Epson EcoTank ET-18100 review: Cheap, good photos up to A3+, but not the best quality

If your business prints lots of photos and you want to cut the costs, the Epson EcoTank ET-18100 could be just the ticket

The Epson EcoTank ET-18100 on the ITPro background
(Image: © Future)

IT Pro Verdict


  • +

    Good quality photo prints

  • +

    Very low cost of ownership


  • -

    Comparatively expensive to buy

  • -

    Not the best for outright photo quality

If you're a keen photographer, or you run a business that prints plenty of photos and graphics, you probably don't need us to tell you it can be ruinously expensive. Epson's EcoTank ET-18100 is out to change that – high purchase price notwithstanding.

For more printer reviews, check out our Best all-in-one printers 2023 buying guide.

The ET-18100 is a six-ink printer, specifically aimed at photo and other art use on specialist papers up to A3+. It's fitted with Epson's EcoTank refillable ink system, which cuts down on maintenance and plastic waste, while potentially slashing running costs. There's not much else to it – no scanner or display – but if you've already got everyday office prints covered, the ET-18100 could be a great addition.

Epson EcoTank ET-18100 review: Setting up

There's a good chance you'll have experienced a refillable ink-tank printer by now – Epson launched its first EcoTank models almost a decade ago – but if not, it's worth us quickly demystifying them. Instead of small plastic cartridges that last perhaps a couple of hundred pages, EcoTank models use larger fixed tanks, filled from ink bottles, and connected to the print heads by fine capillary tubes.

The ET-18100 arrives with a full set of bottles rated for about 7,200 plain paper prints, but you'll lose some of that in the initial priming – a one-off process that won't affect future ink top-ups. A full set of ink is rated for an impressive 2,100 10x15cm (6x4") photos, although Epson says you'll 'only' get around 1,500 from the in-box supplies. When you run out, replacement ink costs less than £9 (£10 inc VAT) per colour, giving an ongoing cost of roughly 2.4p per postcard-sized photo print.

Epson doesn't quote page yields for bigger photos, but an A4 sheet has four times the area of a 10x15cm print, while an A3+ sheet is about 10.6 times bigger. As a very rough guide, that would equate to 10p per A4 photo, and 25p for A3+.

Epson's had time to refine its EcoTank system, and it's essentially foolproof. To fill up, you simply invert the relevant bottle over its tank, place it on the nozzle, and wait for the contents to glug out. Each tank has a unique key, so you can't ruin a new printer with an expensive mis-fuelling incident. The only thing to remember is not to squeeze, which could cause a leak. You're meant to keep a filled ink tank printer upright, but we accidentally stored ours on its edge for two weeks – fortunately the previous tester had remembered to flip the ink isolator, and it didn't leak.

Inside the Epson EcoTank ET-18100

(Image credit: Future)

This is a surprisingly compact device by the standards of A3+ printers, but it still requires quite a bit of desk space once you open up its large paper input and output trays. Epson no longer provides driver CDs, but it's easy to download PC or mobile software and follow the prompts to connect this printer to your wireless network – there's no Ethernet port. It is, however, worth flagging up that there's also an EcoTank ET-1810. At the time of our review, its drivers came above those for the ET-18100 in Google's search results.

Epson EcoTank ET-18100 review: Printing

The EcoTank ET-18100 isn't really optimised for plain paper printing, but it'll oblige when you need it. It's not especially quick, delivering a first A4 page of text in 20 seconds, and going on to reach just 7.9 pages per minute (ppm) over 25 sheets. Switched to draft mode, it managed a more creditable 13.9ppm.

As you might expect, it compared slightly more positively when it came to colour graphics. It completed our taxing 24-page document at a rate of 5.3ppm – not bad for an inkjet with a creative, rather than office bias. This printer doesn't have a duplexer, so it can't automatically print to both sides of plain paper.

The ET-18100 is likely to spend most of its time printing photos and high-resolution graphics on specialty media, and here it's in its element. It's quite brisk, depositing borderless 10x15cm photos every minute and 20 seconds, and completing a borderless A4 shot in just under three and a half minutes. Even a borderless A3+ portrait shot was done in six and a half minutes.

