Epson Launches New WorkForce Printers to Rival Laser

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted June 05, 2014

Color laser printers can produce stunning results, but at a cost that can strain small business budgets.

Epson has cooked up an alternative—nine alternatives, in fact—that leverage the company's latest inkjet innovations to deliver laser-like print quality at a much lower cost. The feat is made possible by a PrecisionCore, a print chip technology based on the company's piezoelectric "Micro Piezo" tech.

PrecisionCore print chips allow Epson to deliver "performance beyond laser," Nils Madden, marketing director of Epson America, told Small Business Computing during a hands-on demonstration of the company's new WorkForce printers in New York City. It's a bold claim, but it's backed by the company's legacy in commercial printing.

The same print chips, which apply ink to paper as print head sweeps past, are used in everything from Epson's high-end industrial to photo printers, said Madden. Manufactured using highly precise semiconductor fabrication processes, the chips pack 800 nozzles into a space just 1.33 inches wide. "Epson is investing to drive color in the office," he added.

Now, Epson aims to put the technology to work for small and midsized businesses (SMBs). The company just launched nine PrecisionCore WorkForce printers that essentially sport the same technology as the company's premium offerings, minus the premium price.

Laser Printer Quality at Inkjet Printer Costs

On average, it costs 30 percent less to purchase a new Epson WorkForce printer than a comparable laser printer; a figure that doesn't even take into account bonus features like duplex printing, according to the company.

Epson WorkForce 4630 printer

Epson's WorkForce Pro WF-4630 printer.

Factoring in ink and supplies, per-page costs drop 50 percent compared to the typical color laser printer. By the company's estimates, $100 worth of supplies would yield 1,400 printouts with a new WorkForce 4640 printer versus 600 pages for a laser printer and just 200 pages at a print shop.

Epson claims that its printers are greener, too. They consume 70 percent less electricity than most laser printers, a comfort for eco-conscious business owners.

But does the quality stack up?

In a face-off demonstration with laser printers from competing companies with matching print quality settings, the Epson's printers delivered impressive results. Colors were vibrant; text was crisp; and the quick-drying, pigment-based ink provided smudge-free printouts the moment they emerged.

The printers don't subject users to a warm-up period. Madden boasted that they are "ready to go right when you hit print." Indeed, full-color printouts starting piling up before a competing laser printer had finished its first page.

All models feature built-in Wi-Fi Direct. As its name suggests, the feature allows devices to connect without a wireless router or access point acting as the middleman. The multifunction models, which comprise all but two devices in the new lineup, offer color touchscreen controls and support automatic two-sided printing, faxing, copying and scanning.

A WorkForce Printer for Every SMB

The SOHO-friendly (small office, home office) WorkForce 3600 Series, namely the WF-3620 ($169.99) and WF-3640 ($199.99), contain two PrecisionCore chips and print at 20 pages per minute (ppm) in both color and black. The WF-3620 has a 250-sheet paper capacity while the WF-4640 can handle up to 500 sheets.

Aimed at workgroups, the WorkForce Pro WF-4630 and the WF-4640 (which cost $299.99 and $399.99 respectively), feature four PrecisionCore chips, duty cycles of up to 30,000 pages per month, and speeds of up 20 ppm in both color and black. The WF-4630 and WF-4640 can accommodate up to 330 sheets and 580 sheets, respectively.

The WorkForce Pro WF-5690 ($399.99) and its single-function stable mate, the WF-5190 ($279.99), also print at 20 ppm color and black. They feature a 580-sheet paper capacity, a monthly 30,000-page duty cycle, remote setup and support for secure printing protocols for businesses that manage sensitive or confidential paperwork.

Finally, for businesses that employ engineers, architects, and graphic artists that require wide-format printing, there is the WorkForce 7000 Series. The two-chip units print at 18 ppm in black and 10 ppm in color. The WF-7110 (single function, $199.99), WF-7610 ($249.99) and WF-7620 ($299.99) can produce borderless prints of up to 13 inches by 19 inches.

Epson's WorkForce Pro WF-5690 is available now. The WF-5190 hits shelves in mid-June. The rest of the herd (WF-3620, WF-3640, WF-4630, WF-4640, WF-7110, WF-7610 and WF-7620) go on sale in mid-July.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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