Epson WorkForce 635

A colour inkjet multifunction printer, Epson‘s WorkForce 635 earns its $200 list price (as of 03/21/11) with its impressive speed, print quality, and features. Even better, its inks are reasonably priced. The WorkForce 635 has the edge in speed and print quality compared with the HP‘s (NYSE: HPQ) OfficeJet 6500A Plus e-All-In-One Printer, though the HP’s high-yield inks are slightly more economical.

The WorkForce 635’s control panel is a bit busy-looking, but straightforward, with separate controls for copying, faxing, and scanning. The menu structure displayed on the 2.5-inch colour LCD is logical and concise. USB, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi connections are available. Paper handling includes a bottom-mounted, 250-sheet input tray and a 30-sheet automatic document feeder that accepts legal-size documents. The flatbed platen is letter/A4-sized. Automatic duplexing (two-sided printing) is available for copying and scanning as well–and it’s peppier than we’ve observed on some other models. Two slots take CF, MS, SD, and xD media; you also get a USB/PictBridge port.

The WorkForce 635 is noisy in operation, but the speed is worth it. This Epson whizzed through your typical plain-text-on-plain-paper job, achieving rates of 10.6 pages per minute (ppm) from a test PC and 9.2 ppm from a Mac, plus 6.6 ppm creating a one-page monochrome copy. A snapshot-sized photo printed at default settings on plain paper emerged at a snappy 4.3 ppm; unfortunately, its rate slowed significantly to 0.9 ppm when printed at better settings on Epson’s own photo paper. All other documents fell somewhere around average (or worse) in speed: 1.6 ppm printing a four-page colour PDF from the Mac, and 0.4 ppm for a full-page photo printed from the Mac. Scan speeds were a little faster than average overall.

More impressive is the WorkForce 635’s overall output quality. On plain paper, photos that looked washed-out at default settings improved markedly at best-quality settings. On Epson’s own glossy photo paper, images looked smooth and natural. Monochrome text, whether printed or copied on plain paper, was deep-black and precise. Colour copies and scans looked accurate, if often a little foggy.

The cost of consumables is a sore point for many inkjets, but the WorkForce 635 is an exception. The printer ships with what it justifiably calls “extra high-capacity” cartridges: a 945-page black, and 755-page cyan, magenta, and yellow cartridges. They are relatively cheap: $28.49 for black (3 cents per page) and $18.04 per colour (2.4 cents per colour, per page); a four-colour page would cost an affordable 10.2 cents. If you print at lower volumes, Epson’s so-called high-capacity cartridges (whose page yields fall within the range of most standard-size supplies) are available: a 385-page black costs $18.04 (4.7 cents per page), while each 470-page colour costs $15.19 (3.2 cents per colour, per page), making a four-colour page just 14.4 cents. Even in a light-use scenario, you’re getting a good deal, and for heavy-use scenarios, this is a very affordable inkjet.

The Epson WorkForce 635 has a lot to offer a small office, with its good speed and print quality, and especially its affordable inks. Kodak’s ESP 9250 has competitive photo quality and even cheaper inks, but it falls short in other respects.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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