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Epson Steps Up Inkjet Speed, Quality In WorkForce Lineup

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 9 comments

Epson introduced a series of new color inkjet printers based on the company's PrecisionCore technology, a print chip announced last year for high-end, industrial duty printers (think high-end label press and garment printing), and now being commercialized in North America for everything from Epson's entry-level home printers to business printers and more. Epson's new printers include several additions to its WorkForce line, starting with the $169.99 WorkForce 3620 and going up to the $399.99 business-oriented WorkForce Pro WF-5690.



Epson is making the PrecisionCore chips in its own MEMS fabs in Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia. Instead of using the thermal ink process that its competitors use, Epson's is driven by an electric charge to a thin piezo crystal actuator. The ink is pushed out with mechanical motion through a much smaller nozzle, a company spokesman explained. This process is not only more accurate, it also uses less ink. The chip is also fast; each one can fire as many as 40 million drops of ink per second, and it can deliver variable drop sizes.

Epson claims that PrecisionCore gives its inkjet printers several advantages over competitive offerings, not just among inkjet printers but also compared with color laser printers. In addition to the company's quality claims (an Epson spokesperson boasted that the gap has now been closed vs. color laser on plain paper), it also promises better speed (at roughly 20 pages per minute, with faster warm-up time and instantly dry ink), and better cost (the company claims 30 percent lower cost for comparable color laser performance).

Epson also claims that its printers consume less power and produce fewer hazardous air particles. 

Epson showcased its lineup of PrecisionCore printers behind closed doors near its North American headquarters outside of Los Angeles, CA. The staged "print-off" featured side by side comparisons to a variety of HP printers, obviously in a very controlled setting. For instance, Epson compared the speed and output of its WorkForce Pro WF-4630 (expected to be sold retail for $299) to HP's OfficeJet 8620 (about $280 on Amazon) and HP's LaserJet Pro 300 ($554). Leaving real comparisons aside for unstaged testing opportunities, the Epson output was, in fact, pretty stunning, both in quality and speed. The instant dry feature was also a welcome development.

Epson's print cartridges will also be bigger, so if the company's claims about quality and efficiency hold true, users will have to replace them with less frequency and, Epson claims, at a lower cost than inkjet cartridges from its competitors. The cartridges have an 18 percent higher yield than previous Epson cartridges, a company spokesperson said.

The cartridges are $29.99 per color (but $34.99 for black) for the Workforce WF-3640 and WF-3620, with an estimated page yield of 1,100 for each color. The WF-4630 and WF-4640 cartridges run $43.99 for each color, with a 2,000 estimated page yield (black is $41.99 and yields 2600 pages). Cartridges for the comparable HP OfficeJet 8620, at least as they appear on HP's site, run about $27.99 for each color, with page yields of 1500. Those comparisons don't seem all that favorable, cost wise, toward the Epson.

A few quick details. Each printer in the WorkForce lineup is differentiated by a few factors, including the number of chips, and therefore the speed. Each also has a different paper capacity as well as a different-sized color touchscreen. Some have rear trays for specialized print needs. 

The least expensive WorkForce WF-3620, for example, has a 250-sheet capacity, a two-sided automatic document feeder and a 2.7-inch color touchscreen, but the WF-3640 has a 500-sheet capacity and a 3.5-inch color touchscreen. Moving one step up to the WF-4630, you get twice the color printing speed (20 ppm on color and black and white) and 330-sheet capacity. The WF-4640 offers a 580-sheet capacity and a 4.3-inch color touchscreen. The WF 5690 increases color print speed even more, has a higher duty cycle, and includes some IT features, such as a few security options. 

All of the products support wireless printing from mobile devices. The 5690 supports Apple's AirPrint and Google's Cloud Print features.

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  • 1 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , June 3, 2014 5:46 PM
    what people want from printers: something that wont break in 12 months and has cheap ink. I doubt this printer covers either, same for all inkjet printers just the printers self maintenance alone to prevent the head from clogging will use more ink than is available to print if you only use the thing once a week. Goes for all inkjets. Ink yeild is misleading. At least laser printers dont waste toner in cleaning cycles etc. If you only use your printer occasionally, get a laser/led toner based printer.
  • 0 Hide
    pjmelect , June 3, 2014 7:13 PM
    Nobody with any sense buys genuine Epson ink cartridges, the reason people buy a Epson printer is that you can get cheap compatible cartridges for it.
  • 0 Hide
    jasonelmore , June 3, 2014 8:38 PM
    yeah i have a old Epson Workforce 310 and it runs like a champ. I buy 10 Cartridges on Ebay for $11 shipped. That last me all year. Comes with 2 of each color, and 4 black. It's the cheapest costing printer i've ever had. the only thing it lacks is airprint, but i'm gonna buy the 3rd party dongle for that.
  • 0 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , June 3, 2014 8:58 PM
    ive never had any luck with aftermarket ink cartridges, heads get blocked too quickly and the colours are way off. Might not be so bad if you use it all the time not giving the cheap nasty ink a chance to dry out.
  • 1 Hide
    soccerplayer88 , June 4, 2014 6:08 AM
    The problem with Epson isn't with quality or speed. Hell the C88 Stylus is a workhorse for such a small printer.

