Epson EcoTank ET-2850 review

A cheap printer best suited for home use

Epson ET-2850 printer sitting on desk
(Image: © Epson)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Epson EcoTank ET-2850 delivers high image quality, very low ink costs, and consistent performance.


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    Very low ink costs

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    High image quality

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    Prints two-sided text documents quickly

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    Dedicated copy button

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    Fast black-and-white scanning to PDF


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    Small LCD, not a touch screen

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    Photo printing is slower than average

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    One paper tray

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    Slow to scan color photos at high resolution

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The Epson EcoTank ET-2850 ($230) is a bargain-priced ink tank printer offering a modest set of features and very low ink costs. It has a flatbed for scanning and making copies, and a duplexer for making two-sided prints. The ET-2850 performed well in our tests. It's not a speed demon, but it's consistent. And, image quality is high across the board.

This EcoTank comes with four bottles of ink (black, cyan, yellow and magenta), which you use to fill the corresponding ink tanks. The black ink is rated to last 7,500 pages, while the color inks should last 6,000 pages. The ET-2850's features and performance make it best suited for home use rather than a busy office. Included in the box are four bottles of ink (black, cyan, yellow and magenta), which you use to fill the corresponding ink tanks.

Epson EcoTank ET-2850 review: Design

The ET-2850 has a compact body. When set up to print, with its paper support and output tray extended, the unit measures 14.8 x 22.3 x 10.2 inches. It weighs just under 12 pounds. The scanner lid is lightweight because it does not include an automatic document feeder (ADF) for copying and scanning multi-page documents. The lid's hinges do not extend upward to accommodate thicker materials, such as books.

Epson ET-2850 printer sitting on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The ET-2850 has one 100-sheet paper tray, which sits at the back of the unit. It can hold up to 20 sheets of photo paper. You load paper vertically against a narrow support, which triggers the LCD to display the paper type menu. The LCD is small, at 1.44 inches, and sits in the middle of a control panel with dedicated buttons for menu navigation, including four-way navigation buttons. There is one copy button, so you need to select black-and-white or color in the on-screen menu. The control panel hinges upward roughly 90 degrees.

Epson ET-2850 printer sitting on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Lacking office-oriented features such as a second paper tray, an ADF, and fax capability, the ET-2850 is best suited for home use. If those are features you need, you might consider the recently reviewed $250 Brother MFC-J4535DW, which offers an ADF and faxing for $20 more than the ET-2850.

You can connect the ET-2850 via wireless or USB cable. From a PC you set up the printer using the included software. From a smart phone, you can set up the printer using the Epson Smart Panel app. In addition, the ET-2850 also offers voice-activated printing via Alexa or Siri.

Epson EcoTank ET-2850 review: Print Speed 

The ET-2850 performed at roughly average speed on most of our tests. It printed a five-page text document in 34.4 seconds, or 8.7 ppm. Compared to other ink tank and high-yield printers Tom's has reviewed, this was a little slower than the category average of 30 seconds, or 10.1 ppm.

Similarly, this Epson printed a six-page PDF of mixed text and color graphics in 2 minutes and 15 seconds, or 2.7 ppm, which was slightly slower than the 2.8 ppm average. By comparison, the Brother MFC-J4535DW printed the same color document at a very brisk 7 ppm, while the Canon G6020 did so much more slowly, at 2.2 ppm.

The ET-2850 lost very little speed when using its duplexer to make two-sided prints. It printed a 10-page text document on five sheets in 1 minute and 32 seconds, or 6.5 ppm. By contrast the Canon Pixma G6020 (which printed one-sided text documents at 9 ppm), slowed down considerably, making duplex text prints at 2.3 ppm (pausing 14 seconds in between sides). The Brother MFC-J4535DW, on the other hand, made two-sided text prints faster than the Canon G6020 did single-sided ones, churning out duplex text pages at 10.7 ppm.

