All-in-One small business printer. (April 25th, 2011)
Product Manufacturer: Epson America
Price: $199.99 US
- Duplex printing and scanning.
- Simple to set up.
- Prints and scans over Wi-Fi.
- Has memory card slots and shares them over the network.
- ENERGY STAR® qualified and designed to be recycled..
- Only does 8 bit scanning using Apple Image Capture.
- Some scanning features only work with Windows.
- Installer process is frustrating.
- Doesn't remember date/time when unplugged.
The debate over which printer manufacturer makes the best products can be found daily all over the Internet. Our experience shows that each company offers different printer features that make the choice more about the model printer than who makes the device. This review delivers the goods on an Epson small business solution that offers a wide array of features.
The Epson WorkForce 635 is a combination printer/scanner/copier/FAX machine that you can access via USB, Ethernet, or (most conveniently) over Wi-Fi. The printer measures about 18" x 14" x 8" high, and weighs 16.8 lb. It can be stuck on a shelf or on a table against the wall-there is no need to access the back of the printer during normal use.
The paper tray and output tray and all the controls are on the front, which provides easy access. Most of the interaction with the printer is done via a keypad and a small LCD screen on the front of the printer.
It is easy to set up the Epson WorkForce 635. A simple cord is all that is needed to plug it in, so no wall wart or ”lumpy snake“ to eat up power strip real estate. When I turned it on, it told me the date/time were not valid and asked me to set them, and then walked me through joining my wireless network. All the necessary data is entered via the keypad on the printer. The only way I think I could improve the setup is for the printer to set its date/time automatically after it has connected to the network.
Software InstallInstalling the software is more problematic. Epson comes from the ”Sledge Hammer“ school of software installation: ”Trust me, I know what I'm doing.” Epson uses a custom install program that first asks for an administrator password. You can't tell at that point what’s going to be installed - or where. Next, it shows you a license agreement and gives you two choices Accept or Quit. Scrolling through a long license agreement in a fixed size window is not my idea of fun; and to make matters worse, you can neither copy the license text nor print it. Heaven forbid that you should be able to keep a copy of what your agreement. Once you've resigned yourself to that, the installer gives you no choice of where to install the software. To cap it off, the software is installed in several places. The printer utilities are put into the main Applications folder, which makes sense, but the User’s guide is put into your home directory Applications folder, which is a puzzler. Worse than that, the User’s Guide is just a URL that goes to Epson’s web site. The only saving grace is that you only have to do this once, and when you are done, everything works.
PrintingUsing the Epson WorkForce 635 is a piece of cake; it works just like any other printer. After adding the printer in System Preferences, I chose the printer from the menu at the top of the Print dialog and it works fine. Epson claims that this printer prints 15 pages per minute for black text, and while I didn't time a long document, my print times are in that ballpark. Black and white or color images took longer, but so not seem slow, and are much faster than my old Epson Stylus 280R.
The printer supports duplex printing, but the setting is buried in the "Output Settings" panel of the print dialog. They should be in the Layout panel or a checkbox next to the collated checkbox on the main panel.
ScanningScanning is also simple. It scans at 2400 dpi optical resolution in 48-bit color, but only outputs 24-bit color. The scanner on the WorkForce 635 works well, but it appears to have some Windows-only features. For example, the Scan-to-PDF and Scan-to-email features only seem to work when connected to Windows machines. I tried the included "Epson Scan" application, but was unable to get it to work with the WorkForce 635 when connected wirelessly, but it works fine when connected via USB.
I fired up Apple's Image Capture application, and the WorkForce 635 showed up in the list of available devices - over the network! It scanned quickly and without any problems, in both color and black and white. One disappointment, though: I was only able to scan in 8 bits/color (millions of colors, in Apple's lingo), not 16 bits/color (billions of colors).
Copy and FAXTo use the Epson 635 as a copier, you put the page to be copied on the glass, or load the pages in the document feeder. Next, press one of the two Copy buttons (one for color, one for black and white) and then you input the number of copies that you want in the keypad , and the copies start coming. This feature works just fine and it can reduce or enlarge a document between 25% to 400%.
I did not test the FAX capabilities of the WorkForce 635. There is a plug in the back where you can plug in a phone line, but I do not use FAX.
Memory Card PrintingThe WorkForce 635 also supports printing directly from memory cards. I inserted an SD card from my camera into the card reader on the printer and chose Print Photo. You can print a "proof sheet" in a one step operation – choose "Print proof sheet" and hit OK. The problem is that the printed images are very small. I had 29 images on the card, and they filled up about 1/3 of the page. Each image was about 7/8" x 5/8" on the page, which is just too small, as shown below.
I tried to print 8 images per page, and that worked much better, but I had choose which images to print, by checking Yes or No for each one. That got old in a hurry. I also tried a Compact Flash card from my wife's digital SLR, but it does not recognize RAW images.
One very nice feature is Bonjour networking and file sharing of memory cards. While the card is plugged into the printer, you can mount it over the network, and copy off files. Copying about 5 GB off of a card plugged into the printer took about 50 minutes, compared to less than 5 minutes when reading from a dedicated card reader connected via USB. I don't see the Epson 635 replacing a room full of individual card readers. For occasional use, though, it can be quite handy. If your machine is connected to the printer via USB (as opposed to over the network), when you plug a memory card into the printer, it mounts it on your desktop.
Ink and PaperThe Epson WorkForce 635 uses six individual ink cartridges. This means that when one gets low, you only have to buy a single cartridge. This can save you a lot of money if you print documents that are mostly a single color.
The WorkForce 635 also supports multiple paper types. Glossy paper gives great results for color photos. Epson Bright white paper makes even plain business letters look good, and "Premium Presentation Paper Matte" works very well for charts and graphics. The printer ships with Extra High-capacity ink cartridges and a sample paper pack, which is a nice marketing bonus.
IssuesI did have a couple of problems with the WorkForce 635. Turning the printer off and on caused it to forget the date and time. I couldn't scan until I answered the question ‘Do you want to set the date?’ (Hint: No is an acceptable answer). Also, one of my copies had a couple of light bands across the image. A quick trip to the Maintenance menu on the printer, and "Clean nozzles" fixed that problem, but it seems that little time passed between setup and nozzle cleaning.
RecommendedIn conclusion, the Epson WorkForce 635 is a very nice small business printer. The ability to scan and print wirelessly is a major advantage when running cable is a hassle. The scanner is OK, but Windows-only features make it less attractive to Mac users. The list price is $199.99, but Epson discounts it for $129.99 periodically. The WorkForce 635 is available from various online retailers as well as direct from Epson.
Related ReviewsEpson Perfection V600 Scanner - (10/2010)
Epson Stylus NX515 - (1/2010)
Epson WorkForce 600 - (2/2009)
Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor