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Epson WorkForce 520 review: Epson WorkForce 520

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The $130 Epson WorkForce 510 is a direct replacement for the WorkForce 310 we reviewed last year, but it adds wireless printing for the same price. The 510 isn't perfect, and this certainly isn't a device for high-volume photo prints, but its fax and copy functionality in addition to a 30-page auto document feeder (ADF), wireless printing, Ethernet networking, and a five-ink cartridge bay earn the WorkForce 510 our recommendation for a small office with light printing duties.

Epson WorkForce 520 - multifunction ( fax / copier / printer / scanner ) ( color )
7.0

Epson WorkForce 520

The Good

Excellent output quality; fast output speeds; office-friendly features including auto document feeder, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet networking.

The Bad

Lacks PictBridge/memory card reader; mediocre photo print quality.

The Bottom Line

The Epson WorkForce 520 isn't ideal for photo printing or graphics-heavy documents, but this all-in-one device delivers office-capable features like an auto document feeder and multiple connection options at an effective price. For light-duty office work, the Epson WorkForce 520 is a solid choice.

Design
The general shape and design of the WorkForce 520 is reminiscent of the WorkForce 310, with simple changes to the control panel that lies across the front lip of the device. You still get the same elegant curve of the ADF input tray, and the exact dimensions measure 18.1 inches wide, 21.3 inches deep, and 11.9 inches tall while it's in printing mode with all the trays folded out. Like the 310, the control panel features a two-line LCD display with horizontally scrolling characters; the display provides operating instructions and troubleshooting tips in the event of a paper jam or incorrectly installed ink cartridges. The display can also hold up to 60 speed- or group-dial fax numbers, five of which can autodial from the shortcut buttons on the far right panel.

The rest of the control panel contains the most commonly used shortcut buttons for each function, including shortcuts to Copy, Fax, and Scan, as well as a directional arrow pad, buttons that toggle between black and white vs. color prints, a set of keys for the fax machine, and the five autodial buttons already mentioned.

Just underneath the control panel, you'll find the central output bay that corrals all completed documents and photos with a plastic fold-out tray and a lip that pops out of the end to stop sheets from falling out of the printer. The back of the printer houses another fold-out tray that's used to hold up to 100 sheets of plain paper or 4-inch-by-6-inch photo paper.

That number is less than the mean for an all-in-one, so if you have a high volume of copies or faxes to send, you may want to consider adding 30 additional sheets to the ADF that comes out of a hinged door on top of the printer. Finally, the ADF can also handle a variety of paper types, including photo paper, presentation paper, A4, half letter sizes, and up to 10 envelopes.

The Epson disc that comes with the printer shows you how to install the drivers that allow the device to communicate with your computer. Some of the initial settings like date, time, and language are handled directly on the two-line LCD, but Epson offers three ways to establish a connection using the software: a hardwired USB cable, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and a network connection over Ethernet. The USB installation process is simple, and the system lets you choose which extra software features (Abby FineReader Sprint and Epson Scan) you want to install with the drivers. Connecting over Wi-Fi is as easy as locating your SSID identifier and punching in your network password.

Under the hood, you'll fine Epson's standard five-ink cartridge bay, a boon over the standard tricolor that we see in most sub-$150 printers like the Canon Pixma MP495. We've touted the return on investment of multicartridge ink jets printers before, so suffice it to say that the ability to swap individual colors as they drain will save you money in the long term.

The WorkForce 520 uses Epson's 125/126 cartridges that cost $11.39 per standard-capacity color (yields 335 pages for 3.4 cents per color page) and $15.19 per black cartridge (yields 550 pages for a more affordable 2.8 cents per black page), with high-capacity models also available on Epson's Web store. The cost for a page of color is slightly above average for an all-in-one (AIO) at this price level; the cost for a full page of black text is significantly less than average, solidifying our recommendation to use this printer for light-duty, text-based projects.

Copy and scan functionality will satisfy any office workhorse, and the oversize 8.5-inch-by-14-inch scanner bay is capable of up to 1,200 by 2,400 dots per inch (DPI)--more than enough for an amateur snapshot photographer. In addition, the scanner gives you access to change destinations for individual jobs to an e-mail address, a hard drive on the accompanying computer, or to save the document as a PDF image. The CD also includes Epson's Scanning software that automatically converts your scans to alternative formats like RTF editor files and extensions of the Microsoft Office suite (Excel and Word).

Performance
The WorkForce 520's print speeds are congruous with other all-in-ones in the Epson family, emerging well ahead of the four competitive systems in the plain text sample test at an impressive 12.51 pages per minute (PPM); to put it in perspective, the runner-up after the WorkForce 520 only printed 7.83 ppm, so Epson's glaring advantage in text output speed could be a valuable advantage for small businesses that print a lot of Microsoft Word documents or e-mails on a daily basis. The 520 is no doubt a winner when it comes to black-and-white text, but speed results are average for the color graphics documents, presentations, and single 4-inch-by-6-inch photos. It printed at a rate just higher than the mean in all three categories, but you won't likely notice a difference here compared with the others.

Speed test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Presentation speed (ppm)  
Photo speed (1 sheet)  
Color graphics speed (ppm)  
Text speed (ppm)  
Epson WorkForce 520
2.73 
2.61 
2.26 
12.51 
Lexmark Interact S605
3.63 
2.07 
3.96 
7.83 
HP Photosmart C6380
2.59 
1.61 
2.07 
7.1 
Kodak ESP 5
2.21 
1.37 
2.13 
4.39 
Canon PIXMA MP495
2.55 
1.1 
2.15 
4.07 

The onboard driver settings give you the option of changing quality settings to five preset options: Draft, Text, Text & Image, Photo, and Best Photo, and you also get the added benefit of checking extras like red-eye removal, reverse order, print preview, black/grayscale, and quiet mode. For quality testing purposes, we set the print quality to the "Best Photo" setting for our graphics-heavy test PDF, and the results leaned toward the cooler end of the color spectrum with light lines marring the majority of the portraits. The overall hues of the sky and flesh tones also appeared washed out on plain 20-pound white paper, but we were able to improve the color saturation a bit using Epson's own Premium Matte Presentation Paper.

Service and support
Epson backs the Epson WorkForce 520 with a limited one-year warranty that includes toll-free customer support weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT. Further support is available online through a model-specific troubleshooting guide, FAQs, e-mail support, driver updates, and document downloads. You can also purchase additional coverage at $20 for an extra year or $30 for two years.

We're continually disappointed to see that Epson only includes one year of service with this device, considering the Epson Artisan series printers offer a more forgiving two-year warranty. We understand that the Artisan series comes with more features and hardware upgrades, but still insist that Epson strive for user confidence across all product lines.

Find out more about how we test printers.

Epson WorkForce 520 - multifunction ( fax / copier / printer / scanner ) ( color )
7.0

Epson WorkForce 520

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 6Support 6