Some tests with the ET-8550

Ink stained Fingers

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I got a good bargain for an ET-8550 - 100€ below the lowest price on Amazon - by the Epson store offering B-ware - printer new - unused but with some damage to the outer box, and with extended Epson warranty for 3 years or 50 k sheets. I 'm currently running an L1800 as well , a classic 6 color Epson printer with light inks which the ET-8550 does not use anymore. The L1800 will go to my son in a short while after some tests.

Various very good and detailed tests have already been published on the internet - by @Keith Cooper or druckerchannel,de or luminous-landscape. Some other tests - e.g. by some computer magazines - are less detailed even to the degree that you get the impression the editor is just rephrasing statements out of the Epson product brochure.

I'll run some comparative tests with the ET-8550 and the L1800, the ET-8550 offers a wider range of paper selections in the driver , and a step more in the quality settings for some papers - it looks like a secret return of the old 'RPM' option, and the ET-8550 offers an advanced B/W mode via the driver which the L1800 does not.
 

Ink stained Fingers

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The L1800 is a basically an Ecotank upgraded version of the Epson Stylus Photo 1400 which came to market in 2007, it uses a 6 color printhead with 6 x 180 nozzles and 1.5pl smallest droplet size and the Epson variable droplet size feature. The ET-8550 specifies the same technical data for its printhead but I cannot confirm that it is technically the same printhead after almost 15 years. The ET-8550 offers more connectivity options - network - wireless, I'm just running it via USB connected to a Silex printserver to print via local LAN.

The L1800 just has one paper path - from the rear input bin to the front output bin, the ET-8550 offers several paper paths - a bottom tray with adjustable rails up to A4/8.5x11 inch and a 2nd tray on top of it for 4x6 inch papers. The capacity is pretty limited - about half what the input bin of the L1800 can take. The ET-8550 offers an additional top rear bin for all formats up to A3+ feeding as well to the front output bin. This paper bin is motor driven and moves out when you start printing but does not retract motor driven at all which makes paper loading to the bottom bin slightly inconvenient. I'm not a fan of bottom bins at all and use mainly the rear bin.
I tested the rear paper bin with several papers e.g. lightweight glossy papers - 120 - 180 gr but I don't see any traces or imprints of the pickup roller even when I feed the same sheet several times for smaller profiling patch sheets.

The ET-8550 offers an additional flat/horizontal paper path for thicker paper - you can set the platen gap to 0.61 - 0.8 mm or to 0.81 - 1.3 mm in the driver, this path feeds single sheets only - I can't use this mode - I placed the printer directly against a wall and I don't use such papers/cartons but the option is there.

Both printers support banner print - the L1800 up to 1117 mm and the ET-8550 up to 2000 mm, such paper has to go via the rear bin. @Keith Cooper did some impressive banner prints here in this video


The ET-8550 supports duplex printing and provides some options like a reduction of the print density or increasing the drying time , I didn't try all paper format options , but smaller formats than A4 - like A5 or A6 - cannot be duplexed, the driver does not support it and the duplex option is grayed out, so the duplex option is pretty much limited to office sized papers.
 
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Ink stained Fingers

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I ran some profiles on the ET-8550 and the L1800 to compare them , I'm using a 190gr PE/RC paper - no brand - and I'm using the paper selection 'Ultra Glossy' and the quality settings normal/standard and high/stark, the ET-8550 offers another quality level 'best', and there is one profile with the matte paper selection. The ET-8550 offers an additional option to modify the ink density from +20% to -50%, - somewhere hidden in the extended settings. The graphs below are an overlay of seven of these profiles showing the gamut volumes, they are almost identical and the actual profiles as well at different lightness levels. They vary by not much more than reading variations by the spectro.

ET8550-L1800-1.jpg


The right plot shows the cross-section at the mid-luminance of L*=50, this following graph shows the cross-section at a lower luminance of L*=25, they are still pretty much similar

ET8550-L1800-2.jpg


And this plot shows the profiles at a lighter luminance of L*=80, still pretty much similar.

ET8550-L1800-3.jpg


The L1800 runs with light inks - LM and LC - the ET-8550 does not, but the above profile displays show that this does not make a difference at all - there is no gain at all in the lower quadrants - in direction of magenta or cyan. The ET-8550 and L1800 very much deliver the same color output - gamuts as shown here.

The ET-8550 runs with the Epson 114 inks as they came with the printer, I'm running the L1800 with the Epson 106 inks of the ET-7750, the fading tests earlier this year show that these inksets are not identical - the are slight variations on different papers but both inks overall perform very well in both aspects - fading and gamut.

There is a 114 PB photo black dye ink and a 106 PB photo black dye ink used in these tests, both inks deliver
a black level luminance of L*= 3.7 - 4.2 varying with the driver settings, these black inks are as well identical.

