As if the ET-4550 EcoTank printer wasn’t economical enough for classrooms, Epson is thinking big, really big. The follow-on ET-16500 printer takes the replacement of ink cartridges with economical ink bottles to new heights (and widths) with the ability to print on anything from note cards to 13- by 47-inch banners.
What separates it from ordinary printers is that rather than snap-in ink cartridges, the ET-16500’s EcoTank has basins for several ounces of black, cyan, magenta and yellow inks. You can see the ink levels on the side and when the printer runs out of ink, instead of putting a new cartridge in and throwing the old one away, just pour in a new bottle of ink.
The good news is that the box includes two sets of ink bottles, which Epson says is the equivalent of 50 sets of ink cartridges or as many as 11,000 pages – plenty for a full school year of printing maps, worksheets and letters home. The high-capacity black bottles cost $20 while the smaller standard size ones for cyan, magenta and yellow cost $13 each. That adds up to about $59 per set.
To start, the ET-16500 is one big printer at nearly 51-pounds and takes up 26.2- by 32.2-inches of table space. It is 16.5 inches tall. When setting it up, it’s a good idea to have two people on hand to unpack and put in place. That said, it’s best kept on a counter, big table or cart. Unfortunately, Epson doesn’t sell any stand-alone bases for the ET-16500 that could have added paper storage or an extra paper tray.
You can put the printer any place that’s convenient because the ET-16500 can connect via USB cable, Ethernet wired networking as well as WiFi. All you really need is an AC power outlet.
Just don’t be in a hurry to get the first prints. That’s because between carefully pouring the inks into the four reservoirs and priming the printer’s pumps, it takes about 25 minutes to get going. Inside, the ET-16500 uses Epson’s PrecisionCore inkjet technology that tops out at a resolution of 4,800 by 1,200 dots per inch. The printer can squirt out droplets in three sizes as small as 2.8-picoliters, depending on what’s being printed.
It comes with a pair of adjustable paper trays that each hold 250-sheets as well as a rear feeder for banners or heavier paper, like card stock for art work.
The printer works with anything from 3.5- x 5-inch cards to 13- by 47-inch banners. Oddly, one thing the ET-16500 can’t do is print letter-sized documents width-wise for increased speed.
The printer has a 4.3-inch touch screen control panel that lets you directly copy, scan or fax items. In addition to showing the printer’s settings, the you can add presets for popular tasks and use the system’s Eco Mode to make a bottle of ink go that much farther.
In real-world use for printing a variety of material on cards and envelopes as well as letter, legal and tabloid sheets, a set of the ET-16500’s bottles of ink were good for 9,400 pages.
My advice is that when you run out of ink, be careful. Filling the ET-16500’s ink tanks can be messy. You might want to wear a pair of rubber gloves if you just had a manicure. There’s a chance you’ll not only get some of the pigment-based ink on your fingers but some on the floor as well. Plus, if you ever move it, you’ll need to keep the ET-16500 level so as not to spill the ink it holds. With that in mind, I set the printer up over a cookie tray to catch any spilled ink.
The printer’s network interface runs on any recent Web browser to allow the checking of everything from how many pages have been printed and which tray holds which paper to the details of the network connection. It shows approximately how much ink remains, but I suggest periodically looking at each tank’s window to see the actual level.
Inside, there’s an Ink Maintenance Box that holds the waste ink leftover after each print. It holds several ounces and should last for a few years before it fills up. Unfortunately, you can’t just empty when it’s filled, but it only costs $15 and takes a minute or two to replace.
In addition to the expected PCs (up to Windows 10) and Macs (up to OSX 10.11), the ET-16500 works with Google Cloud Print, Apple Air Print, Android printing, Fire OS printing and those that use the Mopria Print Service. Epson lets you print right from or scan to a flash card or thumb drive and has phone and tablet apps for iOS and Android systems.
A big step forward is the ET-16500’s ability to use email. You can not only scan images to an email account but print items as well.
Using an HP EliteBook Folio G1 connected to the ET-16500 via WiFi, the ET-16500 churned out 13.5 ppm of single-sided letter sized documents. That drops to 7.1 for duplexed documents. This is slightly off Epson’s claim for 18- and 8.7-ppm, respectively, but impressive nonetheless.
It printed a tabloid size Excel spreadsheet full of numbers and words in 13.5-seconds while it took 58.7 seconds to produce an 11- by 17-inch image print at the printer’s best setting.
Overall, the type is well formed, sharp and generally looks a lot like laser printer output. While I like that documents are uniformly matte rather than the annoying shinny appearance of the output from color laser printers, the documents can appear to be too light with colors that aren’t quite saturated. Sometimes the sheets soak up too much ink and pucker and the ET-16500’s blues are less vibrant and rich than other printers.
Still, the ET-16500 is one of the most economical printers to use. In my three months of daily ET-16500 printing, I got 9,400 pages out of a set of ink bottles for an average of 0.6-cent per letter size page; double that for tabloid sheets. Either way, it can make printing less of a burden on the budget.
The Epson ET-16500 does everything it should and more by including a scanner that can not only create images from a 11.7- by 17-inch scanning bed but has an automatic document feeder that digitizes both sides of a two-sided document in a single pass. It tops out at 1,200- by 2,400 dot per inch resolution in 48-bit color. It has a copier and fax machine built in, but can work with Remark grading software.
All told, the ET-16500 is a fabulous piece of technology that can deliver high-quality documents and artwork of all sizes for less. Every school should have at least one and many will only need one.
+ Prints letter, legal, tabloid and up to 13- by 47-inch banners
+ Pour-in ink
+ Large format scanner
+ Two sided printing and scanning
+ Ethernet and WiFi
+ Phone and tablet apps
- Can’t print letter sheets width-wise