Great for small businesses and home offices—unless you need to print photos
Epson has garnered significant attention for its line of photo printers, which deliver high-quality photographic output and reliable performance. The company is less known for building small-business printers, but the Workforce 610 should change that perception.
This machine delivers a ton of features in an attractive, black package and features wired (10/100) and wireless (802.11b/g) Ethernet networking in addition to the ubiquitous USB 2.0 connectivity. A 1,200-by-2,400 dpi scanner is built in, enabling it to work as a copier and fax machine (in concert with the integrated 33.6Kbps modem). A 30-sheet document feeder folds neatly out of the way when not needed (and keeps dust bunnies from taking up residence inside the mechanism).
Flash memory slots enable you to print photos directly from Compact Flash, MMC, xD-Picture, and Sony Memory stick cards, as well as most SD flavors (except the new SDXC format). There’s also a USB port for connecting a USB flash drive. One important feature you won’t find is an automatic duplexer; you’ll have to manage the process manually if you want two-sided prints (Epson’s printer driver provides on-screen assistance).
The Workforce 610 uses four print cartridges in the typical CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) configuration. Black cartridges are available in three capacities: standard, high, and extra-high. Epson estimates that a standard cartridge will yield 245 printed pages, while extra-high cartridges will output about 910 pages. High-capacity color cartridges will generate 525 pages of mixed color, based on the ISO printer-cartridge output standards. A set of three high-capacity color cartridges sells for about $40, while extra-high capacity black cartridges cost $29. Based on these specs, we estimate that the per-page cost for all black-and-white printing will cost three cents per page. Mixed graphics printing will likely run around 12 cents per page. (This assumption is based on using extra-high-capacity black and high-capacity color cartridges.)
Epson's Workforce 610 is speedy and feature rich—it's a terrific office printer.
We found the Workforce 610 to be easy and straightforward to set up, network integration included (Epson provides an excellent network-connectivity utility), although we did have to download a 64-bit Windows 7 driver from Epson’s web site; the included CD only had Windows XP, Vista, and Mac OS drivers. It’s also worth noting that Epson’s scanning software is leaps and bounds ahead of HP’s offering. The utility might not seem as feature-rich as HP’s tool, but we found managing scans from the PC using the Workforce 610 to be speedy and reliable under 64-bit Windows 7. The driver also offers limited, but useful, control of the printer’s photo-output quality settings. We did verify basic fax operation. The fax module is fairly simplistic—you can’t program it to send the same document to multiple numbers, for instance; then again, faxes are rapidly becoming an anachronism in today’s web-connected world.
The tilt-up control panel includes a 2.5-inch color LCD for messages and photo previews; unlike the display on Epson’s consumer-oriented Artisan 800, however, this one is not a touch-screen. The controls are simple, but slightly obtuse. Returning to return to the top-level menu, for example, almost always involves repeatedly punching the “back” button instead of simply pressing Menu. If you print a lot of documents, you might tire of filling the paper tray, which holds only 100 sheets, and a dedicate slot for printing envelopes would render the device more versatile. This printer doesn’t support printing directly from the Web, either, but that’s a consumer-oriented feature that probably wouldn’t appeal to the SOHO or SMB crowd anyway.
We hard-wired the printer to an Ethernet network and printed an 8.5-by-11-inch color photograph as well as a five-page Microsoft Word document consisting of mixed text, graphics, and photos. We used this same document to evaluate black-and-white and color copying performance. We the printer’s output mode to standard quality for the document print and copy tests, and highest quality for the color photograph. For all four tests, we used a stopwatch to measure the elapsed time between the press of the “print” button and the final page settling in the output tray. We performed these same benchmarks on a similar printer, HP’s Photosmart Premium Fax All-in-One (refer to the benchmark chart for detailed results).
The Epson was noticeably faster (and quieter) than the HP unit on the document print and copy tests. It was slightly slower, on the other hand, when it came to photo output. The HP’s high-quality photo output was also just a little more pleasing on the HP, probably due to its use of five color cartridges (CMYK plus photo black.) Here again, however, most small business owners will place a higher value on productivity and noise than they will on photo quality (unless, of course, their small business happens to revolve around photography). However, this wasn’t really a major concern, as the Workforce 610 is aimed at small-business printing.
Overall, the Epson Workforce 610 is a smart, compact no-nonsense printer that’s well suited to the small-business environment. We’ve seen this printer online selling for as little as $100, which is a remarkable value for a multi-function printer that gets the job done with such little fuss.