Editors' note: As of October 2011, the product reviewed here has been replaced by the Epson WorkForce 845.
The Epson WorkForce 840 is the flagship model of the company's line of WorkForce all-in-one printers for small and home businesses. As such, it costs more than the average all-in-one at $299, but it also serves up a buffet of features. In addition to the usual menu of print, copy, scan, and fax functions, the WorkForce 840 features Ethernet and Wi-Fi networking, two-sided printing, an automatic document feeder (ADF), and the ability to print directly from your mobile device. And it performs all of these functions in an impressively compact package that can hold a full ream of paper. It offers competitive text speeds and impressive graphics speeds, and our only critique is that it's slow to print photos. For a do-everything, high-capacity inkjet for your small or home office, we highly recommend the Epson WorkForce 840.
Design and features
The Epson WorkForce 840 is impressively compact for a multifunction device that has two immense 250-sheet input trays and a 30-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF). It measures 17.6 inches wide by 14.5 inches deep by 11.8 inches high and weighs 22 pounds, which, combined with its convenient indented handles, make it one of the more portable MFPs; in comparison, the HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus weighs 28 pounds. The WorkForce 840's 500-page paper capacity is convenient for high-volume office printing, and you can stock two different types of paper in a pair of size-adjustable trays.
An ample 13-inch-wide fold-out control panel sits prominently in the middle of the unit. A narrow output tray resides below the panel with two removable input trays on the bottom. To the left of the output tray on the front are two media card slots and a USB port for direct printing from your camera or its media card.
We connected the printer to our Windows 7 test bed and installed the drivers from the bundled CD, along with Epson's Easy Photo Print and CreativeZone applications and a scanner app. Easy Photo Print attempts to help with printing photos, though we doubt you'll use it over your preferred photo management app. CreativeZone is a fun app that lets you design invitations, letterhead, and other page templates. The drivers installed within 5 minutes, and the additional app added another 5 minutes to the setup procedure. All in all, the installation process is straightforward, and we can say the same about connecting the WorkForce 840 to your network via Ethernet or Wi-Fi.
After establishing a direct USB connection, we tested the Wi-Fi setup procedure and found it to be a snap. You have the choice to either establish a temporary USB connection to set up the printer on your Wi-Fi network, or forego the USB cable and use the printer's touch panel to add the printer to your network. We chose the latter for our tests because it seemed more adventuresome and also because, like most printer vendors, Epson does not include a USB cable. (You won't find an Ethernet cable in the box either; the only cable included is a phone cable for faxing.) Using the setup wizard on the included CD, we followed the instructions to navigate the printer's touch panel, where we found our Wi-Fi network listed and entered its password. Within minutes, the drivers were installed and a test page was printed, giving proof that we were up and running on the network.
Once installed, it is easy to navigate the printer through its large control panel. You can fold it out and adjust it to your desired angle by pressing a button on its back. At the center of the 7.8-inch touch display is a 3.5-inch color LCD with a number of buttons for functions such as home, page forward, page back, and move up a menu level. Buttons that are inactive for a particular screen aren't illuminated, which helps minimize command confusion.
When connected via Wi-Fi, Epson offers a handful of free mobile printing apps for wirelessly printing directly from mobile devices. Epson's PrintJinni app enables you to print documents, Web pages, and e-mails. The setup for PrintJinni is a bit mysterious, but we did manage to print a Web page from an iPhone with the app. However, Gmail could not find the printer when we tried to print a message from a Gmail account set up through PrintJinni on the same iPhone.
Epson's iPrint app worked flawlessly, though it prints only photos. The software takes you to your phone's camera roll, where you can simply select a photo and the printer to send it to, and hit print. You can choose bordered or borderless prints, and from among four different paper types: 4x6 inches, 5x7 inches, letter, and A4.
When you're not on your phone but in the office, you'll find the copy and scan functions useful. The A4-sized scanner bay features 1,200x 2,400 dot-per-inch (DPI) resolution, and you can send your scans to your PC, or to a memory card inserted in the printer, or attach it directly to an e-mail. You can also use the ADF to produce double-sided copies and scan double-sided prints.
The Epson WorkForce 840 printer ships with four separate ink cartridges for cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. To factor the most cost-efficient price per page, we base our cost per page on Epson's extrahigh-capacity ink cartridges. The extrahigh-capacity black cartridge costs $28.49 for a vendor-estimated 945 pages, which works out to just over 3 cents per page. For color, the extrahigh-capacity three-pack for cyan, magenta, and yellow costs $54.10 for 7.2 cents per page. Both costs fall just below the mean for an all-in-one printer of this size.
The Epson WorkForce 840 turned in a strong performance in our tests on the whole. It pumped out 12.48 pages per minute (ppm) on our all-black text speed test, which was nearly the same score as the Epson WorkForce 520 and the HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus. The WorkForce 840 performed just as quickly when printing graphics, especially in our presentation speed test, in which it outpaced the competition by printing 10 color PowerPoint slides at a clip of 6.79 ppm. Unfortunately, it struggled in our photo speed test, taking roughly 70 seconds to print a 4x6-inch photo on glossy photo paper for a time of 0.86 ppm. Competing models were two to three times faster at printing photos.
|Black text||Color graphics||Photo||Presentation|
The WorkForce 840 proved a bit speedier than average on our scan and copy tests. It scanned a 10-page color document at 5.59 ppm, and copied a 10-page monochrome text document at 5.48 ppm.
We reviewed its output quality in side-by-side comparison with the HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus and found that the WorkForce 840 produced slightly crisper text and brighter, more vivid color. It almost looked like the Officejet Pro 8500A Plus used too much ink in printing text, particularly with smaller fonts, resulting in slightly blurred edges. The WorkForce 840 produced razor-sharp edges and finer-looking text than the Officejet Pro 8500A Plus.
Lastly, we appreciate the WorkForce 840's low operating noise levels. Any small office can feel claustrophobic when you're trying to get work done next to a loud, overbearing printer, and the WorkForce 840 barely made its presence known during spooling, scanning, and printing.
Service and support
Epson backs the Epson WorkForce 840 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 with a model-specific troubleshooting guide, FAQs, e-mail support, driver updates, and document downloads. You can also purchase exchange/repair coverage at $39.95 for one year or $59.95 for two years.
It's not the fastest photo printer, but for all other jobs the Epson WorkForce 840 excels. We recommend this multifunction inkjet for its high-quality prints, rapid text and graphics speeds, easy-to-navigate control panel, and abundance of features that include autoduplexing, an ADF, wired and wireless networking, and support for mobile printing.
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