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The Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850
($849.99) is an all-in-one printer designed to
churn out 3,000 to 4,000 pages per month in today’s busy small and
midsize offices and workgroups. A letter- and legal-size version of the
wide-format Editors’ Choice EcoTank Pro ET-16650, the
ET-5850’s high input capacity, relatively high volume ratings, excellent print
quality, low running costs, and a strong lineup of productivity and convenience
features make it a shoo-in as our current favorite midrange color AIO
printer
. And an awesome bonus? If you buy it by March 31, 2021, it comes with unlimited reimbursement for two years’ free ink.

EcoTank Pro: Power- and
Productivity-Packed

Currently, Epson has four
EcoTank Pro offerings, which include the ET-16650 mentioned above and a slightly lesser-endowed (in terms of color print and copy speeds)
wide-format model, the ET-16600. The letter- and legal-size models are the ET-5850 tested here and the ET-5880, which adds HP Printer Command Language (PCL) and Adobe PostScript page description language (PDL) support.

PCL and PostScript are, of
course, the page description languages used in many typesetting, printing,
publishing, and graphics design environments, and PostScript is also the native
language of Adobe’s state-of-the-art graphics design software, Illustrator, as
well as the code Adobe Acrobat uses to “draw” or define PDF pages.

In other words, if you plan to use your in-house printer for producing prepress
proofs, or perhaps even short runs of brochures and other marketing material,
spending the additional $50 or so for PCL and PostScript emulation is
certainly advisable. Besides, while writing this, I
found the ET-5880 on sale at Epson’s online store and elsewhere for $50 less
than the ET-5850.

In any case, given its slender build of 16.7 by 19.7 by 18.1
inches (HWD) and tidy 39.2 pounds, the EcoTank Pro ET-5850 packs a lot of wallop into a relatively small footprint compared to
competing inkjet and midrange color laser AIOs. It’s close in size, for example, to Brother’s
MFC-J5945DW
, a rival midrange color inkjet AIO, and about 21 pounds
lighter than Lexmark’s MC2535adwe, a medium-volume color laser AIO that’s another
PCMag top pick.

If smaller and lighter is what
you need, though, you may want to step down to a leaner all-in-one such as, say, HP’s
OfficeJet Pro 9015
, yet another PCMag Editors’ Choice. Meanwhile, let’s
return to the ET-5850 and its robust
feature set—starting with its 50-page, single-pass auto-duplexing automatic
document feeder (ADF) for sending two-sided multipage documents to the scanner.
“Single-pass” means that the ADF deploys two sensors, one for each
page side, making it capable of capturing both sides simultaneously.

Most competing models,
including those mentioned here so far, come with auto-duplexing ADFs. Some,
such as the OfficeJet Pro 9015 with its 35-sheet feeder, hold fewer
originals, while others, such as the Lexmark I just mentioned, come with
reverse-duplexing ADFs (with just one sensor, so the device processes one side, then reverses and flips the paper to process the other).

Reverse-duplexing isn’t as fast or efficient as single-pass, but in the long run they
both get the job done. In any case, setup, making copies, scanning to network
and cloud storage, configuring security options, generating and printing usage
reports, and more are all handled from the ET-5850’s spacious 4.3-inch color
touch screen control panel.

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850 control panel

As you can see above, the display comprises the entire panel. You also get, as you
do with any business-oriented AIO these days, an onboard web portal that
provides access to all operational and configuration tasks from virtually any desktop, laptop, or handheld web browser.

Like the other EcoTank
Pro AIOs, the ET-5850’s paper capacity is 550 sheets from three separate
sources—two 250-sheet cassettes and a 50-sheet multipurpose tray that pulls up
and out from the back of the machine, as shown in the image below.

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850 paper input

The HP 9015 holds just 250 sheets
from one input source, as does the Lexmark MC2535adwe, though the latter also has a
one-sheet override tray and can be expanded to a total of 1,451 sheets. The Brother
MFC-J5945DW holds 300 sheets from three sources, and the Epson WF-C5790
supports 330 sheets (expandable to 830) from two input trays.

Also like the other three
EcoTank Pros, the ET-5850’s maximum monthly duty cycle is 66,000 pages,
with a recommended monthly print volume of 3,300 prints—one of the
highest among the other midrange color AIOs discussed here. The Lexmark, at
85,000 maximum and 8,500 recommended, is the highest, and the OfficeJet Pro 9015, with a
25,000-print duty cycle and 2,500-page recommended volume, is the lowest.

Copious Connectivity

When it comes to connecting
computing devices and cloud sites, Epson left little to chance. The hardware
interfaces are Ethernet (up to 100Mbps), connecting to a single PC via USB,
Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, and Bluetooth BLE (Bluetooth Lite Edition). Those last two
provide peer-to-peer connections that allow you to connect your smartphones and
tablets to the printer without either it or them being part of the same
network.

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850 mobile connectivity

You also get Apple AirPrint,
Mopria, and a slew of options, such as Email Print, Scan to Cloud, Remote
Printer Driver, and several others via Epson Connect, plus the Epson iPrint Mobile
App for printing from and scanning directly to your iOS or Android handheld.

Fast Enough

Epson rates the ET-5850 at a
moderate but adequate 25 pages per minute (ppm). To determine how well it
measured up against the other midrange color AIOs we’ve reviewed lately, I
connected the EcoTank Pro via Ethernet to our standard Intel Core i5 testbed
running Windows 10 Pro and clocked it as it printed our collection of test
documents. (See how we test printers.)

The first round of tests
entailed printing a 12-page Microsoft Word text document several times and
averaging the results. Here, the ET-5850 exceeded its rating with an average score of 28.7ppm. That’s 8.7ppm faster than Brother’s
MFC-J5945DW, 6.7ppm faster than HP’s OfficeJet Pro 9015, 2.3ppm quicker than
the Epson WF-C5790, and 11.9ppm behind the Lexmark MC2535adwe.

