For this post, I hand over to my husband Shilts who has provided a very thorough review of the Epson Workforce printer. When it comes to all things tech, Shilts is the man in the know!
As the resident Computer Scientist in the house, and as all other techno-nerds will testify, there is something quite wonderful about getting hold of a new piece of technology, admiring the packaging, and then going through the mostly-straightforward-but-sometimes-frustrating set up process.
As a family who depend on our tech working reasonably seamlessly in order to enable us to go about our daily lives, the job of keeping things ticking along often falls onto my list of household roles. I don’t mind it usually, as my day job involves playing with things that require pressing, clicing, switching and button pushing, however just occasionally, technology has a habit of failing on you at a vital moment; be it that moment when the video buffers at the moment of a penalty kick in the football, that vital moment where you have just pressed ‘publish’ on a blog post, and your connection hangs (I can almost see all of the bloggers amongst you raising those eyebrows), or whether it is that assignment that you just needed printing, and hey presto, your printer decides to have an uncooperative moment. All things that have happened before in this household, and the printer has been often a source of inconvenience.
When Emma asked me if I was interested in giving the Epson Workforce multifunction printer a try for review, I jumped at the opportunity. I think that two of the things that puts people off buying new technology are firstly the unfamiliarity aspect, and secondly the hassle. I mean, who has the time to go through a complicated set up process, we are all busy people, right? So with that in mind, I was intrigued as to how I would find the process, from start to finish.
So what’s in the box?
As with any new tech, equipment is always packed very well, and the Workforce is no exception. Once you have unwrapped all of the items and disposed of the polystyrene (note that this occurred without a certain young helper in the vicinity, top tip), you have the printer, power cable, instructions, installation CD’s and four cartridges, one each of the CMYK variety.
OK, it wouldn’t be a Shilts blog without some aspect of teaching involved. For a gold star, who knows what CMYK stands for, without cheating? Answer at the bottom of the blog…well done if you got it right without Googling it [Symbol] Also, as an extension task, is it one of life’s great mysteries why the letter K exists in the world of colour, or is there a perfectly reasonable explanation for it?
Anyway, I digress. The rest of the setup is reasonably straightforward at this point, and the supplied Start Here guide is helpful. The Workforce is what is known as a multi-functional device, offering the ability to print, scan, photocopy and fax documents. One minor point of note, is that in order to make use of the device as a fax machine, you will require an additional telephone cable, as this is not supplied with the printer. It does state in the user guide that a telephone cable may not be supplied depending on the area of sale, so if this is one of the essential features that you require, a little forward planning will be in order.
A reassuring ping lets you know that the printer has powered up. A few steps on the keypad later for setting the date and time and the printer will start going through a few self-tests, before prompting you to install the cartridges. As per the guidance, it is important to shake them prior to opening the vacuum packaging, to loosen the ink following transit. As tempted as you might be, and as much as it might look like you should, it is only necessary to remove the little yellow tabs on the four catridges prior to installation. The tinkerman in me did indeed have little poke at the plastic covering over the coloured hole at the base of the cartridge, but after deciding that Epson clearly knew best, I decided to leave it be!
Cartridge installation was quick and painless, and a quick press of the blue Start button began the initialisation and ink charging process. I decided that this was an excellent time for a cuppa.
Cup of tea in hand, and upon my return, I can see that the printer has completed its ink charging process. I loaded the drawer up with A4 paper, and then it was time to hook it up to the Wi-Fi. I wasn’t getting overly excited by this point, as our internet connection has been the source of a fair few frustrations just lately. I plumbed our Wi-Fi passcode into the printer, set it to Communication mode (choice of two options, went with the top one!) and hit done. A few moments later, and the printer was on the network, and setup complete! I would say, all in all, including cup of tea, around 20 minutes set up time…very reasonable.
