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Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850 review

Ink savings meet impressive speed and quality in our new favorite office printer

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850 review
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Epson)

Our Verdict

The fast and flexible ET-5850 offers lots of features and extremely low ink costs, and makes high-quality prints in record time

For

  • Very fast performance
  • Two-sided printing, copying and scanning
  • Extremely low ink costs
  • Fast document feeder and three paper trays
  • Large, 4.3-inch color touchscreen

Against

  • Large footprint
  • Occasional paper feed issue
  • High initial price

The Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850 ($850) is an inkjet all-in-one that lives up to its “pro” moniker in many ways. It's a workgroup printer that's built like a workhorse, outfitted with high-capacity tanks (as the product name suggests) that hold enough ink to print thousands of pages. The tanks keep ink costs extremely low. 

In addition to the traditional multifunction jobs of printing, copying and scanning, this workgroup printer offers fax capability and can store 200 speed dial numbers. It offers a full complement of features, which we'll outline in detail, and blazed through our tests with impressive speed—all while delivering top-notch image quality. Built to handle up to 3,300 pages per month, the ET-5850 left no doubt that it's built for the busy office that can't afford to have its multifunction printer be a productivity bottleneck.

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850: Design

Similar to another ink tank competitor, the recently reviewed HP Smart Tank 651, the EcoTank ET-5850's front panel has little windows into its ink reservoirs, so you can plan ahead on ordering ink. But you won't have to do that too soon: Two bottles of each ink (a value of almost $200) come in the box: black, cyan, yellow and magenta. 

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850 review

(Image credit: Epson)

The ET-5850 has some heft to it, at almost 40 pounds. It measures 16.7 x 32.4 x 18.1 inches when printing, so it will need a fair chunk of tabletop real estate. That's not surprising, given that it houses two 250-sheet paper cassettes, a 50-sheet specialty media tray, a 50-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF), and a duplexer. In addition to making two-sided prints, the ET-5850 can scan and copy two-sided original documents via the ADF.

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850 review

(Image credit: Epson)

The large, 4.3-inch touch screen operates smoothly. The large on-screen buttons make menu selections simple, and you can swipe the menu icons across the screen, like you can with a smartphone. Help screens and animated instructions are well organized and easy to follow. There are no physical navigation buttons. On the back panel are the USB, Ethernet, and phone line (fax) ports. Wi-Fi networking and Wi-Fi Direct are supported.

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850: Print speed

The ET-5850 put the pedal to the metal in our tests, delivering very fast performance in every print, copy and scan test. It printed our five-page text document in 19.6 seconds, or 15.3 pages per minute (ppm). That was significantly faster than the HP Smart Tank Plus 651, at 34 seconds, or 8.8 ppm, and a little slower than Canon Maxify MB5420 (our previous Editor’s Choice for small businesses), at 17.5 ppm. The average for ink tank and high-yield cartridge models was 31 seconds, or 9.7 ppm. Business workgroup inkjets averaged 22.1 seconds, or 13.6 ppm in our tests.

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850 review

(Image credit: Epson)

The EcoTank printed our six-page color PDF of mixed text and graphics in just 32.8 seconds—a blistering pace of 11 ppm that's a fraction of the category average of 2.6 ppm (or, 2 minutes and 19 seconds). The HP Smart Tank Plus 651 printed the same document at a glacial pace of 3 minutes and 30 seconds, or 1.7 ppm. The Canon Maxify MB5420 printed it at half the pace of the EcoTank, taking about 1 minute.

Using the rear special media tray, the EcoTank made a high-quality letter-size glossy photo print in 2 minutes and 21 seconds. The Canon MB5420 was slightly faster, printing the same photo in 2 minutes and 5 seconds. High-yield inkjets averaged 4 minutes and 31 seconds, while the HP Smart Tank Plus 651 was even slower, taking 5 minutes and 4 seconds.

The ET-5850 was equally impressive at making two-sided prints, losing only one or two pages per minute versus single-sided prints. The EcoTank spat out two-sided text documents at 14.5 ppm. By comparison, the Canon MB5420 did so at 11.7 ppm.

The ET-5850 also printed two-sided color documents quickly, at 9.5 ppm. By comparison, the Canon MB5420 did so at 6 ppm. Slower models include the Epson EcoTank ET-4750, at 3.4 ppm, and the Canon Pixma TS9120, at 2.3 ppm.

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850: Copy and scan speed

The ET-5850 made a black-and-white copy in just 6.7 seconds, the fastest time we've recorded for an inkjet all-in-one. It was more than four times faster than the average for ink tank and high-yield models, 28.8 seconds, as well as the fastest among business models. The Canon MB5420 was the next-fastest business model, making the same copy in 7.6 seconds. 

