Epson WorkForce ET-4550 Printer Review: The Cartridge Slayer

The Epson WorkForce ET-4550 EcoTank is a new inkjet printer that eliminates the need for ink cartridges. Instead, it comes with an assortment of pour-in ink bottles that purportedly last for up to two years. We put it to the test to find out whether a cartridge-free printer can deliver on speed and print quality. Read on for the full review.

I don't like printers. I don't own one and I seldom use the one at work since I prefer to have everything in digital format. I had a few in the past that infuriated me to no end, especially since they always ran out of ink at the worst possible times and it would cost a fortune to buy replacement ink cartridges. So when I heard the Epson WorkForce ET-4550 EcoTank multifunction printer doesn't use cartridges, it immediately piqued my interest.

There was this one time when my family's home printer ran out of ink. My dad took me to the local Dick Smith to buy a replacement cartridge. We came home with a brand new printer instead. It was cheaper to buy a new printer than it was to replace the ink cartridge. Even as a kid, I knew there was something very wrong with that picture.

Since moving out of home, I have not owned a printer. If I want to print something I'd do it at work or head to the nearest OfficeWorks where someone would do it for me. Actually, I have a convenient store near my place that will do black and white printouts for 10c per page.

While I personally don't feel the need to own a clunky printing device that require expensive consumables to function, businesses often need to print out documents and invoices on a daily basis. The Epson WorkForce ET-4550 is targeted squarely at the home office user and it takes out one of the biggest gripes many printer owners have, which is cartridge replacement. The ET-4550 doesn't use it. Instead, it has high capacity ink tanks and you get two years' worth of ink in the box. According to Epson, that's going to give you 11,000 pages in black and 8500 pages in colour.

So has Epson has replaced one evil with another so that when the ink runs dry you will have to sell your firstborn child to buy exorbitantly expensive replacement ink? Actually, the colour ink bottles cost $16.99 each while the large black ink one sells for $24.99. Not bad. Not bad at all.

So all of this sounds great in theory. But what's it really like when you use the WorkForce ET-4550?

Getting Started

Let's go through the setup. To test just how user friendly the process is, I made a conscious decision to just wing it. Before you all lose your bananas and chastise me for not looking at the manual, I just want to say that setting up a printer should be a plug and play experience. Also, the double-sided setup manual made me want to rip out my eyes:

So I took the unit out of the box and went ahead with filling up the tanks. I gingerly poured the red, blue, yellow and black in into their respective tanks. Simple enough, except I still ended up getting some red on me:

It's never going to be as clean as just popping out a cartridge and swapping it out with a new one. But if getting rid of those ungodly printer cartridges means I'll have to occasionally get my hands dirty, then so be it.

Afterwards, I plugged the WorkForce ET-4550 and it came to life, prompting me to input details like time and date on its 2.2-inch monocolour LCD screen. Navigating through the settings was a breeze with the printer's directional buttons and numerical keypad. Just when I thought I was on a roll, I got this message: "See the setup manual to complete the initial ink charging."


Turns out I had to fumble about with the manual just to be told that I needed to hold down the "OK" button for three seconds. It couldn't have told me that through the LCD screen?

I then moved on to setting up the Wi-Fi on the unit for wireless printing. Epson boasts that the ET-4550 is capable of wireless printing from smartphones, tablets and computers. This could be done by using AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, Morpria or Epson Connect. I thought it'd be a quick process. Sadly, it was not so.

First off, the printer failed to detect the wireless connection in the office, which I fixed with the good old "turn it on and off again" method. Once that was out of the way, I tried to use Google Cloud Print. When that didn't work, I tried using Epson Connect services.

Three pieces of software and one can of Coke later, I still hadn’t printed anything. But alas, after signing up a new account with Epson Connect, I was ready to take the ET-4550 for a test run. The setup process from start to finish, with a few technical hiccups along the way, took about an hour.


I tested the ET-4550's colour printing capabilities with a photo of my cat:

Time to print: Two minutes and 22 seconds.

The printer was a bit sluggish spitting this picture out but the image quality isn't bad for the standard quality setting. If you look closely you'll see distinctive bands that run across the page horizontally where the printer had to pause before moving on to laying the ink down for the next section. Colour reproduction was pretty decent although some of the picture's details came out a tad blurry. Bear in mind this was done on normal printing paper. If you use photo paper it would make a huge difference.

