The printer industry is a fairly predictable one, but once in a while we’re treated to interesting technology. Hewlett-Packard, for example, last year introduced its Officejet Pro X, a desktop printer series that uses an inkjet technology called PageWide, to deliver the world’s fastest print speeds. Now, it’s Epson’s turn, with the new PrecisionCore printhead inkjet tech that allows for fast print speeds and better color quality – even better than a color laser model.
Although unveiled last year in some of its industrial printing equipment, Epson is now putting the technology in a new lineup of WorkForce office printers, like the WorkForce WF-3640 All-in-One printer ($200). Designed for an office environment, the multifunction unit offers print, copy, scan, and fax capabilities. Compared to MFPs designed for the home, there’s a price premium. But with the new PrecisionCore system, wireless connectivity (plus compatibility with smart devices), and useful features, we think the WF-3640 could be well suited for the home – if you don’t mind giving up some space.
Features and design
On the outside, the WF-3640 resembles most other Epson MFPs, but the most notable feature is one that’s unnoticeable: the newly developed PrecisionCore printhead technology. Using MEMs fabrication, or microelectromechanical systems, the printhead contains a considerable higher number of nozzles than previous head designs, which produces a greater print density by using smaller ink droplets. This, in turn, translates into a larger color gamut (the number of colors the printer can reproduce), faster ink drying times, and faster print speeds. (You can click here to read more about the technology.)
The WF-3640 is a four-function machine, but most home users won’t need the fax function, as you can scan and email directly from the machine – a more attractive consumer feature. However, there are times when faxing may be required, so having that option available could come in handy.
As mentioned, the WF-3640 does cost more if you simply compare it to a basic consumer model – anywhere from $50-$100 more. But that depends on your perception of value. For the extra money, you get three paper inputs: two paper drawers (each with a 250-sheet capacity, letter or legal size), and a rear paper slot for specialty media, card stock, or envelopes. The extra tray does make the unit a bit larger that a standard home MFP, measuring 17.7 x 16.8 x 12.1 inches and weighing 25.4 pounds. If you can do without the extra paper tray, Epson has a sibling model, the WF-3620, that’s essentially the same machine but costs $170.
Unlike some of the other Epson printers and MFPs we’ve reviewed, the WF-3640 cannot print on CD/DVDs, but there is automatic duplexing on both the printer and the 35-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF).
The newly developed PrecisionCore printhead provides a larger color gamut and faster speeds.
Many printers and MFPs offer regular and high capacity ink cartridges, and the WF-3640 is no exception. The standard cartridges are estimated to yield 350 pages in black and 360 pages in color. Prices on these vary from $13 for each color cartridge to $20 for the black cartridge. XL high-capacity cartridges are also available, with the $35 black cartridge and $30 color cartridges each yielding about 1,100 pages.
The unit has a bright 3.5-inch color touchscreen that makes it easy to navigate between functions and options. There’s a numeric keypad for entering fax numbers or the number of copies, along with buttons for other basic functions. Also located on the front is a slot for an SD Card and a USB port; these are handy for printing documents off a flash drive or saving scanned documents to one, and printing images from a digital camera’s SD card.
Connectivity options are excellent. In addition to USB, you can connect the MFP to a network using wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi, or to a device using Wi-Fi Direct. You can also access the printer remotely using Epson’s own Epson Connect, Apple AirPrint, or Google Cloud Print.
What’s in the box
The WF-3640 is large, and so is the box is. In the box are four starter ink cartridges, an AC power cord, and installation CD with printer and scanner drivers, along with basic documentation. No connectivity cables are included – not a problem if you go wireless.
Epson provides a limited one-year warranty, but extended service plans are available. Click here for details.
Setup and performance
Setup, as with just about every Epson printer we’ve tested, is easy. After removing the packing material, the ink cartridges are installed into the printhead, and the unit then takes between 5-7 minutes to prime; in the meantime, you can install the drivers from the supplied CD (or use your operating system’s “add device” option to find the printer or scanner drivers). Total time from opening the box to printing a test page was less than 15 minutes.
Epson rates the WF-3640 at 19 pages per minute (ppm) in black and 10 ppm in color. Our Word test document, which contains mostly black text and a small color logo, averaged almost exactly 15 ppm, which is excellent for an MFP at this price point. We would expect the less expensive WF-3620 to deliver similar results, as the model is identical, minus the extra paper tray.
Scanning and copying produced no surprises. Scans were of excellent quality, though we expected copying to be a bit faster given the device’s output speed in our print performance test.
We obtained some surprising results in our image quality tests. We printed our three test images on Epson Premium Photo Paper Glossy, Epson Premium Presentation Paper Matte, and on basic plain paper. Of the three papers, the Premium Presentation paper produced the least desirable output, with considerable under-saturation.
On plain paper, colors were accurate – suitable for presentations.
While Epson doesn’t tout the WF-3640 as a photo printer, it did produce photo quality output on Epson Premium Photo Paper Glossy, though there were some slight differences in saturation, skin tone, and gray shades when compared against our reference prints (which were printed on a calibrated Epson Stylus Pro 3880). However, without reference prints with which to compare the test output to, we doubt anyone would complain about output quality.
And on plain paper – what most consumers would be using – image quality was slightly under-saturated, but colors were accurate and the printer produced quality color that would be suitable for almost any task or report, whether it’s a presentation for work or school. This may be possible due to the new PrecisionCore’s more accurate ink droplets. In that view, the printer does a terrific job, and warrants a recommendation for consumers.
As with other Workforce printers, Epson targets this MFP toward the small business market. It’s certainly a terrific MFP for that environment, but we think it’s just as useful at home. Yes, you could argue that the extra paper tray, fax, ADF, and price premium are overkills, but the fast print speed and excellent output quality – especially on plain paper – make it suitable for use as a home MFP as well, especially in a household that does a lot of printing and/or copying.
The PrecisionCore technology demonstrates that it offers some benefits. Right now, it’s only available in Epson’s business machines, and if you want it for your home, this is the route you’ll have to take. Eventually, the technology should trickle down to the consumer front, which would bring some of these benefits along with a drop in price, we hope.
- Fast print speed
- Very good image quality on plain paper
- Duplex printing, ADF
- Two paper trays
- More expensive than consumer MFPs
- Copying speed could be faster