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.