Now onto a colour print with the high quality setting switched on:

Time to print: 2 minutes and 32 seconds

The bands that littered the standard print were gone and the image looked sharper overall. I was quite impressed with this printout given that it came from a small inkjet printer.

Now for what really matters to business users: how fast can the printer print out word documents?

Pretty damn fast, actually.

One full page black and white print took about seven seconds. A ten-page document took one minute and 17 seconds. One thing I would like to call out is the black and white prints from the ET-4550 are reasonably water resistant. I rubbed a wet tea bag all over them and there was minimum fading and the words were still perfectly legible.

You can also send emails for the ET-4550 to print through a dedicated email address with Epson Connect. It's very handy feature although it doesn't automatically print out attachments.


While the Epson WorkForce ET-4550 hasn't made me want to introduce a printer back into my home, it is a solid printer for stay-at-home workers and small businesses. Despite retailing at $699, removing cartridges and replacing them with long lasting refillable ink is definitely a huge drawcard and will yield huge savings in the long run. The setup process could be more straight forward, but the print quality is good and if you're mainly going to use it for printing out word documents and the occasional coloured photo, then this printer is definitely one to consider.


    Man, I'd rather just pick up a few more cheap printers.


    Nice (I assume) tattoo on your wrist ... but also very distinctive.

    In keeping with the spirit of Evil Week, if you decide to commit any crimes, make sure you cover that up as the police often trace suspects through identifying marks noticed by victims.

    Last edited 21/11/15 11:04 am

    Cool, the ink you spilled on you arm looks like a perfect SNES logo tattoo ;)

    If I printed often, id love to look at something like this, so much cheaper to fill and longer lasting.

      10 points for knowing that's the SNES logo!

        I still remember the day I bought it, went halvies with my brother. Awesome memories.

    Are you sure that's a cat? Looks a bit like a startled soft toy.

    pour-in ink bottles that purportedly last for up to two years

    Still sounds like built in obsolescence to me... Get a cheaper printer and buy an ink solution from Rihac. Get the same outcome for less and more than 2 years later my solution is still going strong.

    I like the "wet teabag" test, but it needs to be done on a colur print.
    My printouts include code, which has a light yelow background to help it stand out. Sheets then go in a book with plastic sleeves.
    Over time, I find the yellow ink stains the plastic sleeves. The sleeves are permanently bound in the book, so stains mean replacing the whole book if pages ever need to be changed.

    So Epson finally caught up to Rihac for 3 times the price.

    I bought ET 4550 and I am not happy with it: I use win8 and I am not able to print more than 2 pages out of multi-page document. I will probably return the thing and demand refund. This is unfinished product,

    Thanks for the note about the 3 second press of the OK button. I was stuck here and did *not* find it in the manual. Saved me mass time waste - thanks!

      Thanks too for the heads-up but the same problem still occurring unfixed in Feb 17!
      Plus the printer's screen tells you to see the "set up" manual for what "ink charging" involves (including 20 minutes apparently), but this manual does not exist in either hardcopy, the accompanying disk or on line.
      And the so-called Epson phone hotline is only available during working hours Mon-Fri. Not when most home users would be setting up (or not managing to do it because the instructions are incorrect or otherwise deficient) their new Epson.
      The "user manual" on the disk has absolutely no detail at all about charging the ink.
      Does no-one proof-read anything anymore or test procedures before selling a product?

    Love the cat photo, made my day. I love this printer for the overall costs. On a 100% page full colour coverage it works out to be 2 cents per page if you buy your ink in bulk. The only draw back is it take 3 mins and 30 seconds to print out a full page photo on the highest quality settings in the Glossy Paper mode. Otherwise if you are using normal paper it only takes half the time. I print out magazines with this printer, and because I am in love with the quality, costs, but not the time to print each page - i did myself a favour and purchased my 2nd. My plan is to have five in total. On another note, I had to also google how to charge the ink. I cannot for the life of me find how to do this in the manual. A simple "hold OK for three seconds" would have been much better than "read manual to charge ink" on the screen. Overall, this printer is a winner for quality and cost - but not for speed with photos, yes its great for office projects and fast at printing documents, but if you want to just print average photos and word docs, you are best buying a cheap inkjet. Photos and glossy paper print-ability is excellent (but slow) on this printer. 8/10. However, I can only assume that you cannot get a fast print with such great quality. It will either be slow with great quality or fast with poor quality. Such is life. 2 printers purchased. 3 to go.

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