, for example, all deliver nearly identical running costs, down to the tiniest fraction of a cent (under 1 cent for both monochrome and color pages).
Non-supertank discounted-ink machines, such as Brother’s INKvestment AIOs (the MFC-J775DW comes to mind), and HP’s subscription ink service, Instant Ink, differ from the EcoTank and MegaTank scenarios primarily in that they both use cartridges, not bottles and reservoirs. Due to electronics and other expensive hardware used to manufacture them, cartridges are inherently more expensive than ink bottles. Brother’s INKvestment service, for instance, delivers ink at just under 1 cent per monochrome page and just under 5 cents per color page, and Instant Ink sells ink at a flat per-page rate ranging from 3.3 cents to 6 cents per page, depending on the level of service you sign up for. This may seem high, but keep in mind that that’s 3.3 cents for any page you print, even a letter-size borderless photo, which could easily be 10 times or so less than some of these other inking methods.
The ET-7700’s paper handling prowess, which consists of one 100-sheet paper drawer that can also be configured to hold up to 10 #10 envelopes or 20 sheets of photo paper, is somewhat weak…
Printed pages land on a tray that extends out beneath the control panel…
During our tests, we churned hundreds of documents, copies, and photos, all at excellent quality. Both the scan path and paper path worked flawlessly, without any jams or misfeeds, just as we’ve come to expect from Epson AIOs.