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Jabran (J.) Kundi is a seasoned reviewer for Four Best. He has an engineering background from the National University of Science and Technology and studied in Germany for several years. In his free time, when he is not spending his time researching and reviewing some of the best products around, he enjoys speaking German. Guten Tag!

The 4 Best Ink Tank Printers for 2020

March 27, 2020    Electronics Office 

Save Big With Ink Tank Tech!

Ink tank printers have been steadily gaining in popularity since first hitting the market around 2010. And for good reason! Our research shows that these units can reduce the total life-cycle cost of owning a printer by up to two thirds! Compared to typical "cartridge" style ink jet printers, even when accounting for the slightly higher upfront expenditure. Today printers with this technology are available for $300 to $400 AND come included with enough ink to print 1000's of pages!

  • OUR TAKE
    PROS
    CONS

  • RUNNER UP

    Epson
    ET-3700 EcoTank ($300+)

    Amazon.com Paid
    OUR TAKE
    • This great device has double-sided printing capability, wireless set-up that is a breeze, the largest LCD in our comparison and decent print quality. Our "performance" runner up because it is pricey and does not have an auto document feeder.
    PROS
    • Auto double sided printing.
    • Copy and scan capability.
    • Largest LCD screen in our comparison (2.4 inches).
    • Easy wireless setup.
    • Includes enough black ink for 14,000 pages (2 bottles) and color ink for 11,200 pages.
    CONS
    • We have only seen below $300 when on sale.
    • Display is not touchscreen and still feels relatively small (still by far the best in our comparison).
    • Print quality is acceptable, but not great.
    • Does not have an auto-feed for copying and scanning.

  • RUNNER UP

    Epson
    ET-2700 EcoTank

    Amazon.com Paid
    OUR TAKE
    • This printer has scan and copy capability and easy wireless setup. It is a great entry point into the world of ink tank printers.
    • The #1 Selling Tank Printer by Epson
    PROS
    • Second lowest price at the time of our comparison.
    • Scan and copy capability.
    • Easy wireless setup.
    • Includes enough black ink for 5,200 pages (1 bottle) and color ink for 6,500 pages.
    CONS
    • No auto double sided printing capability.
    • Print quality is acceptable, but not great.
    • Vertical rear paper tray.

  • ALMOST

    Canon
    G2200 MegaTank

    Amazon.com Paid
    OUR TAKE
    • Massive print capacity out of the box for the price point!
    • Great Price at under $200 at the time of the review
    • This unit lacks wireless capability. We recommend paying a bit more to get the ET-2700.
    PROS
    • Lowest price at the time of our comparison.
    • Includes enough black ink for 6,000 pages (1 bottle) and color ink for 7,000 pages.
    CONS
    • No wireless printing! Must use a USB cord instead.
    • Does not have an LCD screen.
    • Vertical rear paper tray.
    • No auto double sided printing capability.

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First, Why Go Ink Tank?

Image Credit: iStock

The Cost Savings!

Our research at Four Best has shown that the cost of ink is a close proxy for total print cost, which is composed of the fixed upfront cost for your printer AND your variable expenditures for ink and paper. Crucially, we have found that over years of printing the upfront cost of a printer is marginal (at least for the printers in this comparison which cost between $179 and $399 at the time of our writing), while the cost of the paper is largely independent of the printer (except for models with double-sided capability). What this leaves is the crucial variable of ink cost.

To get specific, the upfront cost of a printer is typically 5% or less of your total print cost. This makes sense when you think about a $350 investment being spread across 15,000 pages, which results in a cost of 1.6 cents per page. The cost of typical printer paper ranges from 0.5 cents to 2 cents per page (we'll assume an average of 1 cent per page). While the cost of ink for a typical ink jet printer—assuming an average set of color and black cartridges costs $50 and are good for printing a total of 700 pages—runs around 7.1 cents per page (and much higher if you frequently print in color). This means the cost of ink is a whopping 73% of total print cost with your average ink jet printer!

Now assume you can print an average of 10,000 pages (4,000 black and 6,000 color) with a $55 set of ink bottles using an ink tank printer. The ink cost per page drops to .6 cents per page, meaning the cost of ink is now only 19% of total print cost. In fact, the cost is even lower than this because all of the models in today's comparison come included with a substantial amount of ink—anyway, you get the point.

In short, ink tank printers cost about a 1/3rd the cost of your typical ink jet printer when the total cost of ownership is calculated.

Some Differences With Traditional Printers

Image Credit: iStock

Things to Keep in Mind

Know The Trade-Offs – There are some trade-offs with the models in our comparison that keep the prices low (for ink tank printers) and also with ink tank printers in general. Specifically, the print speeds are relatively slow (approximately 10 pages per minute in black and 4-5 pages per minute in color) and we feel the print quality isn’t quite as good as many traditional ink jet printers. This being said, we have found that the speed and quality with ink tank printers are still acceptable and worth the trade-off in terms of cost savings, especially if you plan on printing a lot.

Paper Matters – Ink tank printers may be unable to handle thick card stock or print labels. Keep this in mind if you plan on using for applications that will require the use of these paper types.

Properly Store Your Extra Ink and Printer – If you decide to purchase additional ink with your printer purchase, make sure to leave the ink in its original packaging (for example, the Epson cartridges come in a vacuum sealed pack) and store in a cool, dark place. This will ensure the ink is ready to go when you need it (proper storage makes sense as it can be two years or more before a refill is necessary with these units).

Related to proper ink storage, is the proper placement and storage of the unit itself. Specifically, these units need to be placed on a flat surface to prevent the ink from spilling out of the tanks (possible if placed on an uneven surface for an extended period of time). If you need to move the unit long distances, such as in a moving truck, read the owners manual for the preparations necessary to avoid ink spills.

Consider Going Double Sided – If you are purchasing an ink tank printer, it is likely because you are aiming to lower your printing costs. This is why you are (smartly) willing to pay a bit more upfront for one of these units. With this in mind, remember that the ink and printer cost are only two of three pieces in your price per print equation. The third component is the cost of the paper. You can effectively halve your paper costs if you decide to print double sided. Consider a unit like the ET-3700 if you want double sided printing capability with a unit in the price range for today’s comparison.

The Four Best Method

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What We Do...

We started Four Best on the premise that a great deal of the information required to properly evaluate a given product is already right in front of your (and our) eyes. In fact there is too much information! A crucial skill necessary to picking the best products is instead the ability to cull through the available information, focusing on what should really drive a purchase decision.

To make those crucial determinations as to what matters and what doesn’t, we begin by thinking through what really matters to us when we use a particular product. We then use the that type of product to further refine the features we care about and that we think you will care about too. Next we search the web, looking to manufacturer’s websites, product specifications, consumer reports, expert blogs, research reports and the like to obtain crucial insights and the facts.

Finally, we distill the results of our research and combine it with our own experiences as consumers, professionals, techies, mothers, fathers, hobbyists, designers, software engineers, attorneys (sorry) and more. Ultimately, this process results in the reviews we present to you. We hope you enjoy!

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*Images have been cropped and/or resized.