Review: Epson WorkForce 610 All-in-One Printer
Over my many years as a computer nerd, remarkably I have never had a printer physically BREAK before. That of course doesn’t mean I haven’t bought my fair share of printers, however my buying decisions were for the most part forced upon me by “progress”. For example, when I bought my first Bondi blue iMac which only had USB ports (no old school printer compatibility), or the time my printer got so old that the manufacturer stopped making ink that would work in it… or the fact that with each Apple OS update (and further dwindling market share during the 90’s) Apple kept breaking printer driver support to the point where the manufacturer got tired of rewriting print drivers. In fact the only time I ever looked at one of my perfectly functional printers and decided I NEEDED to upgrade was when I got my first digital camera and wanted to start printing out “photo quality” prints myself to save money (and I was wrong on both counts).
Well, things have certainly changed since OS X. Somehow both my Epson Stylus and HP Photosmart printers have managed to not only still work flawlessly for over 7 years, but both companies have foolishly kept producing compatible ink for my machines, and the print drivers somehow continue to make it though each OS X upgrade unscathed. And while some say being content with what you have is the path of true happiness, it can also mean you miss out on a ton of cool new stuff, which is what I found out when reviewing the Epson Workforce 610 Wireless Color Inkjet All-in-One Printer.
The 610 is my first foray into all-in-one printers (and a Wireless one to boot!), as I have traditionally not been a fan of combining my electronics. It all started with a CD “boom box” I bought as a kid that had THREE tape decks, one of which detached and could be used as a walkman. Within 2 weeks all 3 tape decks chewed up tapes, AND the CD player skipped. From that day forward I decided to buy dedicated gadgets that did one thing, and did it well. But a look around my crowded office showed me a printer, a scanner, and a spot where a fax machine once stood (unlike my printers, I think I have had 3 fax machines in my lifetime, and maybe sent a total of 3 faxes. Those things are the Pintos of the office world). Sure, conventional wisdom would have you thinking, if it ain’t broke, why spend money? But if you saw my office… let’s just say I apparently need every flat surface I own for the piling of large amounts of CRAP, and if I can combine my scanner, printer and fax into one square footprint of table space, I will have more room for that crap.
Setup was relatively painless for me, because I had my wife do it. I know this will come off as sexist, but given the wireless nature of the printer, I figured having a girl try to it up would be a good test of how easy it is to set up. Granted, The Bride of Macenstein is more tech savvy than your average housewife, but she’s still far enough from nerdy to serve as a good baseline.
What we found was the instructions are very well laid out and easy to follow, unless you happen to be running Snow Leopard. Why? Because in order to set it up for Snow Leopard you need to download drivers from the internet, you cannot use the ones that come on the disc. Epson actually DOES tell you this, but they tell you at the VERY END of the setup instructions, so odds are you will do what my wife did and only realize nothing is working when you hit the end of the manual and have followed the instructions. Personally I never use install disc drivers if I can and always just download from the company site, figuring they should have the most recent installers, and I probably should have told her to do the same, but she’s so cute when she’s cursing out technology.
Once you have the (correct) drivers installed, setup was relatively quick. We had trouble getting the printer to join our Airport network, but it joined our Verizon FiOS router’s wireless connection no problem, and I’m convinced our Airport is screwed up as my Blu-Ray player and WiFi scale also can’t join the Airport. If you aren’t into the wireless thing, the Workforce 610 also comes with USB and Ethernet ports pretty much making it the most hook-upable printer around.
Given that we have about 5 computers in our house that might conceivably want to print, it’s somewhat surprising to me that this is our first network printer, and we’ve quickly grown spoiled by the ability to print form a laptop upstairs to the printer in the downstairs office.
Having not bought a new printer in 7 years, I expected to see SOME improvements in the printing game, but I was still pretty blown away by the 610. The thing only costs about $130 ($107 on Amazon) , and it CRUSHES my other printers, both of which were around $350 when I bought them new (adjusted for 7 years of inflation and each printer would cost about $50,000 today).
It literally seems to me as if as soon as I hit “print” the 610 spits out my document. It’s almost as if it is already sitting there, pre-printed in the tray, waiting for someone to ask for it. I haven’t timed my old printers (because I have to eat and sleep and such) but suffice it to say, the Epson Workforce 610’s 13 pages per minute is pretty impressive to watch. Obviously as you add color and bump up the quality, or choose a more premium paper the print times slow down a bit, but the thing is fast, no question.
