Last Updated on September 16, 2023 by admin
Why is someone with a website about toys for 2-year-old toys writing about printers? Well, I’m just another busy mom who doesn’t love spending my free time on office technology research. I already did it, though, so maybe I can spare you that fate!
Printer research is annoying because manufacturers tend to assume that we non-office-managers all know exactly what a document feeder does and why it’s worth $70 extra. Or they’ll post a photo of a printer and think that clarifies what we’re getting. Nope.
Let’s BRIEFLY discuss what makes printers different from one another, then dive into the beauty of tank printers and the differences in the Epson EcoTank models.
Inkjet Printers vs. Laser Printers
There are generally two types of printers built for personal use.
- “Inkjet” printers shoot ink onto the paper with a little ink shooter that scurries back and forth along the paper.
- “Laser” printers press/roll images onto paper with a powder called “toner.”
Inkjet printers and ink are generally more affordable than laser printers, but they run out of ink more quickly. It’s also possible for the little jets to get clogged up if you don’t use the printer enough. Laser printers and toner tend to be more expensive than inkjet printers, but they can print with more clarity and sharpness, and the toner cartridges last much longer than ink cartridges. Until recently, laser printers were black and white only, and many still don’t print in color.
Introducing Tank Printers, the Homeschool Mom Choice
My kids are homeschooled part-time, and I’m in a bunch of homeschooling Facebook groups. You may have guessed that most homeschooling parents love printing stuff. (Worksheets! Booklets! Lessons!) So, when I decided I needed a printer, I started by combing through those online discussions. These parents value the same things I do: Affordability in ink costs and the convenience in not having to constantly buy and replace cartridges. (The print quality and speed are secondary factors for most of us.)
Here are the results of my informal “research” (a.k.a. reading a bunch of Facebook comments on the topic):
- A few homeschool moms were really excited about laser printers and toner — they loved how long the toner lasted and thought it was a clear winner for affordability.
- There were also a few homeschool moms who really loved HP’s new endless ink program. The program charges a nominal monthly fee to send you new ink automatically whenever it runs low, which it “knows” thanks to the internet-connected printer.
- However, the majority of homeschool moms in these groups were excited about new inkjet printers called “tank printers.” Tank printers don’t use cartridges. Instead, you fill the ink tank with bottles of ink. You can see the tanks clearly via a window panel, so it’s always clear how much ink you have left. The ink purportedly lasts a super long time, isn’t very expensive to replace, and perhaps most importantly (in my mind), there are no annoying cartridges that hang around your office until you finally find the time to recycle them.
There was a little bit of discussion in these groups about whether to go with the Canon MegaTank or the Epson EcoTank. Both had fans, but more moms had the EcoTank, so I decided I’d just go that route. After all, I’d already spent more time reading about printers than I would’ve liked.
What makes the Epson EcoTank Models Different From One Another?
I still had more research ahead of me, though: There are six different Epson EcoTank printers to choose from that are intended for home use (as opposed to bulk printing or fancy photo/art printing).
Each Epson EcoTank printer is equipped with a scanner as well as a printer, and they all handle pretty much all kinds of paper (photo paper, cardstock, etc.) in all standard sizes. Also, in addition to the features I’m about to point out, each model apparently gets slightly faster as the price goes up, according to the marketing materials.
If you’re trying to decide which Epson EcoTank printer to buy, like I was, here’s how the rest of it breaks down.
Note: The images link to Amazon, because I’m a member of their affiliate program, which means I do get a small commission for qualifying purchases if you buy one after clicking on a link. However, these printers are available at all major office supply and tech retailers. (I explain at the end of the post where I bought mine and why.) Also, I posted the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for each model, but most of these printers are on sale for much lower prices regularly on Amazon and at other retailers.
Epson EcoTank 2800 – MSRP $279.99
2800 model: Just the basics. The paper feeds in the back and pops out the front. If you want to print on both sides of the paper, you have to feed it back in manually.
Epson EcoTank 2850 – MSRP $349.99
2850 model: If you pay $70-ish more, you get this model, which prints on both sides automatically (no manual re-feeding).
Epson EcoTank 3830 – MSRP $399.99
3830 : For $50 more than the 2850 model, you get a few more perks: This one has a larger display screen and a larger capacity for paper, holding up to 250 pages instead of 100. It also can connect to the internet via ethernet cable if you prefer that to WiFi. One subtle difference that isn’t clear from the website is that the paper feeds in from a pull-out tray in the front instead of in from a tray that sticks out of the back. The guy I talked to at Best Buy said anecdotally that setup might result in fewer jams. And, from personal experience, I don’t like the paper being exposed and getting dusty when I don’t use it for a while. Finally, this model and all subsequent models have a slightly larger display screen than the two more basic models.
Epson EcoTank 3850 – MSRP $399.99
3850: This one has all the features of the last one, with a fax machine included. LOL! No thanks — although I will say that although the MSRP is the same as the previous model, so I guess it’s not exactly a disadvantage to throw the fax in there for the same price if you think you’ll ever use it.
Epson EcoTank 4850 – MSRP $549.99
4850: This one is a big step up at $150 more than the last two models because, in addition to all the other features, it has a document autofeeder for the scanner. That means if you want to scan or copy, say, a big ol’ stack of papers or photos, they will go in, get scanned, and pop back out on their own.
Epson EcoTank 15000 – MSRP $599.99
15000 This is the “wide format” printer that can print on 13×9 paper in addition to 8.5×11 (and it has all the features of the 4850, as well). Because of its larger size, there’s also a slightly larger screen than the other models.
Other Considerations When Choosing an Epson EcoTank Printer
Finally, before we move on, allow me to complicate things further. I noticed that the Epson EcoTank printers for sale at Target and Walmart had slightly different model numbers. It turns out that Epson made certain EcoTank models exclusively for those manufacturers. I was originally going to buy a printer from Target because I’m a Target Circle member, but I noticed that the reviews for the Target/Walmart models were less enthusiastic than the ones for the “straight” Epson models that were for sale at other major retailers.
Best Buy had a trade-in deal where I got $30 off for bringing in my old printer for recycling. This was a big perk for me since I thought I’d need to make a special trip to do that, and a big part of why I bought from Best Buy.
When I was adding the links for this post, I also noticed that Amazon has some of these printers available from “Amazon Renewed,” which is described as “expertly refurbished” products that are backed by an Amazon guarantee. This is probably the route I would have taken if I’d known about it, because the “renewed” printer I noticed online was listed for $50 less than what I paid at Best Buy, even with the sale and rebate.
Why I chose the Epson EcoTank 3830
However, I ended up buying the Epson EcoTank 3830 (the one that’s a slight step up from the two basic printers and doesn’t have a fax machine). The 3830 model was on sale at Best Buy when I was looking, and their appliance trade-in rebate helped me justify the decision to upgrade from the more basic model. I was interested in the document autofeeder feature, but ultimately decided that the extra cost wasn’t worth it for the limited number of times I’d need to bulk scan. Maybe I’ll come to regret it! And if I do, I’ll come back to this post and let you know.
So far, the Epson EcoTank 3830 has been easy to set up and fill with ink. I’ve only used it a few times but was impressed by the copy quality. The colors didn’t print super vibrant, but they worked for my needs. I saw a suggestion online to try higher quality printer paper to boost the color appearance, so maybe I’ll try that.
If you have other insights you’d like to share about the other Epson EcoTank models, let me know. Happy printer hunting!