When we think about types of printers, we think of inkjet printers, which use liquid ink for color printing and laser printers, which use powdered toner, for high volume black and white printing. Yes, there are certainly color laser printers available, and people print plenty of large black and white documents using inkjet, but those tend to be the exceptions.
Recently, the folks at Epson introduced us to a third category. The Epson ET-M3170 is an Eco-Tank All-in-One printer that uses liquid ink, to produce high volume black and white prints at a fraction of the cost of laser jet printers.
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Apple Tech Talk Scorecard
|Low cost per printed page||ADF has limited page size adjustment|
|Excellent print quality|
|Design makes placement easy|
Epson ET-M3170 Printer – Unboxing
In the box is the Epson ET-M3170 All-in-One printer and an accessory box which contains a bottle of Epson 532 black ink, the AC power cord, a CD to install drivers and software (Windows only), and a Start Here installation sheet. There is also a comprehensive User Manual available in both PDF and HTML formats on the Epson Support site. You can see the manual here.
For Mac users, the software needed to set up the printer is available for download from the Epson site. Since we always prefer to download the latest software, the absence of a CD for macOS in the box, was not an issue.
The Epson ET-M3170 is part of the Epson SuperTank line meaning it uses bottles of liquid ink rather than ink cartridges. It is a 4-in-1 unit which includes functions to print, scan, copy and fax.
Epson ET-M3170 Printer – Specifications
The ET-M3170 is one of the larger printers we have reviewed, measuring 14.8” x 13.7” x 13.6” and weighs 16.1 lbs. Since this printer is targeted for high output and will usually be used in a home office or small to medium commercial office, it doesn’t seem too big.
The design has the printer unit on the bottom with the scanner and integrated Automatic Document Feeder (“ADF”) above. There is a space between the two sections which is where the paper outputs from the printer. This design eliminates the need for output trays to extend from the body of the printer which provides nice clean lines and actually saves some space. The design reminds us of the large commercial scanner/printer units we have seen in many large office environments. We had no problem putting the printer on top of a low file cabinet, even with some shelves above it.
The integrated paper cassette holds 250 sheets, up to as maximum paper size of 8.5” x 47.2”, and supports a variety of paper types including standard printer/copy paper, premium presentation paper, matte photo paper and #10 envelopes. The output tray accepts up to 100 sheets of standard letter size paper.
The printer uses Epson’s PrecisionCore technology which produces crisp output and good grayscale. The maximum print resolution is 1200 x 2400 dpi and is rated at 20 ISO pages per minute, single sided and 9 ISO pages per minute double sided. The printer includes a 120 mL bottle of Epson 532 Black ink with an estimated yield of 6,000 pages.
The scanner is a color flatbed scanner with an integrated ADF. It has a hardware resolution of 1200 x 2400, with Color Bit Depth of 48-bit color input and 24-bit color output. The glass scanner bed measures 8.5” x 11.7” but the ADF will accept documents up to Legal (11” x 14”).
The single side scanning ADF will hold 35 sheets of Letter size or 10 sheets of Legal size paper, with a paper weight between 17 and 25 lb.
Using the ADF, the ET-M3170 is rated to copy 14 ipm (images per minute), single sided and 17 ipm using the flatbed scanner. Copy resolution is listed at 600 x 600 input and 1200 x 1200 output, and can copy up to 99 pages standalone. Through the software you can do image reduction and enlargement from 25 – 400%.
The fax can transmit both letter and legal size documents up to 33.6 Kbps at a rate of approximately 3 seconds per page. The 2MB of internal memory can store up to 180 pages and the unit can store up to 100 speed dial numbers.
Epson ET-M3170 Printer – Set-up
Set-up of the ET-M3170 was straight-forward. The Start Here sheet included with the printer does a good job of stepping you through the process of unpacking the printer, loading the ink, charging the system and connecting it to your home network, whether via Ethernet, USB or Wi-Fi.
As we explained in our review of the Epson ET-2760 EcoTank printer (read our review here), loading the liquid ink was effortless and we did not spill a single drop, thanks to the clever design of the Epson bottle and ink loading system.
Like any ink jet style printer, some of the ink is used to “charge” the printer during set-up. We estimate that this process used about 20% of the initial ink bottle. Based on the estimated yield of 6,000 pages from a single bottle, that still leaves 4,800 pages to be printed from the remaining ink supply.
The only spot in the set-up process that gave us pause was Step # 9, which occurs after you load the ink and are starting the set-up process. The instructions say;
“Press the power button to turn on the product, then wait for the power light to stop flashing.”
We understood this to mean that the power button would stop flashing BEFORE we moved on to the next step. We waited about 15-minutes but it never stopped flashing so we decided to take a chance and proceed with the next steps. From what we can tell, the flashing doesn’t actually stop until the set-up is complete. At least, that’s the way it appears since we completed the set-up with no apparent issues.
