Few peripherals are as convenient as portable document scanners, and few portable document scanners are as fast and capable as the Epson WorkForce ES-300W Wireless Portable Duplex Document Scanner ($299.99). Like the Canon imageFormula P-215II Scan-tini Personal Document Scanner, the ES-300W has a built-in automatic document feeder (ADF), but the Epson model is faster than the P-215II, and it supports Wi-Fi, for completely cable-free operation when combined with its built-in battery. Like most Epson WorkForce scanners, the ES-300W comes with a complete suite of software, including document and business card archiving programs. A generous software bundle, fast performance, including quick PDF file conversion, and wireless connectivity are enough to unseat the P-215II Scan-tini as our Editors’ Choice for portable document scanners.
We remember, about four or five years ago, when the first Epson Small-in-One printers appeared on the market. Then as now, their key selling point was, of course, size: You could buy an all-in-one (AIO) machine with a very small footprint that printed, copied, and scanned, and tuck it on the corner of your desk. The Expression Home Small-in-Ones have been a mainstay for many years, like the Expression Home XP-410 Small-in-One we reviewed back in 2013, a distant predecessor to the $99.99-MSRP Expression Home XP-440 Small-in-One we are reviewing here today.
The XP-440 is the one on the right; the XP-410 is on the left. Making a few tweaks to a product, up-ticking the name, and releasing it as a new product is common practice among printer makers. Not only does releasing slightly iterated machines with incrementally higher model numbers, year after year, keep the products themselves fresh to an extent (generating new reviews, like this one!), but it also gives us technology journalists something to do. We’re not complaining.
Like the first XP-400 series model, the XP-440 delivers top-notch quality across all of its prime functions. It churns out stellar prints, especially photos, and it scans quite well. This is, however, an entry-level, low-volume AIO printer designed for home and family use. It’s meant for environments that will demand only light usage, and that’s evidenced by its lack of an automatic document feeder (ADF) for sending multipage documents to the scanner without user intervention. That omission is expected in this price range, but it severely limits your scanning capabilities.
Like most other entry-level AIOs of its class, this one, like its predecessors, costs a lot to use, in terms of the per-page price of ink. That’s always a critical issue for us. Historically, we’ve always recommended expensive-to-use machines like this one with the caveat that, because of the running cost, they are practical for only minimal use (say, no more than a few hundred prints or copies per month). Our beef is that the buyers of these entry-level AIOs who actually use their printers day to day end up getting taxed, and heavily, for doing so.
Nowadays, though, with the advent of “supertank” printers like Epson’s own EcoTank models and Canon’s MegaTank AIOs (such as the Epson Expression ET-3600 and Canon Pixma G3200), users have more choices. If you need to print hundreds of pages on your entry-level AIO, you can opt to pay more for the printer itself, with the aim being to pay less for the ink to keep it going. If, on the other hand, you need a printer but will use it little, you can spend less than $100 on a small AIO like the XP-440, in exchange for higher per-page ink costs over its life. If you print only a few pages each month, then the cost of ink is less important. Hence, our perspective on the cost per page typically seen in low-cost entry-level AIOs like this one has changed with the times.
That said, the Epson Expression XP-440’s running costs are, as you’ll see in the Cost Per Page section later on, quite high. Even so, if all you need is to print and make copies on a small scale, the XP-440 is designed to do just that, and it does it quite well.
We’re seeing an increasing number of network-capable sheet-feed document scanners lately, including the $399.99 Epson WorkForce ES-500W Wireless Duplex Document Scanner we’re reviewing here. But the ES-500W is somewhat different in that it’s not often that we see network functionality on an entry-level scanner like this one. (Epson does offer a non-Wi-Fi version of the ES-500W, the ES-400, for $50 less.) The ES-500W is fast for its class, and it saves to image and searchable PDF at a good clip for the price. Optical character recognition (OCR) accuracy is a bit below average, though, but it comes with a well-rounded software bundle that includes document and business card archiving software.
Overall, we found the ES-500W impressive, but its mediocre OCR accuracy dinged it just enough to cause it to come up short in dethroning the Editor’s Choice Canon imageFormula DR-C225 as our go-to low-to mid-volume document scanner for a small or micro office. We also like it as a personal document scanner, though in that capacity its OCR accuracy falls short of the Editors’ Choice HP ScanJet Pro 3000 s3 Sheet-Feed Scanner.
