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Epson WorkForce WF-3540 review: A printer suitable for big business

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The Epson WorkForce WF-3540 bundles an array of useful features to keep your office productive, including a top-loading auto document feeder, dual paper input trays, extra-large-capacity ink cartridges, and cloud printing access by way of Google Cloud Print, Apple AirPrint, and Epson Connect. Additionally, the WF-3540's gesture-controlled display and external USB port encourage people to walk up and use the machine regardless of whether it's connected to the Web -- that means workers can save images and documents on an external storage device for future projects.

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Epson WorkForce WF-3540

The Good

The <b>Epson WorkForce WF-3540</b> workhorse multifunction is built for performance with cloud printing capabilities, extra-large-capacity ink cartridges, dual 250-sheet paper trays, an intuitive touch-screen display, and an external USB port for standalone copying and scanning.

The Bad

The 3.5-inch touch-screen display works well with gesture navigation, but its fixed angle inhibits its usability in higher positions.

The Bottom Line

Complete with wireless access, remote printing in the cloud, an interactive touch screen, and several paper trays, the Epson WorkForce WF-3540 is well-prepared to handle large workloads for home offices, corporate teams, and everything in between.

Partnered with separate ink tanks, affordable ink refill costs, and a generous helping of included software to guide you through any project, the Epson WorkForce WF-3540 is a worthwhile investment for any business shopping for a four-in-one imaging device.

Design and features
You'll need plenty of space to set up the WorkForce WF-3540, which is 17.7 inches long, 22.2 inches deep, and 12.1 inches high; the dual paper trays on the bottom contribute to its large footprint. Also keep in mind that you'll need to keep the printer no higher than eye level, as the control panel in the center that houses the 3.5-inch touch screen doesn't rotate up flush with the unit. The paper output tray in the center also folds out few inches to corral outbound prints, but there's no question that this machine jams a generous amount of features into a relatively small space.

Sarah Tew/CNET

You'll find the control panel just below the scanner bay with prominent access to the 3.5-inch LCD screen in the center. The machine has only one physical button, the power button the left -- the rest of the functions light up virtually, either on the screen itself or as brightly lit icons that illuminate on an as-needed basis on the right. The gesture-based navigation menus operate intuitively, and shouldn't be a problem for anyone who feels at ease with a smartphone. You can calibrate the screen's touch sensitivity in the virtual settings menu.

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 8.5x14 inches. The ADF also does double-sided printing duties with a built-in duplexer that automatically flips paper over. The back lip of the WF-3540 also pops out to reveal a single-sheet manual feed tray that allows atypically sized media like thick card stock and envelopes to pass easily across the print head.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Thankfully, Epson built the scanner lid with stronger hinges than it uses on cheaper models, the lids of which have a tendency to fall down unexpectedly. Instead, the WF-3540's lid locks into a vertical position perpendicular to the scanning bay that feels more securely fastened than its low-cost counterparts. The software included on the driver CD in the box also lets you operate the scanner autonomously from the printer, with PC, PDF, and e-mail delivery options. The WF-3540 delivers on its promise of quick, reliable print jobs 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 and 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, USB access gives you a way to interact with the machine as a standalone copier and scanner in case of an Internet outage.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In terms of connectivity, 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 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.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The WF-3540 is powered internally by four separate ink cartridges (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) that save you money by making it so you don't have to replace a tricolor ink tank. I did the math based on Epson's high-capacity ink cartridges, which offer more ink capacity 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. Epson also bundles extra-large-capacity ink cartridges with the WF-3540, a perk that the company reserves for customers that choose to invest in a more expensive unit up front, rather than buying something like the WF-2540 that ships with "starter" ink packs.

Performance
The WorkForce WF-3540 earns top marks across all four print speed tests, logging the fastest lead in text speed with a competition-crushing 12.98 pages per minute (PPM). The HP Officejet Pro 8600 Plus e-All-in-One fared well in second place with 12.26 PPM, but the overwhelming majority of the speed tests were decisively won by the Epson WorkForce, which should inspire you with confidence that you'll never wait too long for a print project.

The WF-3540 also gave outstanding results, producing black text of a quality that easily competes with the crispness of expensive laser printers, even at smaller sizes. Full-color graphics and presentations fared equally well, and quiet offices will certainly benefit from the whisper-quiet of the printer's operational 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-3540's stealthy operation is a satisfying alternative.

Printing speed (in pages per minute)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Black text  
Color graphics  
Photo  
Presentation  
Epson WorkForce WF-3540
12.98 
4.12 
2.47 
6.9 
HP Officejet Pro 8600 Plus
12.26 
5.93 
1.57 
6.26 
HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus
12.21 
5.84 
1.52 
5.94 
Lexmark Prevail Pro705
7.33 
3.35 
1.46 
3.62 
Canon Pixma MX870
7.18 
2.55 
0.8 
3.5 

Service and support
Epson backs the WorkForce WF-2540 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: a model-specific troubleshooting guide, FAQs, e-mail support, driver updates, and document downloads. You can also purchase exchange and repair coverage at $39.95 for one year or $59.95 for two years.

Conclusion
The Epson WorkForce WF-3540 excels in all manner of printing operations, and has all the extras you need in terms of cloud printing and mobile printing software, as well as a touch-screen interface and speedy performance. If you're shopping for a do-it-all output machine for a large work group, the WorkForce WF-3540 is worth the money.

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Epson WorkForce WF-3540

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Support 8