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The $150 Epson WorkForce 645 proves itself a capable performer for small offices that want a do-it-all device that can print, fax, copy, and scan without a clumsy touch-screen control panel. Epson also outguns the competition in print speed, leading the pack in all of our document tests, with the exception of snapshot photos. The 645 serves up plenty of features that maximize office workflow, including the Epson Connect portfolio of mobile printing features that work with Google and Apple's cloud printing. This printer also has the ability to e-mail print jobs to the 845 directly from any device connected to the Web. With all these convenient features in a device that costs less than $150, you shouldn't hesitate to pick up the Epson WorkForce 645 for all your office printing needs.
Design and features
The WorkForce 645 fits in tight spaces thanks to its compact design that measures just less than 18 inches wide, 14 inches deep, and 9 inches tall in storage mode with the moving control panel, auto-document feeder (ADF), and paper trays all folded flush into the rectangular unit. The standard colorway for Epson's WorkForce multifunction printer line is matte black with a dot pattern on the scanner lid and minimal use of glossy plastic to combat dust.
A robust control panel folds out of the middle section and rotates up and down for variable visibility on your desk space, and a 2.5-inch LCD in the center acts as the hub for controlling its functions. With many modern printers insisting that users interact through a touch-screen display or virtual buttons, I'm relieved that Epson doesn't succumb to the trend. If you're more comfortable using a touch panel, the WorkForce 840 does include a touch display, but the WorkForce 645's physical buttons make for more efficient navigation.
In this case, the control panel bundles several tactile shortcut buttons with specific action functions like toggling double sided prints with the rear-mounted auto-duplexer, a hard reset button, as well as individual buttons for fax and scanning features. Of course, you also get a four-way directional pad and an OK button for navigating through the menu settings.
The controls are comprehensive and easy to use in conjunction with the Epson driver that comes on the CD included in the box, and other physical features of note include a media card reader on the front panel that supports Compact Flash, MS (PRO), xD, and SD memory cards, and a PictBridge USB port for direct printing and saving images directly off a PictBridge-compatible thumbdrive.
Just above the control panel, you'll find two hinged bays that expose the 2,400-by-2,400-dpi scanner glass and four-ink repository for separate black, cyan, magenta, and yellow cartridges. Its scanning functions let you save an image in three ways: to a specific file folder, as a PDF document in a folder, or as an attachment in an outgoing e-mail message. The WorkForce 645 also benefits from a 30-sheet automatic document feeder on its top that automatically picks up individual sheets from a stack in the tray.
Any multifunction or all-in-one printer for business should include an auto-document feeder (ADF), but keep in mind that they always add bulk to the printer. When you're not copying or faxing stacks of paper, consider keeping the ADF folded up and store the extra sheets of paper in the ample input tray, which can hold up to a considerable 250 sheets of plain 20 pound white paper or 10 envelopes. Finally, an extendable lip on the bottom of the printer corrals all outbound prints.
The WorkForce 645 features a built-in 802.11 b/g wireless print server that only took 5 minutes for me to connect and start printing. Unlike other printers that require you to set up a proxy network, the WorkForce 645 prompts you to establish a direct wireless connection right out of the box without the extra, confusing step of first connecting via a USB or Ethernet cable. The printer also has an Ethernet port on the side for a wired connection to a network.
Connecting through Wi-Fi also means you can take advantage of Epson's host of free mobile printing apps that let you print directly from mobile devices. First, the Epson iPrint application for iOS and Android devices enables you to print Web pages, photos, documents, and anything else on a smartphone directly to the WorkForce 645, though I did notice some of our photos got inadvertently cropped from time to time. I wouldn't recommend printing important images like business presentations this way; it's more appropriate for quick outputs of spreadsheets and to-do lists.
Epson also launched its Connect Email Print app at the same time it announced the 645. Connect Email Print lets you send a print job directly to a unique e-mail address assigned to every WorkForce 645 printer. This means you can attach anything to an e-mail and send it to the printer's e-mail address, and the print job will be waiting for you in the output tray when you arrive home. Anyone can use the e-mail address, and I can imagine it could come in handy for remote workers hoping to share information with the home office.
The Epson WorkForce 645 printer ships with four separate ink cartridges for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. I used Epson's XL black and color cartridges that cost $20 and $17 to factor the most cost-efficient price per page, an based on Epson's posted ink cartridge yields, the cost of printing is refreshingly affordable at only 2.5 cents per page of black ink and 3.2 cents per color.
I'm equally pleased with the 645's effort to push the speed of Epson inkjet printers. The WorkForce dominated four of the competitive printers in all but the photo speed test, where it fell behind at 1.12 snapshots per minute, so I wouldn't recommend it if quick speeds are a high priority. But for all other jobs, the chart below illustrates the WorkForce 645's capable performance.
|Presentation Speed (PPM)||Photo Speed (1 Sheet)||Color Graphics Speed (PPM)||Text Speed (PPM)|
I'm confident recommending the WorkForce 645's output for professional documents like slide shows, spreadsheets, and handouts. The internal driver settings let you choose between Photo or Best Photo mode, but keep in mind that you'll wait longer for the finished product with Best Photo. Text quality offers a similar choice between simple Text and a more complex Text and Image mode. Subtle differences between the two are noticeable using a magnifying glass, but not nearly enough in the snapshot photos and graphics documents to warrant the extra ink.
Nevertheless, I'm satisfied with the printer's color reproduction and text character formation, but many of the color blends in the snapshot photos are marred by color blocks and an undersaturated haze. Bright colors in prints don't pop as boldly as they should, but that's usually the case with business-oriented printers.
Service and support
Epson backs the Epson WorkForce 645 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.
The Epson WorkForce 645 caters to the office crowd with cloud printing features and the ability to automatically print on both sides of a sheet of paper while still keeping ink replacement costs relatively low. It registers competitive print speeds and the rest of its buffet of features will leave any business shopper satisfied.
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