Here we are a year and a half (or so) after Epson first released its consumer- and small-office-grade EcoTank “supertank” printers in the United States, It’s a product introduction that, if you believe what the Japanese electronics giant tells us, has met with huge success.
While we complained for years about inkjet-printer makers selling ink for exorbitant per-page prices (and like to think that we did our bit to spur change), when EcoTank printers came out, we wondered whether U.S. consumers would recognize the benefit of paying more for the printer up front to save on the ongoing cost of ink. EcoTank printers, like the Expression ET-2550 EcoTank All-in-One, after all, are priced at four or five times more than their non-“supertanker” counterparts.
If what Epson told us about EcoTank printer sales is accurate (and we have no reason to believe that it’s not), consumers indeed have embraced this new way to buy printers. The release of the $279.99 Expression ET-2600 EcoTank All-in-One (today’s review model) and its $20-more-expensive ET-2650 EcoTank sibling marks round two in what we have recently dubbed the “big ink” wars. (Both are upgrades to the Expression ET-2550.) Epson, by expanding the EcoTank product line, has co-signed this pay-more-now-to-pay-less-later approach to selling printers, while Brother, with its INKvestment product line, came onboard a while back. And Canon recently joined the fray with its new MegaTank Pixma G-series machines. It’s clear: This battle of the ink bottle is on.
Instead of using standard ink cartridges, Epson’s EcoTank printers, like Canon’s MegaTank machines, deploy relatively large reservoirs that you fill with ink from bottles. (Brother’s INKvestment products continue to use cartridges.) In either case, the idea is the same: lower running costs, higher initial purchase prices.
Which brings us back to the Expression ET-2600. As mentioned, Epson offers two Expression ET-2600-series models. The difference between them: The Expression ET-2650 comes with a slot for printing from SD cards, and it supports Wi-Fi Direct (a peer-to-peer protocol that allows you to print from and scan to mobile devices without a network). If you need either of these features, spending the additional $20 for the Expression ET-2650 seems like a no-brainer to us.
Aside from rock-bottom running costs, what the Expression ET-2600 and ET-2650 have going for them is excellent print quality; we’ll discuss that in more detail in the Output Quality section later on. In fact, graphics and photo quality are exceptional, with only one caveat: The Expression ET-2600, like its predecessor, can’t print borderless documents or photos. We’ll look at why that’s important, also, later on.
As we’ve said about other EcoTank (and Canon MegaTank) models, don’t let the price fool you. This is above all else a low-volume, entry-level printer priced to save you money on the ongoing per-page price of ink. And from that perspective, it works. It prints well and costs very little to use, and it provides the ability to scan and copy, also on a low-volume basis. If that’s all you need, the Expression ET-2600 should serve you well.
A remake of the Expression ET-2550, the Epson Expression ET-2650 EcoTank All-in-One Printer ($299.99) is a low-volume inkjet all-in-one printer (AIO) with a feature set that relegates it to light-duty home use. Like Epson’s other “supertank” EcoTank models (and now Canon’s G-series MegaTank printers, including the similarly priced Canon Pixma G3200 Wireless MegaTank All-in-One Printer), the basic principle behind the ET-2650 is that you pay more for the product upfront and much less for the ink to keep it running. The ET-2650 performs better than its predecessor, and like all EcoTank models, running costs are quite low. But like the ET-2550 before it, it lacks an automatic document feeder (ADF), an auto-duplexer, and a few other notable features. You give up a lot to print inexpensively, but if basic is all you need, this upgrade is more attractive than the model it replaces.
The Epson DS-1630 Flatbed Color Document Scanner ($299.99) is a low-volume document scanner designed for small and home-based offices. It combines the versatility of a flatbed and a sheet-feed scanner with an automatic document feeder (ADF), and supports automatic duplex scanning. But unlike many competing models, including the same-priced HP ScanJet Pro 2500 f1 Flatbed Scanner and the more expensive Editors’ Choice Canon imageFormula DR-2020U, the DS-1630 has only one sensor, making it slow at scanning two-sided pages. Even so, it’s buoyed by its generous software bundle and competitively accurate optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities.
