Epson’s latest bulk-ink (or supertank) photo-centric AIO, the EcoTank Photo ET-8550 All-in-One Wide-Format Supertank Printer ($699.99), is an impressive achievement. It’s twice as fast as its predecessor, 2017’s Expression Premium ET-7750, and it adds a sixth ink color, which improves its overall color accuracy and detail. Thanks to refillable ink tanks and Epson throwing in two years of free ink, the ET-8550 delivers some of the lowest running costs available, especially for borderless tabloid (11-by-17-inch) and supertabloid (13-by-19-inch) printing. Enthusiastic hobbyists, semi-pro photographers, and document designers willing to pay the up-front price will find the ET-8550 worth the investment. It’s our favorite consumer-grade wide-format multifunction photo printer.
Big Is Beautiful
You can’t print large pages on small machines, so the ET-8550 measures 16.7 by 32.4 by 18.1 inches (HWD) and weighs 39.2 pounds. It’s about average in size and weight for a professional-grade wide-format photo printer, but it’s considerably heavier and somewhat bigger than most consumer-grade machines.
In addition to the standard process colors of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK), the ET-8550 has two additional inks, Photo Black and Gray. These colors help produce great-looking grayscale images and graphics, and they improve detail and enhance blacks in photos and artwork, making dark areas deeper, richer, and more prominent.
The ET-8550’s ink reservoirs are easily refilled.
Several of Epson’s recent consumer-grade photo printers, including the ET-7750, as well as a few Canon Pixma AIOs, such as the letter-size TS9120 and the tabloid-size TS9520, use six inks. Professional-grade photo printers, such as Epson’s SureColor P700 (and a few other SureColor models) and Canon’s imagePrograf and Pixma Pro machines, use 10 or more.
The scanner of the ET-8550 is a simple flatbed, with no automatic document feeder (ADF) for easily scanning multipage documents. Instead, you must place each side of each page on the platen manually. That’s common with photo printers, especially wide-format ones; of the machines mentioned here so far, only the ET-7750 and the Pixma TS9120 come with ADFs. Their scanners are intended for archiving and reprinting individual works of art, not business documents.
You get a scanner, but no ADF for streamlining the scanning process.
As for paper handling, the ET-8550 holds a mere 120 sheets. That includes 20 sheets of premium snapshot paper stored in an insert that resides inside the main paper tray. Most of the other machines discussed here have somewhat larger paper allotments than this. The Canon Pixma TS9520 holds up to 200 pages from two 100-page sources, as does the ET-7750, which also has a 20-sheet snapshot-size tray that slides in above the front drawer. Epson’s professional-grade SureColor P700’s main drawer holds up to 120 sheets of plain paper, about 30 sheets of photo paper, or one sheet of “thick fine art media,” and it also has a one-sheet front media slot for accepting thicker papers (up to 1.5mm).
Like several photo printers of this caliber, the ET-8550 can print directly onto pre-surfaced CDs and DVDs.
The smaller tray can hold 4-by-6-inch or 5-by-7-inch premium photo paper.
Epson no longer publishes maximum monthly or suggested maximum volume ratings on its consumer-grade photo printers; neither does Canon. Don’t let that worry you. You’re unlikely to push this capable printer beyond what it can handle.
Many Connection Options
Epson has made sure that most devices can connect to and use the ET-8550. Its interfaces include USB 2.0, Ethernet, Wi-Fi Direct, and Wi-Fi 802.11b/g, and it can print from and scan to both SD cards and USB thumb drives.
You get support for both SD Cards and USB thumb drives.
You can use either the impressive 4.3-inch color touch-screen control panel or the Epson Smart Panel app to operate the ET-8550. Walk-up functions include running copies and scanning to a local drive or favorite cloud site. The control panel also makes it easy to monitor consumables and generate and print usage and security reports.
Navigation, monitoring consumables levels, paper levels, security, and much, much more is available from a 4.3-inch touch LED.
Smart Panel allows you to operate and manage the ET-8550 locally or remotely. Supported operating systems are Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. In addition, you get TWAIN and WIA drivers for connecting the scanner to third-party programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Word.
Mobile devices connect via Wi-Fi Direct or over a network. In addition to using Smart Panel, you can use your phone or tablet to print photos or manage the printer via Android Direct Printing, Apple AirPrint, Mopria, or the Epson Connect app.