The EcoTank was was also lightning-fast at making a color copy, doing so in 10 seconds—a fraction of the time it took most general-purpose models. Similarly impressive, the Canon MB5420 made a color copy in 13.4 seconds. The average for business models is 31.1 seconds. In our testing, high-yield models have been somewhat slow at this task, taking 49 seconds on average.

Like its duplexer, the ET-5850's automatic document feeder (ADF) is fast. Using the ADF, the EcoTank copied a single-sided five-page text document in 21.7 seconds, or 13.8 ppm. By contrast, the HP Smart Tank 651 took almost 11 minutes to copy five text pages—less than half a page per minute. The Brother INKvestment J805DW made the same copy in 44.2 seconds, or 6.8 ppm.

The ET-5850 continued to work at a brisk pace when copying two-sided multi-page documents, taking only 1 minute and 11 seconds (8.5 ppm) to make a two-sided copy of a 10-page double-sided text document. The Canon MB5420 was slightly faster, at 8.8 ppm.

Scanning speeds were also fast in both of our tests. The ET-5850 was quick to make a high-resolution scan of a 8-by-10-inch photo, creating a 600 dpi JPEG in just 17 seconds (the fastest time we've measured for an inkjet all-in-one). This was almost twice as fast as the Canon MB5420, at 31.7 seconds, and the business category average of 31.1 seconds.  HP Smart Tank Plus 651, on the other hand, took 2 minutes and 16 seconds to make the same scan. 

Similarly, the EcoTank scanned in record time, making a 300 dpi grayscale PDF in only 5.6 seconds, compared to the category average of 7.1 seconds for business inkjets. The HP Smart Tank 651 made the same scan in 8.3 seconds. The Canon MB5420 made the scan in 9.4 seconds.

The EcoTank also scans quickly using its ADF. It made a 300 dpi five-page PDF scan of a text and mixed color graphics document in just 40.3 seconds, or just over 8 seconds per page. Scanning a two-sided original via the ADF, the EcoTank made a two-page 300 dpi grayscale PDF in 21.5 seconds. Scanning the same two-page document in color took 27.9 seconds. Adding more pages did not slow down the EcoTank's pace: It scanned a 10-page, two-sided original quickly, creating a 300 dpi PDF in 1 minute and 39 seconds, or just under 10 seconds per page.

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850: Print quality

The EcoTank ET-5850 makes high-quality prints. Text looked crisp and as close as you can get with an inkjet to the razor-sharp letterforms of a good quality laser printer. Text in two-sided prints looked just as sharp. 

Prints of graphics were of high quality. There was some mild banding visible in flat areas, but it was spaced out enough to not be distracting. High-quality inkjet paper seemed to reduce the banding. Colors looked well saturated and natural, mid tone transitions were smooth, and details looked sharp.

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850 review

(Image credit: Epson)

Photographs printed on glossy paper looked very attractive, with rich colors and sharp details. The EcoTank tends to emphasize reds and yellows, creating a warm tone that is arguably a little unnatural looking. Shadow areas in photographic prints tended to lose some subtle details. 

Copies of text documents looked attractive, with letter forms that came out a little fatter than in the original. On occasion, copy quality suffered due to an apparent ADF or paper feed inaccuracy. On copies of multi-page text documents, this led to some jagged and mismatched lines of text. At worst, a five-page copy had a line of misaligned text on three of its pages; another 10-page copy had one page with a misaligned row of text. Several other documents copied accurately, however, and graphics copied on plain paper looked faithful to the originals.

Scans of documents with mixed text and graphics looked very attractive in PDF format. The document scans looked accurate and detailed. Scans of glossy photographs made at default settings, however, tended to come out darker than the original. Although details were sharp and skin tones looked natural, dark mid tones tended to transition abruptly into shadow, giving an underexposed appearance. Shadows looked too dark and flat, losing details in the original print.

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850: Ink cost and yield

Ink costs for the EcoTank ET-5850 are extremely low. A bottle of black ink costs $29.99 and lasts an estimated 7,500 pages. Color inks cost $22.99 each, and are rated to last 6,000 pages. Two bottles of each ink come in the box. There is a three-pack of cyan, magenta and yellow inks, but it's priced only 2 cents less than if you bought the three inks individually. All inks are pigment-based.

