Economical to run, the four-ink Epson EcoTank L355 could be just the entry-level printer you’re looking for, says Vincent Oliver

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Epson EcoTank L355 at a glance:

  • Price: £249.99
  • Type: Inkjet printer with scanner and continuous ink system
  • Requirements: Mac OS 10.5.8 or later. Windows 8, 7, Vista or XP
  • Dimensions: 47.2 x 30 x 14.5 cm
  • Weight: 4.4kg

While continuous-ink system (CIS) printers have been around for some time, they have tended to be high-end professional printers with  price tags to match. However, the entry-level Epson EcoTank L355 printer is aimed at the home user, and features Wi-Fi, a scanner and a USB 2.0 port. It is basically the same printer as the Epson Expression Home XP-225, but with the addition of the EcoTank system.

With its continuous-flow cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks, and refillable ink tanks, the L355 can print up to 4,500 A4 sheets with the black ink, and 6,500 A4 sheets of colour. In normal use, this equates to approximately two years’ worth of printing. Replacement 70ml Claria dye inks are attractively priced at £7.99 each. The overall running costs for the EcoTank system is 65% lower than a printer that uses ink cartridges. The Claria ink formulation is slightly different, to prevent clogging in the newly designed long-life print heads.

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The EcoTank system consists of this large external ink tank, filled by inexpensive 70ml bottles

Setting up the L355 is fairly straightforward. Each ink bottle has a foil seal, which needs to be removed. The nozzle also has a seal, which can be used to cap off a partially used bottle. Simply tip the entire contents of each 70ml bottle into the correct colour-coded compartment, although I’d suggest placing a newspaper underneath, to catch any spillages.

Once filled, the EcoTank chamber can be hooked back onto the side of the printer. This is rather flimsy and could be knocked off if the printer is moved or handled carelessly, so I would have liked a more secure lock. The ink levels can be clearly seen through the semi-transparent side. Note, though, that ink levels are not shown in the printer properties interface. The individual ink tanks can be topped up at any time, and ink should not be allowed to go lower than the guide mark at the bottom of each chamber.

Once connected to a mains supply, the inks prime the print head – a process that takes approximately 20mins. The ink is fed to the print head by four flexible tubes directly from the ink chamber. The printer has an anti-clogging device, which prevents inks from choking up the tubes and also stops air bubbles reaching the print heads.

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Overall print quality is very good, with strong, saturated colours and especially vibrant reds

The Epson EcoTank L355 uses a USB 2.0 connection and has Wi-Fi for connecting to mobile devices or a wireless connection to a PC. The front panel has basic controls: on/off, Wi-Fi, print network status sheet, b/w scan, colour scan, cancel print, paper jam and low-ink warning lights. Paper is loaded via a rear gravity-feed tray, while a single-section front tray catches the prints. The L355 incorporates an easy-to-use 1,200dpi flatbed scanner, which is more than sufficient for copy work. Documents and photos can be scanned directly to the printer, or sent to a computer as a PDF file.Test prints

Printers fall into two categories: photo capable and photo quality. Any printer that uses four inks is considered to be photo capable, but for true photo quality, it should use six or more inks. The L355’s four inks are more than sufficient for most home use or newsletters, for example.

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Low-contrast detail is rendered well in lighter areas, but blocks up a little in shadow regions

For my test print, I used Epson Premium Glossy Photo paper. The media holder at the back of the printer holds up to 100 sheets of plain A4 plain paper, or 20 sheets of photo paper. From there, it’s straightforward. I simply selected the correct media type from the drop-down list, and let the printer manage everything itself.

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Red, green and blue ramps each show smooth gradations, with no visible banding

Looking at the test print, the overall colour quality is very good. The reds are vibrant and almost jump off the page. The baby portrait is perhaps lacking in delicate skin tones when compared to a six-ink print, but it’s still more than acceptable. The yellow, green and blue swatches display good, solid colours. The three colour gradations from paper white to RGB each display a very smooth ramp, and there isn’t any noticeable banding. This is due to the 3pl droplet size and high resolution of 5760 x 1440dpi. The greyscale gradation and image displays a very slight magenta cast, which is acceptable under normal viewing conditions (daylight), but may be more noticeable under artificial light.

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Monochrome prints show a slight magenta cast in the midtones

Text printing is superb, especially the white characters on a solid black, which is excellent. Print speeds are also respectable, at nine pages per minute in mono, or 4.5 pages in colour. With plain paper, this increases to 33 pages of mono and 15 pages of colour per minute.

Comparing this four-ink print to a six-ink print (Epson XP-750), there is little sacrifice in quality. In fact, the L355 print displays more vibrant colours, but lacks some of the subtlety in soft tones of the six-ink printer.

L355 vs XP-225

The Epson EcoTank L355 is basically the same unit as the Epson Home XP-225 printer, which retails at £69.99 (£49.99 on internet). The L355 retails at £249.99, and features the EcoTank system. This will save you money in the long term and would be the better buy for high-volume use. Hopefully, at some point in the future, Epson will produce a six-ink photo-quality printer using the EcoTank.

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The L355 is less subtle with skin tones than a dedicated photo printer like the Perfection XP-750

Our verdict

The Epson EcoTank L355 is an ideal home printer for the casual user who wants to produce good-quality prints from their compact camera or mobile device. The dedicated photographer may want to look for a higher-quality six-ink printer for photo printing. Nevertheless, the L355 will satisfy the home user who wants to produce prints at an economical price.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Low cost of inks
  • Ease of use
  • Print quality

Cons

  • High cost of printer
  • Ink compartment needs a more secure fitting
  • Basic control panel
  • No card reader or LCD screen

  • gothika

    Thank you for this review. Could you tell me if you have found that the photos that this printer prints out fade after a few months? Or do they last?