As far as print quality goes, it is quite nice for pretty much any documents you’re likely to print. I printed out a bunch of black and white Word Docs and some full color Keynote graphs and they looked great, with vivid colors, and no visible streaking. Even photos look nice (on the right paper) but I have long since abandoned trying to get “photo quality” prints from a printer when there are so many places to get ACTUAL photos online for less than 10¢ a shot, which is about what each photo costs to print at home on Premium Photo Glossy paper. Still, there are times where you need to print out last minute photos for kids’ school projects or when you forget your anniversary or your wife’s birthday or something, so it’s nice to know you have the option. I would rate the photo quality noticeably higher than my old photo printers, but still below that of a SnapFish or such.
The Workforce 610 also offers what is called “PC Free Printing”, which basically means you can take your digital camera’s memory card and stick it into the printer to print directly from the card. I’m sure someone must use this feature, as it seems to be all the rage with these types of printers, but I never would. I have a pretty decent digital camera (Canon 50D) and I still feel just about EVERY photo needs a little loving before being printed. You can do some minor editing/cropping in the printer, but aside from perhaps printing out a contact sheet (which is kind of cool) I find this to be a nice, but probably never gonna use, feature.
Yes, the WorkForce 610 is a great printer, but it’s also a pretty nice scanner/copier as well. I have an old Epson Scanner which has worked well for a number of years, but it was a bit of a pain to use, and it was only hooked to one computer. My wife actually uses the scanning feature far more than I do, as the kids seem to be obsessed with her making a copy of every one of their drawings. The scanner can make scans at up to 2400 x 2400 dpi which is certainly large enough for most purposes.
While scanning is nice, we actually find we use the Copy feature more than anything, especially with it being Tax Season. Epson did an amazing job laying out the controls of the LCD screen, and both my 6 and 8 year olds can copy one of their precious drawings without any help from Mom or Dad. In fact, I really need to give props to the controls as for the most part they are laid out very intuitively and I have not really had to look in the manual to do anything I’ve wanted to do.
The WorkForce 610 can fax, and if you ever should get sent back to the 1980’s this will make you pretty happy. I had a hard time finding another fax machine to even verify that this could work, but it does.
OK, I admit the WorkForce 610 appears to have gotten the whole multi-function device thing right, and it is pretty impressive in both speed and print quality. But what REALLY blew me away was… this thing prints GRAPH PAPER! It’s so cool. It prints it edge to edge, and it looks exactly like a real sheet of graph paper. Same thing with regular blue-lined paper (complete with the light red vertical line!). I don’t know why I think this is so cool, but it is.
Given the feature set, quality, speed and price of the 610 it’s kind of hard to be too critical of the device. It’s a little on the loud side, at 40 db, but it really doesn’t bother me as I tend to print things once or twice a week, and the wirelessness of the device means you can pretty much store it in any closet in any out of the way area of your house you’d like. Plus it prints so damn fast it is done before you have time to complain.
It would be nice if it could print double-sided documents (it actually CAN, but you have to manually reinsert the paper).
The only other thing I would mention is that the build quality seems a little “light”. This is not really a problem, however the WorkForce 610 has a bunch of “flip up” pieces, from paper trays, to the LCD screen, and if you are someone who is hurting for space and feel the extra 6 inches or so you’ll get back from constantly folding in, out, up and down the various parts of the printer when not in use, you might have a problem down the road. I did not experience any problems, it’s just a feeling I got, so I’m leaving mine fully extended 24/7.
Perhaps being out of the printer buying game for 7 years would cause me to think any new printer was amazing, but I am truly blown away by the Epson WorkForce 610. When you look at all the things it can do and how well it does them, you have to keep reminding yourself it is only a $130 printer ($107 on Amazon). From scanning, printing, copying and faxing, if you’re looking for an all-in-one for a small office or home, the WorkForce 610 can handle just about any job you would normally have to secretly do at work the next day.
Price: $130 printer ($107 on Amazon).
Pros: High quality prints, fast, copy/scanner/fax, Wireless/Network compatible, prints stationary (lined paper and graph paper, memory cards, price is awesome
Cons: A bit loud, no double-sided printing