The Epson WorkForce Pro ET-16500 EcoTank Wide-Format All-in-One Supertank Printer ($999.99) is the first wide-format inkjet printer we’ve looked at in Epson’s EcoTank line, which uses ink tanks or bottles in place of cartridges. As such, it can print pages up to supertabloid size (13 by 19), as well as scan, copy, and fax tabloid (11-by-17) pages. Overall, the ET-16500 is a fine printer, but it performed slowly during some of our benchmark tests, and, at $1,000, it’s expensive to purchase. Its running costs, though, are low enough to take the sting out of the purchase price—as long as you use it frequently, that is.
Epson’s EcoTank printers promise very low running costs over time, at the expense of a higher purchase price, and the Epson Expression ET-3600 EcoTank All-in-One Supertank Printer ($399.99) is no exception. In terms of price, capacity, and features, it fits between two of the previous EcoTank inkjets we’ve reviewed, the Epson Expression ET-2550 EcoTank All-in-One Printer and the Epson WorkForce ET-4550 EcoTank All-in-One Printer. These printers makes sense only if you print enough to justify paying a significant additional up-front cost for the initial bottles of ink that come in the box—in this case, what Epson claims is two years’ worth, or enough to print 11,000 black-and-white and/or 8,500 color pages. But if you do print enough, the ET-3600 can be a terrific deal.
Today’s better near-dedicated photo printers, including the Epson SureColor P800, produce remarkably good, professional-quality prints. The P800 ($1,295) is similar in price, capacity, and print quality to the Canon imagePrograf PRO-1000, which recently became our Editors’ Choice C-size (17-inch paper width) professional photo printer. The P800 offers the option to print on paper rolls measuring either 13 or 17 inches wide and up to 10 feet long. For those who need it, that capability is significant enough for the P800 to edge out the PRO-1000 to earn Editors’ Choice honors as well.
There must be many. Why else would Epson’s market research indicate that a relatively expensive high-speed photo scanner would be a viable product almost 17 years into the 21st century?
Enter Epson’s $649.99-MSRP FastFoto FF-640 High-speed Photo Scanning System, a sheet-fed scanner with a robust automatic document feeder (ADF) front and center, augmented by image-editing and -cataloging software. It looks like any number of other sheet scanners, especially Epson’s own, meant for scanning text documents. And that’s a departure, because most photo scanners are flatbeds, not snapshot-feeders.
Some higher-end photo scanners come with a detachable automatic document feeder (ADF) for moving images past the platen, but even so, in that design images lay flat while the scanning mechanism moves under them. Sheet-fed scanners like the FastFoto FF-640, on the other hand, pass the originals over the scanning sensor (as well as under one, with single-pass scanners like this one), scanning as the image moves by. And that hasn’t always been considered the best way to scan photos, for a number of reasons, but primarily because an ADF can damage your original prints.
That said, as we’ll get into later, the scan quality here is better than acceptable, except when scanning documents for optical character recognition (OCR). While it can scan images and documents at multiple sizes, it’s best suited for scanning piles of snapshots of the 4×6- and 5×7-inch variety. However, as we’ll get into in detail, its first-version scanning and cataloging software is a bit light on features and not very forgiving.
That’s not to say that the FastFoto FF-640 isn’t good at what it’s designed to do. It’s highly useful and well suited to exactly what it’s designed for: scanning vast stacks of snapshots. But we, like a few other reviewers (including Tony Hoffman at our sister site PCMag.com) found ourselves wishing for several other features and greater flexibility, as well as a lower price.
And that’s the rub. At this scanner’s $649.99 list price, you’d need to have a lot of photos (in the several thousands, minimum) to scan to make this purchase worthwhile economically. (Depending on how many you have, there may be less expensive ways to get your photos scanned in bulk, which we’ll detail at the end of this review.) The ideal situation, we think, would be passing the FastFoto FF-640 around between friends and family members who have lots of photos to digitize, or perhaps keeping it on hand as a document scanner after you get all of your photos in the digital realm.
Epson needs to do some work on the non-photo document side of this scanner, though. Overall, the FastFoto FF-640 is a capable scanner good at what it’s designed for, but it does suffer from some first-version blues. And we’d like it a lot better if it cost a few hundred dollars less. (At this writing in mid-December 2016, we hadn’t seen it discounted off its MSRP yet.)