Epson EcoTank ET-5880 review: Phenomenally low running costs

Print speeds are variable, but this business inkjet is well featured, easy to use and extremely cheap to run

A photograph of the Epson EcoTank ET-5880

IT Pro Verdict


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    Excellent output quality

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    Strong networking options

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    Cost-effective refills


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    Lower print speeds at higher quality

The days of overpriced ink cartridges are over. This clever A4 colour MFP uses Epson’s ink bottle system to deliver ultra-economical running costs, working out to just 0.2p per mono page and 0.8p for colour.

The idea of refilling the reservoirs yourself might sound fiddly, but it really couldn’t be easier. The bottles have leak-free valves in their nozzles, and are keyed so they will only fit the correct port in the front-mounted ink tanks. Just slot each one in and let gravity do the rest: they will stop pouring when the tanks are full.

The ET-5880 isn’t short on features, either. It’s easy to use, with a large 10.9cm colour touchscreen. It combines print, copy, scan and fax functions, and it can connect over USB, Ethernet or 802.11n wireless, with support for both Wi-Fi Direct and AirPrint. Two 250-sheet paper cassettes and a large 50-page rear feeder also mean you won’t be constantly reloading it with paper, while the colour flatbed scanner provides a 50-page duplex ADF.

Installation proved swift. Epson’s setup utility for Windows discovered the ET-5880 on our network, installed the latest firmware and downloaded the appropriate desktop drivers. It also loads a network status monitor, a fax utility and Epson’s ScanSmart tool for pulling in scans over the network, which can be saved locally or plonked into a Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive or OneDrive account.

The install routine also invites you to register the ET-5880 with Epson’s Connect cloud portal. This enables remote workers to print documents over the internet using a standard Windows driver, or by emailing attachments to a custom address. The portal can also connect to cloud services – we added our Dropbox and Google Drive accounts, which then popped up on the touchscreen as quick-access scan destinations.

Mobile users aren’t forgotten, with Epson’s free iPrint app offering all the key features. After installing it on an iPad, we were able to directly print local photos and documents, print from and scan to five cloud providers and take quick snaps of documents to store locally or print.

A closeup of the Epson EcoTank ET-5880's refill mechanism

If you want to control who can do what from the touchscreen, you can create up to ten user accounts in the web console and decide which functions each one is allowed to access. The Windows driver isn’t so versatile, but it does let you protect confidential jobs by assigning a four-digit PIN to them, which must be entered at the touchscreen before the pages are printed.

Print speeds depend on your quality setting. In standard mode, our Word document emerged at 25ppm, just as Epson promises, but in high-quality mode this tumbled to 6.3ppm. Colour graphics slowed things down too: our 24-page DTP-style document was printed at an average of 22ppm in standard mode and 5.2ppm at top quality.

In both modes, the Epson made a respectable fist of printing on cheap 75gsm copy paper, producing detailed mono photos and clean, dust-free fonts at sizes down to 6pt. Switching to heavier 100gsm paper produced slightly sharper text, however, and frankly with running costs this low you can easily absorb this extra expense.

We were particularly impressed by the quality of the ET-5880’s colour graphic output. It turned out bright, bold reports with no hint of banding even in large single-colour areas. It was the same with photos; we loaded up a sheet of 160gsm glossy paper and were rewarded with rich, sharp and detailed images with no edge bleeding.

If you don’t need the absolute fastest printer in town, the EcoTank ET-5880 is a great office all-in-one. It has plenty of features, good output quality and top-notch cloud support. The initial outlay may seem high, but thanks to Epson’s phenomenally low running costs, most businesses will recoup this in no time at all.

Epson EcoTank ET-5880 specifications

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Format4,800 x 1,200dpi A4 inkjet MFP4,800 x 1,200dpi A4 inkjet MFP, 2,400 x 1,200dpi colour flatbed A4 scanner
Print speed25ppm mono/colour
Display10.9cm colour touchscreen
Networking10/100 Ethernet, 802.11n wireless
Connectivity2 x USB 2, 33.6Kbps fax/modem, 2 x RJ-11
Print typeDuplex
Tray size2 x 250-page input trays, 50-page rear feeder, 50-page DADF
Recommended monthly duty cycle3,300 pages
Dimensions425 x 500 x 350mm
Warranty3yr hardware warranty
Dave Mitchell

Dave is an IT consultant and freelance journalist specialising in hands-on reviews of computer networking products covering all market sectors from small businesses to enterprises. Founder of Binary Testing Ltd – the UK’s premier independent network testing laboratory - Dave has over 45 years of experience in the IT industry.

Dave has produced many thousands of in-depth business networking product reviews from his lab which have been reproduced globally. Writing for ITPro and its sister title, PC Pro, he covers all areas of business IT infrastructure, including servers, storage, network security, data protection, cloud, infrastructure and services.