The Epson WorkForce Pro WF-M5194 Printer Review

By Ted Needleman | Posted October 24, 2016

If you do a lot of printing each month it may make economic and logistical sense to have a second print device on your network—a monochrome-only printer like Epson’s WorkForce Pro WF-M5194 $210 (street). Here's why.

Figures vary depending on who you ask, but many experts in the printer field point out that the bulk of small business printer output is still monochrome—despite the fact that a huge majority of small business printers are color-capable.

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Chances are that you already have a color printer or color multifunction printer somewhere in your office. When you use that printer—even if 100 percent of everything you print is monochrome—you’re still using (and paying for) color ink due to evaporation, print head priming, and ongoing print head maintenance.

It might not be a lot of color ink, but it does raise the cost-per-page a bit. Also, a color printer is a more complex device with a significantly greater chance of breaking down compared to a single-cartridge, single print-head monochrome printer.

Exploring the Epson WorkForce Pro WF-M5194

Beige, plain-looking, and relatively compact, the print-only WF-M5194 measures 18.1- x 16.6- x 11.2-inches and weighs 25 pounds. It probably won’t fit on your desk, but it won’t take up much space in your office, either.

The small, tilted control panel runs along the front of the printer. It includes a 2.2-inch monochrome non-touch display panel flanked on both sides by small buttons. On the left side: the Power button, a small button to set the paper size and type, and two small lights—one indicates a printer error, and the other flickers when printer receives data.

On the right side of the LCD display you'll find a Back button, four directional-arrow buttons surrounding a central “OK” button, and a Stop button. You select all settings using the arrow and “OK” buttons, which is somewhat awkward when entering an alphanumeric password, but it's not a deal breaker.

The paper output tray sits just below the control panel; the tray extends several inches forward when in use (you have to pull it out). Epson does not provide the output tray’s capacity, but we printed about 100 pages, which pretty much filled it.

The main paper input tray sits beneath the output tray, and it holds up to 250 sheets of legal, letter size, or small paper. You can purchase a second input tray and add another 250 sheets to the printer's overall capacity. Finally, the WF-M5194 includes an 80-sheet capacity, rear-mounted input tray to handle specialty paper, such as heavy stock.

Epson WorkForce Pro WF-M5194 Printer Review

Connecting the Epson WorkForce Pro WF-M5194

Setting up the WF-M5194 is easy. Just take it out of the box, and remove all the shipping tape. The printer has only one very large ink cartridge and when you power the printer on, the print head carriage moves into position so you can insert the ink cartridge.

We set up the printer using WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup), which just requires that you specify “Push Button Setup” on the printer’s menu, and then press the WPS button on the router. You can also use Wired Ethernet, USB, or Wi-Fi Direct to connect the printer to a PC, Mac, or network. You download the driver software from Epson’s support site—there’s no setup CD in the box.

After you insert the ink, the printer primes for about 10 minutes; then you download the install software and set up the print drivers. It took us slightly less than 15 minutes from unboxing the printer until we printed the test page.

Pricing the Epson WorkForce Pro WF-M5194

The WF-M5194 uses Epson’s 792XL black ink cartridge. Compared to your average inkjet tank, the 792XL cartridge is a handful. It has to be, because its estimated page yield is 10,000 pages. Of course, you may or may not get that many pages, depending on how much you print on each page.

Epson and other major printer/MFP manufacturers use a test protocol developed by the ISO (International Standards Organization) to compare one model against another and to mimic what the average business actually prints. So if your prints differ significantly from the ones they designed for testing, you might get more—or fewer—prints per cartridge. As they say in the auto industry, “Your mileage may vary.”

Assuming that your results do approximate the 10,000 page yield, replacing the cartridge will cost you about $165. That seems like a lot compared to the typical $35-$40 inkjet cartridge. However, it works out to a bit more than a penny and a half per page—far less per page than most printers offer. It’s also five to ten times more pages than most laser printer cartridges provide.

Securing the Epson WorkForce Pro WF-M5194

Epson offers a feature (rare in a printer in this price range) it calls Confidential printing—a.k.a. hold-and-release. With Confidential printing, you can specify that the printer hold a print job in its memory until such time as an authorized person enters a password. You select this capability in the print driver by checking off a selection labeled “Confidential.” It brings up a second screen where you can specify the user and a password for releasing the print job.

Hold-and-release is most often found on expensive office copiers, but it’s a great feature when you have documents that you want shielded from general viewing. Hewlett Packard offers a similar feature on some of its Officejet Pro devices, which HP calls Private Print.

Accessing Print Quality and Speed

The WF-M5194 uses Epson’s PrecisonCore print head, which contains a higher number of nozzles than print heads in most inkjet printers. It results in very clean looking text; certainly the equal of most laser printers we’ve tested. While we used color test images, they also have black and grayscale sections that help determine resolution capabilities and performance in shadowed areas.

In those tests, the WF-M5194 produced output with very fine and sharp details, and with good monochrome photographic images; printing monochrome bulletins and flyers is well within its capabilities.

The printer is also speedy. Epson claims a 20 page-per-minute speed using the full ISO print protocol. We test using the ISO documents, but with a constrained version of the protocol, so our results tend to be a bit better. In the tests with the Word document, the WF-M5194 churned out almost exactly 25 pages-per-minute. Testing with a more complex Excel document produced a 19 pages-per-minute result.

Are Two Printers Better Than One?

Not every business will benefit by adding a monochrome printer to its current mix of printing and scanning devices. It depends on how much of your printing is monochrome, and how many pages you print in a month on average. Epson rates the printer's duty cycle at 45,000 pages per month, but states a more realistic total of 2,500 pages a month. That’s five reams or a half case of paper.

If you print at or near that level, or if you just want the convenience of a printer that can print around 10,000 pages before you have to replace the ink cartridge, then consider the Epson WF-M5194.

[Read about: The 5 Best Mini PCs for Business]

Ted Needleman published his first review in 1978. Since then, he has written several thousand hardware and software reviews, columns, articles on using technology, and two books. He has no intention of stopping any time soon.

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