Review: Epson WorkForce 840 Printer

Scan, FAX, copy, print on almost any paper. (November 21st, 2011)

Multi-featured printer offers two paper trays and any function you need that a printer can handle. It works wired or wirelessly no matter the task you choose. Also prints from iOS devices.

Electronista Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: Epson America

Price: $299.99 US

The Good

  • Two paper trays.
  • Feature rich with scan, copy, and FAX.
  • Fast printing.
  • Decent photo color output for a 4-ink printer.

The Bad

  • Epson Scan doesn’t work in Mac OS X 10.6 and 10.7.
  • Paper tray insertion requires care.
  • Does not feed photo paper straight.
  • A little noisy as it chugs along.
  • Copy to print is slow.

Epson meets the needs of small businesses with a variety of printers in their Workforce line. The model I tested, the Workforce 840, includes scanner, FAX, automatic document feeder, two paper trays, and wireless capability. Features of this printer include two-sided printing, easy to see 3.5" LCD touch panel, memory card direct printing, USB, wireless, or Ethernet connectivity, and 2400 dpi scanning with scan-to PC, PDF, or email. You can also print directly from your iPad, iPhone 3GS and later, and iPod touch 3g and later running using iOS 4.2 or later with the free Epson iPrint app available in the iTunes App store. It comes with everything you need, except a USB cable.

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The software CD includes your print drivers, plus Epson Easy Photo Print and ABBYY FineReader for optical character recognition of scans. Epson CreativeZone gives you access to their online site to download templates and projects for home and work.

The setup instructions are easy to follow with an online guide. I had the printer working wired and wirelessly in under five minutes.

Install Screen

Choose Your Desired Connection


Install Screen 2

Add Printer Dialog


I put the printer on a table that has folding leaves and the whole table shook at first. After a few days, that problem went away. As it prints it audibly chugs along, and chugging is the sound it makes, so I recommend that if you need a quiet work environment, you do not put the printer near your desk. This relatively small 22-pound printer puts out plain paper prints quickly and easily. It's dimension are 17.6" x 22.3" x 12.0. Graphics contained in documents are bright and crisp, with no ink bleeding or smearing.

Printer Dimensions

Printer Dimensions

Paper Trays

I've never used a multi-tray ink jet printer before and I found the two paper trays convenient. Each tray holds 250 sheets. The upper tray holds specialty papers, envelopes, photo paper, and others, so I kept photo paper in it. You just have to remember to choose the second tray if you want to print to plain paper. The top tray includes easy to slide guides for almost any size up to a user definable 44" long, but I didn't test beyond 8.5 x 11. The guides are not very thick plastic and you're never quite sure it is holding the paper perfectly straight. When you change the paper, you need to hold it in place in order to keep the paper from slipping forward. I used two thumbs in the bottom corners to secure it, but the paper trays should be redesigned to prevent that forward slipping when the tray is removed and reinserted.

Printer


I tested the printer with a variety of papers, including the Epson Premium Bright White, Hammermill Copy Plus 20lb 92 bright, Staples Multipurpose paper, 24lb, 96 bright, and Hammermill Color Copy Paper 28lb, 96 bright. The quality of text on the 20lb paper is crisp and readable, but not as nice as with Epson's paper. Screen shots and photos in text articles printed okay, but are not as crisp as graphics. If you need crisp text, the Fine option works better than Normal, but neither setting produced a vivid red.

Print Dialog

Print Dialog for PDF (Wireless)


I had good success printing photos on glossy photo paper, but you need to be careful of greens, as they can look muddy. I played with the photo print options a bit to remove the muddiness.

Print Dialog 2

Photo Manual Settings


First, I used 4" x 6" photo paper and had no problems. Second, I put letter size photo on top of plain paper and the printer pulled in two sheets, so that my photo printed partially on the plain and partially on the photo paper. Third, I put in two sheets of photo paper, with the same result. In my fourth test, I put in just one sheet of the glossy photo paper and it fed without a problem, except that it didn't feed straight. Six sheets later, I still didn't have a print that wasn't crooked. This is seriously annoying. On the plus side, I thought that this 4-ink printer reproduced the colors in the photo fairly well.

Print Dialog 3

Photo Fix Photo Settings

Printer as Copier

If you need to copy many pages, i.e. not scanning to a file, but directly to print, you may find the speed slow. It took me between 2 and 4 minutes per page to scan to print, plus the output had a gray cast that I couldn't remove, even after I adjusted the controls. While it is convenient, the slowness may frustrate you.

Printer as Scanner

I could initiate the scan from the printer's LCD display or from the computer. The automatic document feeder is a handy time saver for multiple pages, but it puts all the pages into one document. For some reason, Image Capture launched instead of Epson Scan and a 2-page scan came out as four pages, with a ghost-like page interleaved between the real scan. A trip to Epson's Technical Support explained most of the problems. Some of the help videos offered are old and do not cover the Workforce 840. The display on this printer is all digital without the multiple button panels that exist on older models. I did find a number of helpful FAQs.

Front of Printer


First, Epson Scan is not compatible with Mac OS X 10.6 (and I assume OS X 10.7), and if you scan from the control panel display, you must use a USB cable. Plus, they recommend you use Preview. This may not be the ideal scanner software but on the bright side the FAQ covered my issues. A similar test with Preview also produced the ghost pages.

Print Dialog 3

Scan Using Preview


By default the scans save into your Pictures folder and if you use the control panel you scan into a JPG, but if you use Image Capture or Preview you can choose your file type, but cannot rename the file. The scans are named scan or scanned image. I used PDF, so that I could manipulate the documents easily with PDFpen from Smile software. The FAQ also notes "the scanner software will not work if any of the printer's ink cartridges are out of ink." You can also scan documents directly to email, but not web mail, or to a memory card or USB drive. Epson Scan is good software and they really need to update it to work with the current Mac OS X software.

Ink

The DURABrite Ultra pigment ink dries instantly and it is no problem handling photos immediately. Epson claims it is also fade and water-resistant. Ink replacement cartridges run between $17 and $20 for single colors on Epson's site, but you can save $3 or more if you purchase the multi-packs. I attempted to run the cartridges out printing pages upon pages of PDF tutorials and photos, but ran out of things to print before I ran out of ink.

Ink Levels

Ink Levels


By the way, the Preferences pane lets you adjust some settings. I set it to Quiet Mode so the actual printing is quiet, but the paper feed mechanism is still noisy.

Ink Levels

Printer Driver Prefs


The Workforce 840 has some nice features and works reasonably well, but it doesn't perform as well as other printers I've tested from Epson in past years. I do not recommend you purchase it at the suggested price, but at a deep discount it should meet your needs. While I'm not thrilled with this printer, I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that the user reviews on Epson's site are very favorable.

by ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor


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