We didn't encounter any gotchas during our time with the ET-18100, but from previous experience we know that the EcoTank system doesn't have tank level monitors. That means the PC status monitor will pester users to manually look out for low ink, with dire warnings about letting the system run dry. In practice, these warnings usually start a long time before the tanks need filling, but you can top up and reset the ink level warning to silence them.

Epson EcoTank ET-18100 review: Performance

This printer uses dye-based inks, optimized for excellent results on coated papers. The flipside is that they deliver underwhelming prints on plain paper. Text wasn't as black as you'd get from an office-orientated inkjet, let alone a laser, and colour graphics lacked impact on the page. Even solid, bright colour fills looked a little washed out and gutless.

Switch to photo papers and you'll have no such disappointments. The ET-18100 combines a standard black, cyan, magenta and yellow ink setup with additional light cyan and magenta inks. This six-ink system allows it greater control over shading in lighter regions where, rather than using a few darker ink droplets, it can use many lighter ones. In theory this results in smoother shade progressions, better definition, and less chance you'll spot any grain.

It worked well across our test results, in which it was barely possible to make out grain even with the help of an eyeglass. Landscape prints in particular were impressive, with bold cobalt skies and richly textured rocks and vegetation, and an impressive amount of detail preserved even among heavily shaded, distant objects. Group photos were generally good, too, with a nicely balanced exposure preserving the detail of faces, fabrics and backgrounds.

The ET-18100 was less impressive on other prints, particularly close-up portraits, where it tended towards slight overexposure at the cost of some fine detail. Skin tones looked too pale in several images, while the detail was lost from clouds and sun-bleached wood in one shot, taken under bright sunlight. Overall, however, this is a very capable photo printer, if not quite up to the standards we've seen before now from some high-end Epson printers.

The Epson EcoTank ET-18100 from the front

(Image credit: Future)

Epson EcoTank ET-18100 review: Verdict

Like other ink tank printers, the Epson EcoTank ET-18100 comes with a steep asking price when compared to its standard, cartridge-based equivalents. In this case, you might expect to pick up something broadly comparable for around a half to two-thirds of the price, however, you'd then be faced with significantly higher running costs. Provided you'll use the ET-18100 fairly regularly, you're likely to pay less overall.

To make a very rough comparison, Canon's superb, eight-ink PIXMA Pro-200 costs around two thirds as much to buy, but it might cost around seven times as much to keep in ink. You'd need to buy two full sets of cartridges for it to produce the 1,500 postcard-sized photos you get from the Epson's supplied bottles, which would equate to about the same overall cost of ownership. Thereafter, the Epson could save you as much as 20p per postcard, or more than £1 on each borderless A3+ print, although we should stress these are rough calculations, based on stated yields rather than our own testing.

It's hard to quantify the exact potential savings from this printer, but a little easier to rate its photo quality. It's very good, but not as uniformly excellent as we've seen from some other Epson photo printers. With two extra inks, the aforementioned PIXMA Pro-200 has it beaten, too.

We're not convinced that the ET-18100 does quite enough to appeal to pro photographers, or that it's quite up to the task where outright photo quality is everything. However, if you'll often need to print exacting graphics on coated inkjet papers or large, impressive photos, this printer combines solid performance with impressively reduced running costs. It's easy to recommend. 

Epson EcoTank ET-18100 specifications 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
TechnologyPiezo inkjet
Maximum print resolution5,760x1,440dpp
Dimensions (HWD)523x369x150mm
Max paper sizeA3+
WarrantyOne year or 50,000 pages
Simon Handby

After a brief career in corporate IT, Simon Handby combined his love of technology and writing when he made the move to Computer Shopper magazine. As a technology reviewer he's since tested everything from routers and switches, to smart air fryers and doorbells, and covered technology such as EVs, TVs, solar power and the singularity.

During more than 15 years as Shopper's long-time printer reviewer, Simon tried, tested and wrote up literally hundreds of home, small office and workgroup printers. He continues reviewing smart products and printers for a variety of publications, and has been an IT Pro contributor since 2010. Simon is almost never happier than when surrounded by printers and paper, applying his stopwatch and a seasoned eye to find the best performing, best value products for business users.