Epson WorkForce WF-3540 – Volume at a Price

Epson WorkForce WF-35Sometimes, a good printer’s ink cost stands out like a too-big mole on the chin of a supermodel. That happens often with Epson machines. Take most of Epson’s inkjet all-in-one (AIO) printers in its meat-and-potatoes WorkForce line. These small-business- and home-business-oriented machines have almost uniformly impressed us with their output quality, print speed, features, and dependability. However, they also cost a bit too much to use, day to day, as serious workhorse printers.

Attention to the ink cost is crucial with any high-volume AIO, such as the one we’re reviewing here, Epson’s $199.99-list WorkForce WF-3540 All-in-One Printer. Ignoring the cost per page (or “CPP”) can wind up costing you a lot of money over time. (We’ll talk more about this model’s CPP in the Setup & Paper Handling section later on.) The WF-3540 uses the same ink cartridges we’ve seen in a few preceding WorkForce models, such as the WorkForce 845, which we reviewed in the spring of 2012. Because of those shared cartridges, it has the same CPPs we noted on those machines—not off-the-chart high, but high enough to give us pause.

The WF-3540 is one in a group of low-end to midrange WorkForce AIOs that Epson debuted in late 2012. They range in price from the $79.99-list WorkForce WF-2520 to the $199.99-list WF-3540. In between these are the $129.99-list WF-2540 and the $129.99-list WF-3520. As you’d expect, the more each costs, the more productivity and convenience features you get.Epson WorkForce WF-3540

While some of the differences are minor (for example, the less-expensive WF-2520 and WF-2540 models have smaller, less-talented LCDs), certain other variances are substantial. Notably, the more-expensive WF-3540 and WF-3520 versions come with two large paper drawers, essentially doubling the input capacity over the lesser models. We’ll talk more about the WF-3540’s paper-handling options in the Setup & and Paper Handling section.

The WF-3540 performed respectably on our benchmark speed tests, and it printed our test documents and photos with exceptional quality—as have most other models in the WorkForce lineup. Also, this AIO, in addition to printing quickly and accurately, comes loaded with performance and convenience features, including an auto-duplexing print engine and automatic document feeder (ADF). And it comes with direct-connect support for all sorts of popular memory devices, which allows you to print and copy your photos and documents directly from the printer itself, without a PC.

Once again, though, we find ourselves saying the same about the WF-3540 as we have about other high-volume Epson printers: It’s fast; it churns out great-looking documents and photos; it’s loaded with features; and it performs all this magic just a smidge more expensively than we think it should.

It’s not that, compared to a few similarly priced models, such as HP’s Photosmart 7520 e-All-in-One Printer, the page costs are unreasonably high. They’re not. But they are high for a machine with a monthly duty cycle of 12,000 pages. (“Duty cycle” is the number of prints a manufacturer estimates a printer can churn out monthly without undue stress on the machine.) Were you to actually print that many pages per month, or close to it, the WF-3540 would cost you plenty. Compared to some other AIOs, such as HP’s $299.99-list OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus e-All-in-One Printer, this WorkForce model could cost you hundreds—even thousands—of dollars more to use over the course of a year or two.

Our bottom line is that the WF-3540 is a strong-performing AIO with most of the features that small and home-based businesses need, and then some. It performs well and prints good-quality documents and photos. It also scans and copies accurately. If this sounds like a great workhorse printer—well, it is.

While the high per-page cost of using it diminishes its overall value, we have no trouble recommending this model. The high CPP, though, did tip the scales against awarding this WorkForce AIO our Editors’ Choice award. No printer is perfect, but if Epson found a way to lower the cost of its ink, this one might verge on it. And if the per-page print cost isn’t a deal breaker for you, you should move the versatile WF-3540 to the “seriously consider” column in your list of contenders. It’s otherwise great.

See full review at Computer Shopper.



 

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