Next it was time to get the printer talking to the computer. The box came with an installation CD, and so in it went. It did however strike me that packaged CD’s may soon be consigned to the same virtual bin as floppy disks and paper manuals, as many laptop computers are increasingly being sold without a dedicated CD drive in them. I expect the majority of installation files to be made available online in the near future. As expected, installation was pretty quick, and did involve connecting to the Epson website to check for updates, a common practice. If you are familiar with buying printers on a fairly regular basis, you will also know that USB cables are not usually contained within the package, and the Workforce is exactly the same. During the course of the software installation, you are asked if you want to connect via Wi-Fi or USB, and it is worth nothing that like the phone cable, a USB cable will need to be ready prior to installation if that is your preferred method of connection.
Installation was complete in around 10 minutes, and the all-important test page printed first time without a hitch. I was very pleased with this, and it was much easier to get the printer working wirelessly than many other similar printers that I have set up in the past. The installer also updated the printer firmware (inbuilt software) at the end of the process too, which was very welcome – updating firmware can be a pain without a proper procedure in place – Epson have thought of everything!
So what about the print quality?
Well, what better opportunity to take myself back in time to June and have a chance to reminisce about our fabulous holiday in Fuerteventura? I decided to print out a couple of full page photographs, albeit onto standard plain paper. Considering that the print was submitted wirelessly, the printer began almost straight away, and in no time at all, I had my full page photograph. There were some white lines down the first couple of photographs that I tried, and we did note a slight degradation in internet connection performance during printing, however for a multipurpose printer, the quality was very good. The photocopier was also impressive, and produced high quality copies in colour of a comic picture that we had.
For me, the thing that most intrigued me was wireless scanning. My job involves quite a lot of scanning of documents, so I was interested to see if this printer would improve my productivity. For some reason, I was unable to scan wirelessly to my own laptop, but it did pick up Emma’s – my guess there is that it looked for the first available one on the network, and alphabetically, Emma’s would have been first in the list!
The quality of the scan was excellent, and I can seriously see the printer improving my work in this respect, as I will be able to scan from my office, rather than walking to the big scanner located in another part of my workplace. There is also the option to send scans to the Cloud, however this requires registration with Epson – a feature I will certainly be looking into in the near future.
I didn’t take the opportunity to test out the facsimile feature, mainly because this is something that I would have no use for. However, I would assume that given the ease of use of the device in all other aspects, this would be equally as straightforward.
My favourite feature of this printer, however, has to be the use of the Epson iPrint app for my mobile phone. After a very quick free installation from the Play Store on Android (and I believe it is also available on the Apple App store), I was able to get important data on the printer such as ink levels, and also able to print photographs directly from my phone in around 3 clicks. I was hugely impressed at the data transfer speed, and again, as is the recurring theme throughout this review, the process was straightforward and easy to complete.
Does it cost quite a bit to run?
The final thing, and often the most important thing, are the associated on costs that come along with any device that involves additional consumables such as ink. I was therefore pleased to note that it was possible to replace all four standard cartridges for £29.99, and individual standard Cyan, Magenta and Yellow cartridges at a cost of £7.49, or £8.99 for the standard Black cartridge. Epson also supply the XL versions of the cartridges, at a price of £54.99 for the full set, £12.99 for the individual XL Cyan, Magenta and Yellow cartridges and £16.49 for the XL Black cartridge.* These prices I found to be very competitive, and I also like the ability to replace cartridges singly – the black cartridge in particular is notorious for running out before any of the others. I am making a slight assumption here, but I would guess that you could mix and match the cartridge types too, for example purchasing an XL Black cartridge with standard CMY cartridges would probably suit many home office users.
Overall, I am hugely impressed with the printer. A big plus point for me is the ease of its installation, and also the seamless connection onto the wireless network. It may not be as suited to photo printing as other printers, but as a multifunctional office based device, it ticks a lot of boxes. The copying and scanning facilities are excellent, and the ability to sync the printer with mobile devices using Epson iPrint makes this printer an extremely versatile and user friendly device. Retailing at £100.00, the Epson Workforce would certainly be a useful addition to any home or workplace office.
Oh, and for those of you who attempted my quick quiz, the answers were hidden in the article…CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black – well done if you knew that!
*prices correct as of August 2016.
Disclosure: We were sent the printer to review in exchange for this post. All words and images are our own.