    The problem with Epson is that they use their own stupid proprietary drivers which require workarounds or just flat out using Universal print drivers from a different product when working with vendor specific software.
  • 0 Hide
    daddywalter , June 4, 2014 12:40 PM
    Inkjet printers can now compete with lasers on speed and cost-per-page; but when will we see inkjets whose printouts don't run or smear when they get wet? Honestly, I don't really want to have one printer for (run-prone) color prints and another for (run-resistant) black-and-white prints. Color lasers are nice, and some even do a passable job on color photographs, but they're expensive to feed.
  • 0 Hide
    dmitche3 , July 22, 2014 5:56 PM
    I bought the 3640 today and I regret it already.
    DO NOT BUY THIS IF you do not use DHCP services. Epson doesn't have any method to set the IP address for the printer than other through DHCP. No manual setup in the printer and not through software. I confirmed this with Haji somewhere in EpsonLand.

    2nd. This printer WILL NOT print 2-sided if using a WIFI connection. It will print every other page, then a message pops up saying what I just said and it tells you to take your paper out of the output bin, turn it around, and place it in the input tray.

    WHO THE HELL DOES EPSON THING THEY ARE???? ANY printer can print '2-sided' that way!!! I have tried 5 times and it won't print 2 sided.

    The WIFI sucks. My router is 12 feet directly below the printer and the printer reports the signal as "poor". WTF? My computer sitting right next to where it is shows 90% signal strength.

    Anf the final lovely chubbly that I have encountered in the first 3 hours of hell with this printer is making a B&W or even color copy. Regardless of what I try I cannot get a copy without the damn thing putting a border around it. Every time I turn off the option to add a border it complains that I have an improper setting for my paper selection. ?!?!? What the hell? I have the same paper selection (Letter) and it prints a border, but it won't print if I tell it borderless?? That makes no sense, and if anything one would think that you might restrict printing near the sides of the paper more restrictive than not printing as the mechanism may snag on the paper.

    This printer is NOT a winner. I'm happy to have wasted their time but not mine and their money on the return!
  • 0 Hide
    dmitche3 , July 22, 2014 6:04 PM
    I made an error in my rant regarding this printer and the copying with borders. I was so upset with all of the problems that I didn't notice that a 'border' is defined by Epson to not print anything in that area. That makes some sense to some small minded people.

    But even worse in the long haul is that having a 'border' causes the printer to print what they attempt to make look like a greyish background over the entire sheet of paper, and since the 'borders' don't have ink wasted on them they are the color of your paper. This gives the IMPRESSION of a border.

    Now in fact, EPSON is WASTING YOUR INK to print this cutesy little feature, which is, of course the default.
  • 0 Hide
    alexb75 , July 30, 2014 10:31 AM
    I just bought a 3620 last night and I used it right away, and it's absolutely fantastic. I have no idea what "dmitche3" is talking about, the setup was super easy, Wifi from 3 rooms over was detected perfectly, Wifi printing both from AirPrint via iPhone and from PC worked like a charm, double-sided print worked perfectly, and text quality is fantastic for an inkjet (still not laser quality), and print speed is the fasted I've tried.

    Setup was literally done in minutes, and after I downloaded the driver/tool package from Epson it not only installed everything, it automatically updated the firmware and pushed it into the Printer, super easy (can't say the same about Canon)! The touchscreen and usability was also very useful and easy to use.

    I also printed some photos on Epson Premium paper and they turned out great. I'd say not lab quality but quite close. They say Ultra Premium Paper will yield better results, so might try that later.

    I cannot comment on Ink cost yet, but just like any inkjet must go for XL size of ink to get any decent cost.

    Overall, I think it's a great little printer (3620), and I highly recommend it for an under $200 printer, and if you get it on sale below $150 (like I did), it's a bargain.
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