Faster Than Average, Though It’s Hardly a Speed Demon
Epson rates the ET-8550 at 16 black pages per minute (ppm) and 12ppm for color pages. To put it through its paces, I connected it via Ethernet to our standard Intel Core i5 testbed PC running Windows 10 Professional.
For the first test, I timed the ET-8550 as it churned through our simply formatted our 12-page Microsoft Word document. The ET-8550 printed our entire text document at an average speed of 15.9ppm, essentially matching its rating and surpassing both the Canon Pixma TS9520 and the Epson ET-7750. (We don’t rate near-dedicated professional-grade photo printers by measuring pages per minute, so direct comparisons can’t be made with the SureColor P700.)
See How We Test Printers
The next leg of our testing regimen entailed clocking the ET-8550 as it printed our collection of colorful and complex business documents, including Adobe Acrobat PDFs containing text at various weights and colors, Microsoft Excel spreadsheets with supporting charts and graphs, and PowerPoint handouts with intricate gradients and colorful fills and backgrounds. Then, I combined these scores with those from printing the text file in the previous test to come up with an average for printing our entire suite of test documents.
The combined average score was 7.9ppm—not necessarily slow for a photo printer in this genre, but as printers go in general, it’s not particularly fast. However, in this regard the ET-8550 handily beats the Pixma TS9520, which managed only 4.7ppm.
For the last segment of our testing routine, the ET-8550 printed two of our colorful and highly detailed 4-by-6-inch snapshots. It did so in an average of 38 seconds each, which is well below the 60-second threshold that most people find acceptable in a consumer-grade photo printer.
Lovely Prints of All Kinds
As usual with printers of this class, the ET-8550 outputs simply excellent prints.
In our tests, text was well-shaped and highly legible, with attractive kerning and leading (character and line spacing) at nearly all font sizes we test. The decorative fonts came out looking better than average, and a little easier to read at smaller sizes.
The complex and colorful business graphics in our presentations and spreadsheets reproduced with no noticeable ink distribution issues. Dark and black backgrounds, gradients and other complex fills, and intricate details, such as hairlines under 1 point, were all accurately and clearly printed.
Most impressive, naturally, is the ET-8550’s photo reproduction. I printed 4-by-6-inch snapshots, 8-by-10-inch portraits, and larger borderless images up to 13 by 19 inches; all were gorgeous. Professionals will note that the ET-8550’s six-color palette isn’t quite as nuanced as a professional-grade machine’s would be, and the smaller color gamut will most likely decrease some of the subtleties between various hues. But hobbyists and semi-pro photographers and artists will have no complaints about the ET-8550’s print quality.
A True Bargain
For a photo printer, the ET-8550 is extremely inexpensive to use. Typically, EcoTank AIOs print both monochrome and color pages for under 1 cent each, while EcoTank Pro machines (Epson’s small-business line) print both black and color pages for 2 cents apiece. It’s difficult to calculate the ET-8550’s running costs because there’s no way to tell when either the Photo Black or Gray ink deploys or how much ink is dispensed. But if those two colors are removed from the equation, the ET-8550 delivers the same low bulk-ink running costs as other EcoTank machines.
There are several wide-format printers available, but only a few are optimized for photo printing, and even fewer are ink tank machines with highly competitive running costs. The Canon Pixmas and the Epson SureColor P700 are cartridge machines with much higher per-page expenses. If you often print full-page tabloid or supertabloid photos or art, the ET-8550 will be great for your bottom line.
Granted, the ET-8550 costs almost as much up front as the pro-grade SureColor P700, but with the latter you’ll spend far more on ink—especially considering that Epson includes two years of free ink with your purchase of the ET-8550. The more you print, the better this deal will be for you.
What You Pay For, and Then Some
You may feel that $700 is a lot to pay for a well-made but still hobby-grade printer, but the low running costs more than balance it out. We wish the ET-8550 had an ADF for passing multipage documents to the scanner; if you regularly scan multipage documents, you’ll probably want to spring for an inexpensive document scanner. Otherwise, there’s very little to complain about here. The Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8550 makes beautiful prints, doesn’t keep you waiting for them, and saves you a bundle on consumables. That makes it our latest Editors’ Choice among consumer-grade wide-format photo printers that also scan and copy.
Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8550 All-in-One Wide-Format Supertank Printer
The Bottom Line
The ET-8550 prints excellent photos and other high-definition images, from snapshot-size to supertabloid, with running costs of less than 1 cent per page.