Epson ET-2850 printer sitting on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The story was similar for pages of mixed text and color graphics. The ET-2850 printed this six-page document onto three sheets in 2 minutes and 29 seconds, or 2.4 ppm. The Canon G6020 was slightly faster, at 3.2 ppm, while the Brother MFC-J4535DW was significantly quicker, at 5.8 ppm.

The Epson ET-2850 was quite slow to make 8 x 10-inch glossy prints at high-resolution, taking 6 minutes and 7 seconds, on average, to print our landscape photograph. By contrast the Canon G6020 made the same print in just under 4 minutes, while the Brother MFC-J4535DW did so in an impressively fast 1 minute and 36 seconds. However, the ET-2850 was much quicker when printing the same photo at normal resolution, producing the 8 x 10-inch glossy photo in 3 minutes and 32 seconds.

Printing at high resolution, the ET-2850 printed a 4 x 6-inch glossy photo in 3 minutes and 1 second. This was slower than the category average of 2 minutes and 29 seconds, and much slower than the Brother MFC-J4525DW, in particular, which printed a high-resolution 4 x 6-inch photo in 1 minute and 8 seconds.

Epson EcoTank ET-2850 review: Copy and Scan Speed

The Epson ET-2850 made a color copy in 33.2 seconds, which is faster than the average of 25.8 seconds for ink tank and high-yield models. The Canon G6020 performed similarly, taking 31.2 seconds to make a color copy, while the Brother MFC-J4535DW was more than twice as fast, making a color copy in just 13.2 seconds.

Copying in black-and-white, the ET-2850 produced a facsimile in 11.9 seconds, on average. Both the Canon G6020 and Brother MFC-J4535DW performed similarly, making a black-and-white copy in 11.3 seconds and 11 seconds, respectively. The category average on this test is 11 seconds

Epson ET-2850 printer sitting on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Epson scanned an 8 x 10-inch color photo at 600 dpi to JPEG format in 1 minute and 46 seconds. The Canon G6020 scanned at a similar speed, producing the high-resolution JPEG in 3 additional seconds. This was a little slower than the category average of 1 minute and 25 seconds. The Brother MFC-J4535DW was quicker, performing the scan in 41.9 seconds.

Scanning a black-and-white document, the ET-2850 quickly made a 300 dpi scan to PDF format, doing so in 9.4 seconds, using the grayscale scan mode in the Epson Scan 2 software (there is also a black-and-white mode). This was significantly faster than the category average of 13.3 seconds. The Canon G6020 was even faster, at 8.4 seconds, while the Brother MFC-J4535DW completed the scan in 11.5 seconds.

Epson EcoTank ET-2850 review: Print Quality

The ET-2850 delivered high-quality images in all of our tests. Text documents printed with dark and very sharp letterforms. On duplex prints, the text looked very slightly lighter and faintly less sharp around the edges — but only upon up-close examination. You'd likely never notice a difference.

Color graphics printed with natural-looking, well-saturated colors. Fine details were reproduced well. Two-sided prints looked a little lighter overall, particularly in dark shades. This resulted in less depth in mid tones, particularly on faces, which had a subtle flattening effect. More pixels were visible and fine details were a little less sharp. These differences were subtle overall, however, and the print quality remained high.

The ET-2850 made attractive copies, accurately reproducing details and shading in color and grayscale. To explain: The menu offers both a black-and-white mode and a grayscale scan mode. Many all-in-ones don't offer this extra mode, and their black-and-white mode technically produces grayscale images. Having a literal black-and-white scan mode can come in handy, for example, when scanning yellowed text pages, where you want the background to turn white while the faded text gets captured as black. 

Photographs printed on glossy paper were richly saturated and the colors looked natural. In our landscape photo, some very dark shadow areas did look a little blocked-up, lacking some subtle details.

Scans were of a similar high quality, capturing fine details and accurately reproducing colors. In our scan of a photograph with a dark background, the ET-2850 captured the subtle details in the shadows, which some models have been unable to reproduce.

