Buying ink cartridges can be a pain. They’re often expensive, there are hundreds of options available and bad printers go through them like a leaky bucket.
Refillable ink tank printers, such as the Epson EcoTank and Canon MegaTank ranges, pledge an end to buying cartridges, and the start of big savings. But should you buy one?
Ink tank top-ups when you need them
Refillable ink tank printers don’t require traditional cartridges. Instead, they have individual colour tanks (magenta, cyan and yellow) and black tanks that can be re-filled with ink bottles.
Compared to cartridge-based inkjet printers, refillable models are expensive to buy, usually costing more than £200. However, the idea is that you save money in the long run with low print costs.
You’ll get thousands of pages out of the supplied ink. Once the tanks are empty, refill bottles can be bought for between £8 and £13, or between £25 and £35 for refill bottle multipacks.
Epson EcoTank used to be the only refillable ink tank printer range, and we’ve tested a lot of models using the technology – some good, some not so good.
However, Epson now has competition in the form of Canon MegaTank (high fives all round in marketing for that name).
MegaTank, found in Canon’s Pixma G Series, uses similar technology to EcoTank. But with Canon, the tanks are on the front (rather than the side as with EcoTanks) so you can monitor the ink levels at a glance.
Refillable ink vs ink cartridges
Without doubt, print costs from a refillable ink printer can be extremely low – on some EcoTank printers we’ve tested, it costs just 2p for ten pages of printed black text.
Compared to a Best Buy inkjet cartridge printer, you’d typically save around £50 over two years with a refillable ink printer. However, as the printers themselves usually cost more than twice the price of normal inkjet models, it could take a while before you truly start to see the savings.
Another fly in the ointment (or maybe, ink) is print quality. From testing a lot of EcoTank printers, we’ve seen that while some impress, quite a few turn out mediocre-looking prints.
We’ve just tested our first Canon MegaTank printer, so see what we thought by checking out the full review.
Ink technology gets competitive
Ecotank and MegaTank are getting plenty of promotion from Epson and Canon, respectively. But they’re not the only game in town when it comes to alternative printer ink technology.
HP Instant Ink is a service wherein you pay a monthly subscription to cover your printing costs. In effect, you pay HP for a certain page allowance you can print each month. HP will send you cartridges to keep your printer topped up along the way.
Even on regular printers, you can choose between own-brand or better value compatible third-party cartridges. At a push, you could even attempt to refill cartridges yourself.
If you’re unsure which ink solution will be the best value for you, try our handy ink technology choosing tool.