I'm not complaining but this shows that there is basically no improvement over the last 15 years in respect to the overall color output/gamut and fading performance. Printers got some other features like a duplexer and wireless connectivity options and a display at the printer but that's about it. Stay tuned - I'll play some more with the printers.
 
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stratman

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How is the build quality compared to the L1800?
 

Ink stained Fingers

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How is the build quality compared to the L1800?
Well, it's printers of different design periods - the ET-8550 has rounder corners and edges, the plastic, the thickness is about the same, the ET-8550 is deeper - it carries the flatbed scanner on top and the duplexer inside in the rear, the scanner with its mechanics and the glass plate makes it a rather sturdy top. The L1800 is wider, the ink bottles are attached to the right outer side of the body as a kind of retrofit, it's the first generation, the bottles are not keyed yet, you could overload a tank and spill some ink and fill ink into the wrong ink tank. I don't see otherwise any real critical points or weaknesses, the warranty for the ET-8550 covers the first 50 000 pages within 3 years. Epson printers can go much longer.

I mentioned two nuisance points -

- the rear paper bin should take more sheets - which would need 5 mm more depth of the body
- and the motorized output bin should retract as well motor driven which probably would need a sensor
for prints not removed.
And
- the predecessor model ET-7750 came with 2 sets of ink bottles , the ET-8550 only with one set
 
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stratman

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Sounds like Epson did less corner cutting than Canon has with less metal and parts more flimsy.
 

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Marketing people have a signifcant influence onto the product spec - there are lots of non-technical parameters they consider - placement within the overall product range and its development into the future - pricing - segregation against other models in the product families and the competition - product cosmetics - corners here and there and a lot more. and even enviromental parameters can become more relevant - just look to the weight of the printer - it makes a difference for the container freight whether it's 15 kg or 25 kg per unit and whether you get 500 or 550 units into a container - this in light of a steep container freight increase by 3 - 5 - 10x vs. the pre-corona days just as one example for design parameters a user would not really comprehend. I'm overall less sensitive to some of the complaints by some reviewers so I'm focussing more onto the quality of the print output overall - and not all aspects really - I'll comment on some details in context with the black inks but I'm not much into actual B/W or monochrome printing, @Keith Cooper is going into much more detail about this in his review and video.
 
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Ink stained Fingers

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The above plots show that the acheivable gamuts with the ET-8550 and the L1800 are very similar, if you use other papers you may find variations slightly wider as above but both printers overall deliver very similar performance in this respect. But this means as well that there has not been any progress and improvement over the last 15 years with Epson printers of this configuration. I don't have other printers available to compare against on a wider scale but I have done this - I profiled a sheet of a Canon Pro Platinum PT101 on the ET-8550 , and precisioncolors makes a profile available on this same paper for the PC72E ink set for the Pro-200. @mikling is thriving for the best possible color match with his inks and the OEM inks, so this profile would resemble very much the gamut of the Canon OEM Chromalife 100+ as well. This plot shows how these gamuts compare at a L*=50 - the middle luminance

ET8550-Pro200.jpg


The red line shows the ET-8550 gamut, the green line the Pro-200 gamut, they are not identical but cover overall a similar surface, and going upwards to lighter lightness levels you see the same - the gamuts are pretty similar - there is no real gain from the light colors of the Pro-200, this plot at L*=80.

ET8550-Pro200-3.jpg


I know that people say looking to the gamut does not really tell you the total story about print quality - yes - but if you don't even have enough colors available to print with you have a problem or are pretty much limited, this is visible at the lower, the darker end of the gamuts of these printers, once you go to lower lightness levels - here at L*=20 you see a significant difference - the Pro-200 gamut is much wider than the ET-8550 gamut, such a gamut gain already starts at L*=45 and stretches down to the black point.

ET8550-Pro200-1.jpg


That's a significantly wider gamut - there are more colors available, prints deliver more details in the darker range and darker sections look less muddy overall. This wider gamut stretches further down to L*=10

ET8550-Pro200-2.jpg


Both gamuts end up at about the same black level at L*=3.

I'm not sure to understand which paramaters cause this delta in the gamuts of these two printers, I would not expect that the lighter photo inks play a role at the darker end, and neutral gray inks would not add to the width of the gamut, the base magenta and cyan inks remain - and probably some driver/optimisation tricks in the driver of the Pro-200. I don't have Chromalife 100+ inks available for a test (and could not afford them...) but I still have some Chromalife 100 - Canon 53 inks as used in the G620/650 Megatank printer - available from the fading tests earlier this year. I'll swap them into the ET-8550 and will run a test and wait for a surprise .......
 
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