Epson EcoTank ET-2850 review: Ink Cost and Yield

The ET-2850's four ink tanks are located on the right side of the body. To add ink, you must lift the scanner lid. Then, you can raise the small lid over the ink tank compartment. Each of the four ink tanks has a hinged blue cap, which you raise to expose the valve for each tank. The bottles fit neatly. I did not spill any ink while filling the tanks.

Epson ET-2850 printer cartridges

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The black ink costs $20 and is rated to print 7,500 pages. That calculates to an extremely low printing cost of 0.3 cents per page. Similarly, color printing costs are extremely low, adding up to 0.9 cents per page. The individual color ink bottles (cyan, magenta and yellow) cost $12.99 each, or $38.97 in total. Buying a three-pack will save you 2 cents, costing $38.95.

Epson EcoTank ET-2850 review: Setup and Software

After removing 11 pieces of packing tape, and filling the ink tanks, the printer prompts you on its 1.44-inch color LCD to perform an initialization, which takes about 10 minutes. While that was happening, I installed the included Epson software from the DVD-ROM disc onto my Windows 10 PC. (Alternatively, you can perform the setup with the mobile app, Epson Smart Panel, which I'll cover next). Then I connected the printer to the PC via USB cable. Following the printer's instructions on its LCD, I printed a test page and three pages to assess the print head alignment. But I ran into some errors, which was a little confusing. For example, I received an error saying that the scan could not be acquired. Also, the LCD was not showing the ink levels. However, getting past these hiccups didn't take much effort and soon I was printing, copying and scanning while connected via USB. Once set up, the ET-2850 starts up quickly from a complete shutdown, in about 8 seconds.

Epson ET-2850 printer sitting on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Putting the ET-2850 on my wireless network, however, was not quite as straightforward. The printed user guide did not step me through the whole process. Using the QR code in the guide for downloading the iOS Epson Smart Panel app, I elected to perform this setup using my iPhone. The app did not instruct me to enter the printer's LCD menu and turn on wireless (nor did the printed guide, which it arguably should have). The first menu choice in the LCD menu was for entering the network password on the control panel, which would have been cumbersome. Going to the next menu item, I found the WPS setup method, which is much easier if you have a router with a WPS button—you simply press it to establish a wireless connection.

Software for Windows PCs included on the DVD-ROM includes a photo printing application, two scanning programs, and necessary drivers. Epson Photo Plus offers a variety of photo printing features, including layouts, CD/DVD disc label printing, jewel case design and various layouts and design papers. Epson Scan 2 is a general purpose scanning application, while Epson ScanSmart is dedicated to document scanning and sharing.

The Epson Smart Panel app is available in iOS and Android. You can use it to set up the printer, and to carry out a variety of functions, such as photo and document printing, copying and scanning, and clean the print head. The app also offers a document capture feature, whereby you take a picture of a document. I appreciated the enhancement touchup, which removed the blue cast from my poorly lit document. A second level of enhancement might help in some instances, but in mine, it revealed more of the printed matter on the back side of the paper.

The app also links to Google Classroom, has an ID card scanning feature, and various print designs through a separate download called Epson Creative Print.

Epson EcoTank ET-2850 review: Bottom line

The Epson ET-2850 offers a basic set of features best suited for the home. Offering a duplexer and consistent performance, it's a good fit for most home use, as long as you don't need a speedy workhorse. With just one 100-sheet paper tray, it's not designed for high-volume office work. But if you're looking for very low ink costs, and don't need an ADF for lots of copying, or the versatility of a second paper tray, you'll likely be pleased with the ET-2850.

Eric Butterfield is a freelance writer and musician from California. His work has appeared in PC World magazine, CNET, Taproot, and Alter Action — plus Tom's Guide, of course — while his music has appeared in more than 260 TV show episodes for major networks such as NBC, Hulu, BBC America, and more. You can check out his work on Spotify.

  • Sanity Check
    The negatives listed are beyond silly and stupid. No fax capability. Reality check phone companies have 100% approval to stop supporting land lines which fax capability requires. Please step out of the 80s with what is a negative or glaring feature missing.