The Epson WorkForce WF-2540 offers a selection of useful features to keep your office productive, but the top-loading auto-document feeder, cloud printing access, LCD screen, and Wi-Fi connectivity aren't the main features that should convince you to invest; the WF-2540's USB port is an often-overlooked inclusion that lets you walk up and use the scanner and copier regardless of whether or not the machine is connected to the Web. That means that your office can save images and documents on an external storage device for later. Partnered with separate ink tanks, affordable ink refills costs, and a generous helping of included software to guide you through printing projects, the Epson WorkForce WF-2540 is a worthwhile investment for business operating on a sub-$150 printer budget.
Design and features
Epson describes its WorkForce WF-2540 as the smallest physical build in its class, and it is indeed compact at 15.4 inches wide and 14.8 inches deep. Keep in mind that you'll need an extra 7 inches of height within your workspace to accommodate the 100-sheet paper input tray that extends from the back of the device. The bottom output tray also juts out a couple inches to corral outbound prints, but there's no question that this machine jams a lot of features into a relatively small footprint.
You'll find the control panel just in front of the paper feeder with prominent access to the 2.5-inch LCD screen in the center. You can't adjust the angle of the panel itself, so you'll need to keep the machine at a usable height relative to your desk. The buttons surrounding the display give you quick access to the copy, fax, and scan functions along with a number pad and a bank of speed dial entries.
The flatbed scanner and 30-sheet auto-document feeder (ADF) sit at the top of the unit, and there's an adjustable latch that moves back and forth on the ADF to hold paper sizes up to 8.5 inches by 14 inches. The conflict between price and performance seems to be an unending battle in the world of multifunction printers, with companies frequently using cheaper plastics to offset the cost of mechanical extras -- in this case, don't expect the WorkForce WF-2540 to last forever.
The machine comprises several panels of rather cheap, black plastic and a faux-carbon weave along the control panel to give it an "executive theme." Furthermore, the two hinges on the scanner that keep the lid propped open ratchet back and forth with almost no resistance, which all too often allowed the heavy cover to crash down on my hand.
Despite these minor setbacks in mechanical design, the WF-2540 delivers on its promise for quick, reliable prints with a generous helping of features on the side. The most unsung accessory on the printer is the USB port just below the power button on the control panel. Though Epson recommends you connect the machine to a Wi-Fi network to get access to cloud printing and the mobile app, the USB access gives you a way to interact with the machine as a standalone copier and scanner in case of an Internet outage.
You can connect directly through USB (cable not included), a hardwired Ethernet cord, or a wireless 802.11 b/g/n access point. Easy enough, but Google and Apple users can streamline the process further using Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print. Although the documentation recommends you follow the instructions on the driver disc that's included in the box, I chose to pair the printer using the onscreen guide directly on the unit.
From there, the software installation automatically recognized the connection and asked if I was ready to set up the Epson Connect feature. This lets you e-mail a document to the printer from any connected device including laptops, tablets, and smartphones, and it automatically adjusts the image or text page to fit the dimensions of your media, eliminating the bad crop jobs that mar competing services.
The WF-2540 is powered internally by four separate ink cartridges (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) that save you the cost and inconvenience of having to replace a tricolor ink tank. I did the math based on Epson's high-capacity ink cartridges that offer more ink at a discounted price, and a page of color ink works out to 7.2 cents per page, while a high-capacity black cartridge comes to approximately 3 cents per page. Both costs are average for an inkjet printer at this price.
The WorkForce WF-2540 earns top marks across all four print speed tests, logging the fastest lead in text speed with a competition-crushing 12.72 pages per minute (PPM). The Canon Pixma MX372 and the Brother MFC-J4510DW fared equally well in second place, but the Epson WorkForce wins the overwhelming majority of the speed tests, which means you'll never wait too long for a print project.
The WF-2540 also gave outstanding performance from a qualitative point of view, producing black text prints that easily compete with the crispness of expensive laser printers, even at smaller text sizes. Full-color graphics and presentations fared equally well, and quiet offices will certainly benefit from the printer's whisper-quiet operation sounds, which are easily drowned out by clicking keyboards and soft conversation. Compared with irritatingly loud devices that make their scanning, spooling, and printing processes well-known, the WorkForce WF-2540's stealthy operation is a satisfying alternative.
Speed test (in pages per minute)