A dot-matrix printer. Seriously, that's what came to mind when we saw the fastest or draft-mode output of the Epson WorkForce 610. We gaped, gawked, flashed back to the early days of PC printing: wiggly, jaggedy text or illegible hieroglyphics in the case of small fonts and pale, widely spaced dots forming ghostly graphics. It was absolutely horrible.
A color laser printer. That's what we thought of when we shifted to the Epson's next fastest setting, dubbed Text mode. Barely a few seconds slower a one-page business letter with color company logo in 10 instead of seven seconds; 10 pages of black-and-white text in 43 seconds versus 36 it nonetheless looked spectacularly better than draft mode, with dark, sharp text as small as five points and rich, vividly colorful graphics. It was thoroughly impressive.
The Epson WorkForce 610 all-in-one inkjet printer.
(Click for larger image).
It's priced at $200, though findable for less (Epson's online store offers it for $160 and Staples for $150 at this writing). It even offers three ways to connect: Ethernet, Wi-Fi and USB 2.0. The WorkForce 610 a handsome small- office centerpiece, as long as you steer clear of draft mode.
Print Cost and Quality
If the 610 looks familiar, it's because it's a freshened version of the WorkForce 600, which we gave a thumbs-up back in January. One difference saves paper the WorkForce 610 PC fax support, which lets you fax documents directly from an attached computer.
Another change saves pennies Epson rates the unit's extra-high-capacity black ink cartridge ($28.50) at approximately 900 pages, with high-capacity cyan, magenta and yellow ($17 each) at about 525 pages. That divides out to 3.2 cents per black-and-white and 12.9 cents per color page, definitely competitive with other inkjet all-in-ones and slightly cheaper than the comparable figures for the WorkForce 600.
Like its predecessor, the WorkForce is fast. It's not the fastest printer ever seen on a desk, but in the ballpark with $300 and $400 rather than most $200 inkjets. Besides printing our 10-page Word document in 43 seconds, the Epson's Text mode the basis for the company's claim of laser-quality output at 15 ppm for black and 9.3 ppm for color produced our 55-page PDF document in eight minutes and 10 seconds.
Text quality on plain paper was very good, and solid color areas showed almost no trace of banding, though fine dot patterns were visible in middling hues such as flesh tones. The next-step- up Text & Image mode got rid of the dots, but slowed printing considerably (almost 21 minutes for the 55-page Acrobat file); we recommend it for only the most important client presentations.
Similarly, the driver offers both Photo and Best Photo modes. The latter brought out a bit more detail in less time around 80 seconds for Photo versus 180 seconds for Best Photo for borderless 4 by 6-inch prints but we were well satisfied with the former (well, as satisfied as we ever get with four- rather than six-or-more-color photo printing).
Indeed, though it's part of Epson's WorkForce line rather than the company's photo-centric Artisan line, the 610 offers numerous photo printing features thanks to SD/MMC, xD, MS/Pro, and CompactFlash slots and a PictBridge USB port on its front.
You can select images for printing either by browsing the card's contents and cropping photos on the printer's 2.5-inch LCD or by printing and then marking up a proof sheet that you feed through the scanner. The Epson can also touch up an image's brightness and contrast and fix red-eye automatically, or back up the images on a flash card to a USB flash drive.
Features Increase Productivity
The scanner's 30-sheet automatic document feeder works smoothly, as does the printer's 100-sheet vertical paper feed, though automatic duplex printing is not available. The fax stores up to 60 speed-dial numbers and 180 pages in memory, while the copier offers 25- to 400-percent zoom. Five color copies of a magazine cover arrived in a minute and a half, while the ADF handled three copies of a five-page b/w document not collated, unfortunately in slightly more than two minutes.
The LCD menu makes it a breeze to configure the 2,400-dpi scanner to save a document or photo to your PC or to a memory card; as an e-mail attachment; or as a PDF. A supplied Epson Scan utility offers more fine-tuning of scanner functions, while Presto PageManager software takes care of thumbnail document management and OCR functions.
Duplex printing, collated copies, and maybe a larger paper tray would be nice, but as is, the Epson's Wi-Fi and photo printing functions are icing on an appealing and affordable cake. If you can spare slightly less than $200 and about 18 by 22 inches of desk space not right next to your phone, since printing is a little on the noisy side the WorkForce 610 is a first-rate solution to small office paper-pushing.
Eric Grevstad is the primary writer for HardwareCentral.com. A former editor-in-chief of Home Office Computing and editor of Computer Shopper, Eric's been testing and writing about PC products since the TRS-80 and Apple II era.
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