The Epson WorkForce 845 multifunction printer promises fast output speeds and advanced networking features all at a modest price aimed at the home office/small office crowd.
The so-called "paperless society" is still a pipe dream judging by the stacks of documents that go into our recycling bin every week. That spells good news for printer makers, since printing is their bread and butter, and for consumers, because high-quality, multifunction color inkjet and laser printers continue to come down in price while adding features.
The Epson WorkForce 845 ($199 MSRP, $150 street) is a compact AIO (all-in-one) inkjet with two-sided printing, scanning, and faxing. It promises fast output speeds and advanced networking features all at a modest price pitched at the home office/small office (SOHO) market.
Setting Up Epson's Color Inkjet Multifunction Printer
At about 17 inches wide, a foot high, and about 22 pounds, the WorkForce 845 is compact but sturdy. It is basically a rectangular black box with a contemporary sleek look. A large touch-screen panel dominates the control panel, although only a portion of the touch screen actually displays content, while touch-sensitive buttons occupy the remaining real estate.
The Epson 845 color inkjet multifunction printer includes dual paper trays with a 250 sheet capacity each, meaning you can divide a typical 500 sheet ream between both. Note though there is no manual feed for a one-off print job.
The Epson WorkForce 845 is a very affordable multifunction printer with fast output and strong photo printing.
The front panel also includes slots for the full range of memory cards including CompactFlash, MemoryStick, SD, SDHC, and many more. A single USB slot accepts thumb drives or (externally powered) hard drives. Some smart phones can connect to the USB slot to share photos if the phone supports mounting itself as a USB mass storage device.
You can connect the WorkForce 845 directly to a PC or Mac by a rear USB port, or use the Ethernet jack to plug the printer into a router accessible from any machine in your LAN. Better yet, built-in wireless support accomplishes the same thing with no cabling at all (well, besides the power cable).
When you first boot up the WorkForce 845, the screen walks you through initial setup, including connecting to a wireless network if available, and installing the four ink cartridges (CMYK). Considering the printer comes with a color display, the setup wizard could be better illustrated, and it could provide more detailed directions.
Typing characters, such as a wireless password, is a bit cumbersome as you need to scroll through each letter -- it does not pop up a virtual keyboard as on an iPhone or iPad. But once you're done, you're done.
Color Inkjet Multifunction Printer Software Support
Before you even install anything on your computer, the Workforce 845 is quite functional. You can copy, of course, but you can also print from or scan to a supported memory device. You can even browse and select photos from a camera memory card and print them directly without any computer at all.
Still, most people will want to install the driver software. Epson includes print and scan drivers for both PC and Mac. Mac owners should note that network functionality is somewhat reduced compared to the PC software. For example some features, such as initiating a scan from the printer control panel, only work with Mac when connected by USB, not network.
Epson Workforce 845 Print and Scan Capability
Epson rates the Workforce 845 at 15 ppm for black single-sided prints. In our tests using a PDF comprised of grayscale content with occasional color accents at normal print quality on plain paper, we achieved a print speed closer to 10 ppm. Time-to-first-page-complete clocked in at nearly 15 seconds.
Many factors can influence initial printing, including the speed of the computer and the network sending the job to the printer. And of course, as you ratchet up output quality you should expect speed to slow down.
Printing a test page of basic text in all five quality modes from "fast economy" to "quality" yielded dramatically different results. Pages in "fast economy" and "economy" modes printed closer to the advertised 15 ppm -- but were virtually illegible. Those print modes skip so many pixels that text basically looks like incomplete blotches.
Consider "normal" quality mode the minimum acceptable. Text in this mode is slightly rough but certainly readable. "Quality" mode produces fine, laser-quality text, but it takes at least three times as long as normal quality mode.
Color photo output on Epson premium glossy photo paper is outstanding. A 6MB color photo printed in highest quality mode on borderless Epson premium glossy photo paper completed in 6 minutes. This may seem long, but it's typical for a top-quality glossy photo print. This is where the WorkForce 845's 2-picoleter droplet size really shines compared to most color laser printer output.
The 845 also includes a built-in duplexer. Simply select "two-sided" from the printer driver and it will automatically print to both sides of each page. The duplexer works reliably and quickly, and it can potentially save a lot of paper.
A 2400DPI scanner can handle documents either on a flatbed or fed through the 30-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF), which also includes built-in duplexing for double-sided scans.
Scans are sharp and unusually quiet compared to other multifunction printers, and the ADF smoothly reels in each sheet. For flatbed scanning, note that the unit lacks true floating hinges, meaning that scanning thick objects like books can be a little tricky because the lid won't fully cover them. In copy mode, we measured 28 seconds from starting the scan to completed print for one color page.
Remote Printing with Epson's Color Inkjet Multifunction Printer
Epson has jumped on board mobile printing through its Epson Connect family of services. Although Epson does not offer printer-based network apps like HP does, you can email attachments to the printer for immediate printing.
After registering the printer through the Epson Connect service, you can log into the website and customize an email address for the printer, as well as create a sender whitelist (to prevent unauthorized print jobs like spam). The service supports attached documents in common Office formats (Word, Excel, Powerpoint), PDF, and common image formats.
Epson also provides a free mobile app called iPrint for iOS and Android devices. The iPrint app lets you print photos and documents directly from a smartphone or tablet – note that this app is for printing within the LAN, meaning that iPrint must be able to see the printer. For printing across the Internet from a mobile device you would use the email attachment service.
Consumable Costs of Epson's Color Inkjet Multifunction Printer
The WorkForce 845 uses 127-series ink cartridges. The black cartridge runs about $30 with a rated yield of 945 pages, for a price that's slightly more than 3.2 cents per page of black text. Compared to average laser printer toner, this is only a bit more expensive.
The three additional color cartridges run about $20 apiece. While color printing can never be described as cheap, these prices are reasonable, particularly considering the WorkForce 845's $150 street price.
Unlike some competitors, though, Epson cartridges do not include the print head, which is built into the printer. The print head has a finite life, and because it's not replaced with the ink cartridges, that may shorten the overall life of the printer.
The WorkForce 845 is aggressively priced for its feature set, making it a well-rounded unit for many smaller offices. That said, $150 does not buy a printer suitable for high-output office environments, nor does it offer the full range of flexible paper handling of costlier units.
The 845's strengths are in its speed and output quality, plus its full duplexing support. Its best use case is a low-output SOHO environment that needs strong photo/color output on plain or glossy papers.
Aaron Weiss a technology writer, screenwriter and Web development consultant who spends his free time stacking wood for the winter in Upstate New York. His Web site is: bordella.com
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