The biggest single gripe from people who regularly print documents or photos is the cost of ink. Costs can be kept down by printing in draft or toner-saver modes, but these result in low-quality prints and, depending on printer maker, you can't even easily determine how much ink or toner you're saving. See all printer reviews. (Also see: How to use technology to save your business money.)
EcoPrint2 Pro reduces consumable use by printing fewer dots, but does it using proprietary algorithms which are claimed to give better reproduction than typical manufacturer economy modes. You can also specify the amount of saving to be given to each print, from 0 percent up to 75 percent. See also: Group test: what's the best printer?
The program sits between Windows and the printer driver, which may be inkjet or laser and of any make. To print, you choose the EcoPrint driver, rather than the one for your printer and this opens the EcoPrint2 Pro control screen.
EcoPrint2 Pro – it's also available in a non-pro standard version for $40 – offers the facility to print more than one page per paper sheet, something often offered in many manufacturers' printer drivers, but again there are extras here. You can select which pages to print from a multipage document and you can create a print job with pages from different sources.
If you want to print, for example, a report from Word, with a table from Excel and a photograph, open each of them in their appropriate application and print to EcoPrint2 Pro. Each of the selected pages appears together in the EcoPrint2 Pro print manager. Select Print and the combined document is then sent to the printer.
Using EcoPrint2 Pro
The print manager screen is straightforward to use and most options are available on single-click buttons. There are handy stats screens which show how much you can save at various saver settings, and how much you have saved in the current month.
The software offers a slider from 0 to 75 percent for ink saving; some fine detail, especially in blacks and greys, can be lost at the higher settings, so you'll need to experiment.
Our test samples were printed on an HP Envy 120 colour inkjet and a Pantum 2000 mono laser. The regular print mode on the HP is very good, with dense blacks and good, bright colours. HP's draft mode is also good, showing lighter, less exciting colours and some greying out of reversed text.
With EcoPrit2 Pro set at 25 percent saving, blacks are denser than in HP draft, though colours are a little fainter. At 50 percent saving, everything is fainter, but still very readable and fine for everyday use.
On the Pantum laser, which has no draft mode, 25 percent saving was barely noticeable, although greyscales started to fade when we took it up to 50 percent.
Print times on the HP were the same as for standard print, 37 seconds per page – the HP draft mode is just under twice as fast, at 19s – and for the Pantum they were a second faster than its native print, at 11s.
The main thing missing from EcoPrint2 is any facility to customise pages; the most obvious being to remove advertisements from printed web pages. Since web pages can contain more than 50 percent unwanted ads, it makes sense to strip out this huge waste of resources, and of your valuable ink.
For more on saving money on printing, visit Printing Advisor.