Rivers of inexpensive ink with Epson’s WorkForce Pro WF-R4640 EcoTank All-in-One

Epson WorkForce Pro WF-R4640 (Ink)Inkjet printers are amazing technology—microscopic nozzles spraying tiny droplets of ink in precisely manipulated patterns. That R&D isn’t cheap, though, and a whole other set of elaborate endeavors on the side have sought to maintain the sky-high cost of that ink. It’s printer manufacturers’ main path to profit. In some ways (and much less conspicuously), it’s akin to the pricing shenanigans of the gasoline market.

Recently, though, a few printer makers—HP, Epson, and Brother—have, by reinventing each of their respective ink-distribution models, set out to change the ink dynamic. As we’ve explained in our reviews of a couple of Epson EcoTank models (the Expression ET-2550 EcoTank All-in-One Printer and WorkForce ET-4550 EcoTank All-in-One Printer), EcoTank printers are a new approach to ink delivery in business inkjet printers. With those printers, large EcoTank “supertanker” ink containers come fastened to their right side. Unlike in the cartridge-based inkjet world, with these, you can open the EcoTank containers and replenish a given color of ink from an Epson refill bottle.

Today’s EcoTank all-in-one (AIO) review unit, the $1,199.99-MSRP WorkForce Pro WF-R4640 All-in-One Printer, is a bit different, and a bit bigger. It has compartments for holding huge bags of ink on both sides…

Epson WorkForce Pro WF-R4640 (Angle View)The flagship model of the EcoTank series to date, the WorkForce WF-R4640 is, like the other printers in this series, essentially an existing AIO retrofitted with the EcoTank ink storage and plumbing. In this case, rather than refilling reservoirs from relatively large bottles of ink, here you simply swap out an empty ink bag for a full one. We’ll look closely at this configuration, how well it works, and the economics a little later.

In this case, the WorkForce Pro WF-R4640 is at the core Epson’s $399.99-MSRP WorkForce Pro WF-4640 All-in-One, the two-input-drawer version of one of our Editors’ Choice recipients, theWorkForce Pro WF-4630 All-in-One. (We should point out that at the time of this writing in late April 2016, we found the WorkForce WF-4640 for as low as $270 and the WF-4630 for as low as $200.)

In our analysis, the WorkForce WF-4640 was a good choice for upgrading to an EcoTank model. Keep in mind, though, that what Epson has essentially done is retrofit the WF-4640 to use the EcoTank system and then multiply the price by a factor of three or four, from a $399.99 list price (or $270 typical street price) to $1,199 (which was both the MSRP and street price when we wrote this).

When viewed from the perspective of the past couple paragraphs, the WorkForce WF-R4640 mightsound like an economic enigma—who would pay four times the price for essentially the same printer? Our analysis so far has said nothing about the huge, 20,000-page ink bags that come with the printer—enough ink, according to Epson, to last for two years.

Two years? Really? Well, that all depends on where and how you might be using this printer. One office’s first two years’ worth of ink is another’s first two weeks’ appetizer.

If you printed 20,000 pages over the course of two years (730 days), that comes out to about 27 pages per day. If you back out weekends, holidays, and any number of other reasons you might not print on certain days, let’s be generous and say the ink bags will print 50 pages per day.

The printer can certainly handle that. A 50-page-per-day load, even on every day of a 30-day month, is far, far below the WF-R4640’s 45,000-page monthly duty cycle (Epson’s rating for the most pages the printer ought to handle in a given month). In other words, if you actually pushed it to or close to its monthly rating, you would run out of ink in the first few weeks.

Epson SureColor P800 (Front View)The good news in all this is that when it comes time to buy new ink bags, as you’ll see a bit later in this review, the per-page cost of ink is quite low. Even color pages come in well under what we consider competitive cost-per-page (CPP) figures. But then the CPPs, while certainly impressive, aren’t the only reason to buy this high-volume workhorse. Remember that the WorkForce model from which it has been adapted is a fine office-centric AIO in its own right. It had plenty of reasons—good print speed and print quality, mobile connectivity options, not to mention a strong set of productivity and convenience features—to make it a Computer Shopper Editors’ Choice recipient, too.

It just comes down to the price, and how soon you think you might burn through 20,000 pages of printing. We liked this printer, but we recognize that $1,200 is a lot to pay for an inkjet printer of this caliber, in essence, a printer that at the core has the features of a $300-to-$400 model. If you use your printer—and we mean churn out thousands of prints and copies each month—when it comes time to buy new ink, and every time after that, you will save big. The cost per page is far more economical after you’ve exhausted that first set.

The more and the longer you use the WF-R4640, the better a value it is compared to some other competing models capable of the same print volume. But if it’ll take you years and years to drain the first set of tanks, this is not the right printer for you.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.

 

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