Epson ET-M3170 Printer – Test Results
While we primarily use our printers and scanners wirelessly, we decided to test the Epson ET-M3170 as both a wireless and wired device, since, if its used in a small to medium office, it may well be connected to the local network via Ethernet.
We printed a variety of test documents and the output quality was consistently good. While the time to complete the first page was slightly slower as a wireless set-up, a 6-page document printed in about 29 seconds, with the first page completed in under 15 seconds.
Scanning results were also similar between wired and wireless connections. Scanning a 6-page document with a high concentration of text and graphics took 47 seconds to scan.
We also found the Epson ScanSmart application to do a great job in managing the final products.
Using our Brother ADS-1500W scanner with Apple’s Image Capture or Preview applications, our scan of a 2-page document resulted in a 1.6 MB file. Using the Epson ET-M3170 scanner with the Epson ScanSmart application for the same document resulted in a document size of just 356 KB, with the Epson scan actually having better definition.
We do have two complaints regarding the scanner. First, we are disappointed that the scanner is only single sided. While software does allow you to print a double sided document, having to flip a document to copy the second side does take extra time.
Second, the paper guide for the scanner only adjusts to A4 or Letter size widths. That makes it difficult to scan smaller documents like invoices and receipts. We would have liked to see the paper guide have a greater adjustment range to accommodate a greater variety of sizes.
The copy function worked as expected with similar speed results.
Finally, as we recently “cut the cord” and eliminated our land line, we were unable to test the fax function.
Epson ET-M3170 Printer vs. Laser – Cost Comparison
As we said in the beginning, for black and white, high volume printing, we always considered laser style printers the preferred choice because of their speed and lower cost of operation, compared to regular ink jet printers. But, if you look at the economics of Epson’s EcoTank monochrome printers, like the ET-M3170, you will see that laser may no longer be the right choice.
For purposes of comparison, we will look at the Brother DCP-L2550DW. It is a 4-in-1 laser printer with many of the same features as the Epson ET-M3170 but uses toner cartridges and drums. While there are other, less expensive models which would reduce the initial purchase price, the cost of consumables (toners, drums, etc.) would be similar.
For purposes of comparison, we are estimating the cost of supplies (not including paper) needed to print 6,000 pages.
Yield Price Each Quantity Needed BrotherDCP-L2550DW EpsonET-M3170 TN-730 Standard-Yield Toner 1,200 Pages $42.99 5 $214.95 — Epson 532 Ink 6,000 Pages $17.99 1 — $17.99 Total Cost $214.95 $17.99
Brother also offers a high-yield toner cartridge and while slightly better, is still much more expensive.
Yield Price Each Quantity Needed BrotherDCP-L2550DW EpsonET-M3170 TN-760 Standard-Yield Toner 3,000 Pages $76.99 2 $153.98 — Epson 532 Ink 6,000 Pages $17.99 1 — $17.99 Total Cost $153.98 $17.99
At 12,000 pages, the Brother, like most other laser printers needs a new drum. If you consider that you would only use high-yield toner cartridges to reduce costs, the cost comparison looks like this.
Yield Price Each Quantity Needed BrotherDCP-L2550DW EpsonET-M3170 TN-760 Standard-Yield Toner 3,000 Pages $76.99 4 $307.96 — DR-730 Drum 12,000 Pages $101.48 1 $101.48 — Epson 532 Ink 6,000 Pages $17.99 2 — $35.98 Total Cost $409.44 $35.98
It’s pretty easy to see that over time, the savings of consumables more than pays for the initial cost of the printer.
There are certainly third-party providers of toner and drums at substantial savings but we can tell you from personal experience, the quality is hit or miss and these third part products don’t always provide the yields expected.
In addition, all manufacturers recommend using their OEM inks toners and drums to ensure the highest quality output. While we would expect to look for less expensive toners and drums, at only $17.99 per bottle, there is little reason to search for third-party ink for the Epson ET-M3170.
The Bottom Line
Whether for home of office use, having a monochrome high output printer can be an important addition to your technology arsenal. Where your only choice used to be laser printers that use high priced consumables, the Epson SuperTank series of monochrome inkjet printers provides an attractive alternative.
The Epson ET-M3170 provides all the functionality you need. It produces excellent black and white prints while the integrated scanner with ADF lets you capture your important printed material electronically.
The Epson ET-3170 comes with a 2-year warranty and is available from Amazon.
If you don’t need an automatic document feeder and fax, or just need a printer, consider the ET-M2170 or the ET-M1150.
We would like to thank the folks at Epson for providing the Epson ET-M3170 printer for our testing and review.
What do you think of the Epson monochrome printers? Would you use them instead of a laser printer? Why not join the conversation and leave a comment below?
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