Next, I timed the ET-5850 as it
cranked out our suite of color and complex business documents consisting of
Adobe Acrobat PDFs, Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, charts, and graphs, and several full-page PowerPoint handouts made up of both simple and intricate
graphics and multiple fonts varying in type, size, and colors.

I combined these scores with
those from printing the 12-page text document to come up
with an average of 18.3ppm for printing our entire collection of test
documents. This score came within a few tenths of a ppm of the results achieved
by the Lexmark and Epson WorkForce AIOs; the HP 9015 fell behind by about
3ppm and the Brother by about 7ppm.

Finally, I timed and averaged
the ET-5850’s results as it printed our colorful, detailed 4-by-6-inch test
snapshots. It took 10 seconds apiece, about average among
the printers mentioned here (and many others), although the MC2535adwe took four times as long.

PrecisionCore Heat-Free Ink
Chips

Like Epson’s WorkForce Pro
printers, EcoTank Pro machines feature the company’s PrecisionCore 4S Heat-Free
printhead that utilizes two ink chips with tiny, densely clustered
nozzles. Precision Core 4S (and to a somewhat lesser degree 2S) printheads produce impressive detail and brilliant, accurate colors.

The ET-5850’s text is
near typesetter quality down to the smallest font legible without magnification
(in my case about 10 points), which is more than acceptable for most business-document output. Also, the full-page graphics and handout pages I printed came
out with no readily noticeable ink-distribution flaws. Colors were more than
accurate enough to avoid unsightly color shifts, and details such as hairlines
thinner than 1 point were unbroken from end to end.

Photos looked good, too,
and the ET-5850 supports borderless output on prints up to legal-size (8.5
by 14 inches). Many documents (especially photos) take on an appearance of
higher professionalism when borderless output is used creatively (and, well,
properly). The ET-5850 should make your business correspondence look good.

Color Pages for 2 Cents

Currently, and for a while into
the future, the company is offering two years of unlimited free ink with the
purchase of an EcoTank Pro AIO. By giving you all-you-can-eat ink for
the first two years you own the printer, Epson has not only one-upped the
competition, but greatly increased the units’ value. Starting with the third year, the ET-5850’s running
costs come out to about 2 cents per page for both monochrome and color pages,
which isn’t too shabby, either. As I said about the ET-16650, the ET-5850’s black page cost is not an earth-shaker; it’s competitive with most
entry-level to midrange color laser and some inkjet AIOs. But that 2 cents per
color page easily offsets the monochrome running costs.

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850 ink refill

Two years of unlimited ink is
hard to beat, and, depending on how much you print, can reduce the overall
cost of ownership significantly. By comparison, the Brother MFC-J5945DW’s
running costs are just under 1 cent for monochrome pages and just under 5 cents
for color, while the HP 9015 (with a subscription to its $10-monthly Instant
Ink program) prints at about 3.5 cents for both black and color. The Epson WF-C5790’s running costs are 1.6 cents monochrome and 6.4 cents color.

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850 ink reservoirs

It’s also important to note
that several other EcoTank AIOs, including the Editors’ Choice ET-4760, print
both monochrome and color pages for under a penny per page. But their volume,
capacity, and feature sets pale in comparison to EcoTank Pro machines.

When Toner Is Not Required

Over the past couple of years, the
selection of bulk-ink or supertank printers and AIOs has continued to grow.
(This includes Epson’s EcoTank, HP’s Smart Tank Plus, and Canon’s MegaTank
machines with reservoirs that you refill from bottles, and to a lesser degree Brother’s INKvestment AIOs and HP’s Instant Ink machines, though they still
rely on ink cartridges.) However, until the advent of the EcoTank
Pro models, few (if any) have reached the speed, volume, input capacity, and feature
sets required by a huge segment of today’s small and midsize offices and
workgroups.

Why? Well, until now, Epson,
Canon, and now HP have (arguably) managed to keep their costs per page below one cent for both monochrome and color pages—but the
tradeoffs, in terms of print speed and other criteria mentioned above, were severe. The EcoTank Pro line addresses both issues by increasing the overall cost per page to two cents for both
black and color prints, thereby allowing Epson to make what it needs to on
consumables, while providing customers the features they
need to keep their printing, copying, and other document management
requirements flowing.

Like its wide-format sibling the ET-16650, the EcoTank Pro ET-5850 delivers a balanced tradeoff between running
costs and features, allowing you to print and copy thousands of color pages
each month without breaking your organization’s monthly budget. The two years
of free ink—a temporary promotion designed to acquaint you with this enticing
value, no doubt—sweetens the deal, providing more than enough incentive to
elevate the EcoTank Pro ET-5850 to our latest top pick among midrange color AIOs.

Epson EcoTank Pro ET-5850 Specs

Type All-in-one
Color or Monochrome Color
Connection Type Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB, Wireless
Maximum Standard Paper Size Legal
Number of Ink Colors 4
Number of Ink Cartridges/Tanks 4
Direct Printing From Media Cards No
Direct Printing From USB Thumb Drives No
Rated Speed at Default Settings (Color) 25 ppm
Rated Speed at Default Settings (Mono) 25 ppm
Monthly Duty Cycle (Recommended) 3,300
Monthly Duty Cycle (Maximum) 66,000
LCD Preview Screen Yes
Printer Input Capacity 550
Cost Per Page (Color) 2 cents
Cost Per Page (Monochrome) 2 cents
Print Duplexing Yes
Automatic Document Feeder Yes
Duplexing Scans Yes
Standalone Copier and Fax Copier, Fax

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