Ask anyone at Stuff if they can review a printer and the answer is a worried ‘Yes’. That’s because while it’s perfectly possible to review one, it’s not terribly fun. Printers are always less sexy than just about any other tech. Still, some, like the Epson Ecotank L6270 we had in for review, have their moments.
The Epson Ecotank L6270 is a multifunction printer. It’s the sort of thing you buy if you want to print, scan, or photocopy using a single machine. They used to build fax capability into these things, once upon a time, but that’s all in the past. Unless you’re in Japan, at any rate. It’s mostly a printer, but instead of cartridges, you’re topping up with little bottles of ink instead. This is cheaper, we’re told.
Aside from price, which we’ll get to, the main factor when considering a printer is how easy it is to set up. Epson’s entry can be mucked up, but if that happens, it’s your fault. You really have to try to mess up the initial setup. There are remarkably few moving parts inside the box — it’s just the printer, a power cable, and four shrink-wrapped bottles of ink. There’s a bottle each of Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow, and two Black inks — because that’s the one you’re most likely to use.
Strip off all the tape used to protect your hunk of black plastic and power up and you’re greeted with very clear instructions. Everything from connecting to networks, filling up the ink tanks, and aligning the print heads is taken care of in clear, concise steps. The process takes a while — it seems that the ink tank needs a fair bit of preparation before it’s ready to go. By this time, the Ecotank L6270 will have realised that it needs a firmware update. You can decline this — but your printer won’t show up on the network until you’ve done it. Don’t fight the inevitable (or do the update when load shedding is pending).
Initial setup may be done via the traditional LCD screen and a series of buttons. Epson has made the process as painless as possible on that front. If you feel the need for something more modern, then there’s an app as well. Called Epson Smart Panel, it’ll handle the initial setup but it’s also used for printing directly from your smartphone. That’s not a feature we really need, since our devices like to sync at every opportunity, but it could have its uses. Maybe you just don’t want to boot up your laptop or something.
Smart Panel won’t win any design awards. It looks about as attractive as you’d expect a printer app to look. Still, it’s functional and it doesn’t get in its own way too often. That’s always nice to see. Mostly, though, you’ll wind up doing your printing from your desktop. There are no surprises and there’s no software to install. We think. Amazingly, there was an actual CD included with the Epson Ecotank L6270. We’ve got no idea what’s on it. Stuff hasn’t seen an optical drive in years. Since the printer worked just fine without it, it’s probably nothing important.
Print. That’s a wrap
Which brings us to the most important portion of this whole thing — how does the Ecotank print? In a word? Slowly. But that’s if you’re hammering it with double-sided, full-colour images designed to smack the ever-loving crap out of the ink tanks in as little time as possible. If you’re printing documents with the occasional coloured letterhead, you can expect a much speedier response. Still, being an inkjet, the Ecotank L6270 isn’t designed for bulk printing. Don’t expect the sort of crisp and steaming pages you get from toner-based printers. It’s not going to happen.
But it’ll last. We ran about 200 full-colour pages out and managed to knock the tanks down by about 20%. That sounds a lot worse than it actually is, though. Most home printing includes significantly more white space on the page. Our test files were more or less industrial printing done via inkjet.
The general quality is about as good as your source material, with the usual inkjet vagaries thrown in. Prints on standard A4 paper are never going to look seamless but fine-detail reproduction is good enough that you can see what we were printing. It’s no photo printer but it’s also not trying to be.
Epson Ecotank L6270 verdict
The tricky bit about printers like these is that they’re more expensive upfront. In the long run, you’ll wind up saving money on ink. That’s especially the case if you’re planning to print anything in bulk. School notes and home management documents can chew up a fair bit of that precious liquid. If you’re replacing cartridges at R450 a pop, that gets awfully expensive. But opting for a R8,500 printer for the option to get ink refills for between R200 (for colour) and R400 (black) a bottle only makes sense if you have the money upfront. The prospect of cheaper ink refills might not be for everyone, though. If you’ve got a smaller budget, you might well take the ink cartridge route because it’s affordable right now. Which is a pity. The Epson Ecotank L6270 isn’t an office machine by any measure, but it’s a decent piece of kit to have around the house.