When Epson’s PR asked if I want to review a printer, my natural instinct was to refuse. I mean, printers, geez, who cares right? But I indulged the PR person and took a look at the actual printer in question – the Epson ET-M1120/ET-M1100 – and saw that it’s an inkjet that only prints in monochrome, doesn’t have any extras like copying or scanning and claims to be cheaper to run than a laser. A few days later an EcoTank ET-M1120 arrived and here we are now, reviewing a printer.
There’s two variants of this printer – the ET-M1120 and ET-M1100. They’re very similar, but the ET-M1120 has wi-fi (including AirPrint support and other cloud printing stuff) and the ET-M1100 only has USB, no wi-fi. The ET-M1120 (the wi-fi variant) is also only sold at Officeworks and costs $349 and the ET-M1100 (USB only, no networking) is $239 at Harvey Norman.
Unboxing and install is pretty uneventful. Epson’s setup procedure is so noob-proof, if you can’t get this printer working you shouldn’t be allowed to use a knife with your meals. The Epson software even managed to pass the wi-fi network’s password on to the printer without me typing in the details. I assume it grabbed it from the Windows 10 computer I was setting it up on. There’s no ethernet port on this printer which bothered me as I have my joint wired up, but for 99% of people, is no big deal.
Once the ET-M1120 is unboxed and hooked up to your network, you need to get some ink into it. This is the unique selling point – instead of $19 printers and $100 ink cartridges, Epson sells ink for the ET-M1120 for only $25 down at Officeworks. Epson claim this bottle will be good for around 5,000 pages. 5,000 pages, divided by $25 is only 0.4998c a page – half a cent!
To put that into perspective, the high capacity toner (TN-2350) for a Brother HL-L2305W (the cheapest laser printer with wi-fi at Officeworks – $98) sells for $129 and covers “only” 2,600 pages – a whopping 4.9c/page. But who buys the genuine toner from Officeworks? You can grab a TN-2350 knockoff from eBay for $14 delivered. Assuming you get 2,600 pages out of the copycat TN-2350, the price is a more competitive 0.539c/page.
Unlike an inkjet, a laser printer has a drum with a finite life span that needs to be replaced, as well as the ink/toner. On the HL-L2305W, the DR-2325 drum is rated for 12,000 pages. I’ve always pushed the drum way beyond the rating, so I would expect at least 15,000 pages out of the 12,000 page drum. You can grab a knockoff drum for $21 on eBay. Which works out to 0.14c/page.
Combine the cost of toner (0.539c/page) with the drum (0.14c/page) and the total cost per page of the $98 Brother HL-L2305W is 0.679c. The Epson ET-M1100 is just 0.4998c/page, an entire 0.1792c cheaper. So yep, the Epson ET-M1120 is cheaper to run, cool. But it costs more to buy – the ET-M1120 is $349 at Harvey Norman, a Brother HL-L2305W is only $98 at Officeworks. You’d need to print tens of thousands of pages on the ET-M1120 until you recoup that price difference.
The Epson ET-M1120 hasn’t even got the advantage of superior print quality. Here’s a close up of the Epson ET-M1100 on the default print settings:
Here’s a closeup of my HP LaserJet M476dw (which is a more expensive multi-function unit, but has a very basic print engine, no better than any low end laser) also set to its default text printing preset:
And here’s both side-by-side (click the image for a full-size version):
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the ET-M1100’s output and for what I think most people would be using this for (uni students printing out notes to read offline, or office workers printing out emails or reports, also to read offline), the quality is fine. You could even crank up the Epson ET-M1100’s quality, but then you’re using more ink. Fact is, for text sharpness, a crap laser will beast a good inkjet any time.
There’s also two disappointing non-print quality related issues with the Epson ET-M1120. No duplexer and a low capacity paper-tray. For a $349 printer aimed at cheapskates who print a lot, you’d think an automatic duplexer and a paper tray that can hold at least half a ream of paper would be standard.
If you’re a high volume printer, I’d still recommend with a cheap laser printer over the Epson ET-M1120. Sure, the Epson ET-M1120 & ET-M1100 are cheaper per page, but with any old laser, you’re gonna get superior print quality. Even though consumables for a laser like the drum and toner cost more per page, if you stick to knock-off parts off eBay (I’ve used them for years and never had an issue), you’ll only pay a fraction of a cent more per page but have a much more legible printing result.