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850 review

(Image credit: Epson)

These estimates deliver costs per page of 0.4 cents for text pages, and 1.6 cents per color page. By comparison, the HP SmartTank 651's costs per page are 0.3 cents and 0.8 cents, respectively. Using high-yield cartridges, the Canon MB5420 has much higher costs per page of 1.5 cents (text) and 7.1 cents (color). The Brother INKvestment MFC-J805DW has costs per page of 1.2 cents for text and 5 cents for color. The average for high-yield printers is 0.6 cents per page for text, and 3 cents per page for color, while business inkjets average 1.9 and 8.9 cents, respectively. In both cases, this is a dramatic improvement over standard inkjets, which average costs per page of 5.9 cents and 14.9 cents, respectively.

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850 review

(Image credit: Epson)

One additional consumable that needs factoring into costs is a maintenance box, which stores ink discharged during print head cleaning. This part costs $23.99 and would be a significant expense if it needed regular replacement. At press time, Epson had not sent us an estimate of how often users might need to replace the maintenance box. In our testing, the LCD showed the maintenance box to be roughly 60 percent filled up after using half a bottle of black ink and roughly five-eighths of the color inks. If this rate was constant, the box may need replacing every 5,000 pages or so, adding almost half a cent per page to printing costs. However, it's also likely that the initial setup accounted for much of the maintenance box usage, and the box will last much longer.

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850: Setup and software

To set up the ET-5850, I removed roughly a dozen pieces of blue packaging tape, and then filled the four ink tanks. Filling the tanks from the included bottles is simple: You twist off the cap of each ink bottle, and insert it atop the corresponding tank, and wait for gravity to work its magic.

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850 review

(Image credit: Epson)

I ran the installation from the CD-ROM on a Windows 10 PC, and followed instructions for charging the ink, which took roughly nine minutes. When prompted to print a test page, the ET-5850 automatically extended its output tray.  

The CD-ROM includes two scanning programs. ScanSmart is required for using the “scan to computer” function from the ET-5850's touch screen. In Windows 10, ScanSmart's home screen offers double-sided and single-sided scanning options, and plenty of file saving options. One function you might miss, however, is auto cropping. The scanning area menu only offers document sizes such as letter, A4, etc. If you scan smaller objects, such as a 4-by-6-inch photo or three-fold brochure cover, you will get a lot of white space you'll need to crop out later. The Epson Scan 2 program provides TWAIN compliance.

I set up the ET-5850 over USB (no cable included) and on my wireless network. In both cases the setup was straightforward. 

Printing from a mobile phone was pretty seamless. The iOS version of the Epson iPrint app worked well on an iPhone 7, and was intuitive, except for a couple unsupported formats. For example, the “print photos” function took me to the Photos gallery to select pictures for printing. But, because the app does not support the iOS Notes format, selecting the Epson iPrint app directly from Notes resulted in a “format not supported” message. The same was true of .png files (screenshots). However, the workaround was easy in both cases: Instead of selecting Epson iPrint from the share menu, I selected the native “print” function and then selected the ET-5850 from the list of printers. The ET-5850 supports Apple AirPrint and Mopria, and there is an Android version of the iPrint app, as well.

Epson's iPrint app also offers voice-activated printing via Alexa, Google and Siri. On iOS, the iPhone app has an "Add to Siri" button on the main page with four choices: Print the last photo I took, scan this document, run document capture, and show me my printer's ink levels. I used the first option with a “print photo” command, and my latest snapshot printed successfully.

Startup time was roughly average. The ET-5850 took 14 seconds to power up and display its home screen menu. Making a black-and-white copy immediately took just 9 seconds, compared to 6.7 seconds during regular testing.

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850: Verdict

Extremely low ink costs and exceptional performance make the ET-5850 a great fit for a busy office. With a document feeder, duplexer, three paper trays, and two-sided scanning, the ET-5850 is likely to meet the demands of most busy offices.

If your print volume warrants a workhorse like the ET-5850, it's unlikely you'll be disappointed. In every test we ran it through, the ET-5850 delivered high image quality at record speed. Print quality was excellent, copy quality was top-notch, document scans looked sharp, and two-sided operations were all quickly accomplished. The only disappointments were that scans of photographs came out too dark at default settings, and that the included scanning software does not offer automatic cropping. 

Compared to our previous Editor’s Choice, the Canon Maxify MB5420, the ET-5850 offers dramatically lower ink costs—even when the MB5420’s high-yield cartridges are installed. The time it takes to recoup the higher initial investment in the EcoTank will depend on your office’s print volume—the more you print, the faster the return on the investment.

The EcoTank Pro outperforms the Maxify in most categories—and doubles the Maxify’s speeds at color printing and scanning, all while delivering high image quality. 

If your office equipment budget can accommodate the price, the fast and feature-rich ET-5850 is definitely worth a serious look.