Review: Epson WorkForce 600 Multipurpose All-in-One Printer/Fax/Scanner/Copier

Epson recently released their WorkForce line of ink jet printers and we took the flagship all-in-one WorkForce 600 for a test run. We discovered a very full-featured, high performing, affordable printer for home and/or small businesses, with the particularly attractive feature of being wireless.

Setup

Straight out of the box, the Epson WorkForce 600 printer immediately impressed with its sleek, all black design and curvy lines. Its base footprint is approximately 15% wider and longer than a legal sheet (11″ x 14″) which is about as small as they can squeeze it considering that it has an 11×14 flatbed scanner.

It took less than 10 minutes to peel off the protective packing plastic and tape, and instinctively extend the various trays as well as angle out the front control panel which also hosts the 2.5″ color LCD screen. Installing the 4 printer cartridges (3 color, 1 black) took only a few minutes.

On the other hand, setting up the various drivers and programs on a Windows XP system took seemingly forever. In actuality, it took over 20 minutes on a pretty fast system. I was disappointed to find that I wasn’t offered too many choices as to which programs were installed or given much of an explanation as to what they did. I came to find out that at least one of those applications was used for easily setting up scanning options and then pulling down the result to my computer. I would have rather known this up front when I installed everything. So Epson can do with sprucing up the installer and providing checkboxes so the user can decide what to install.

Photo Printing

I immediately wanted to test out the photo printing capabilities and quality. I snagged a USB stick with some photos of various resolutions and plugged it into the USB port on the front. The 600 recognized the drive and started scanning for photos. It was quite easy to go through the menu options to decide what I wanted to do with the photos. The 2.5″ screen made it easy to pinpoint which photos I wanted to print and how. One of the features that I had never thought of as ‘needing’ in a printer was the photo proof sheet which was a nice way of printing off thumbnails of lots of photos to help you identify the few good ones.

I ran a couple of tests, and was really impressed at the quality of the photos printed. There are 2 quality levels for photos – normal and best. While you can see the difference when you observe them carefully side by side, unless you’ve got quite an artistic eye, the normal quality is still excellent. I printed some portrait photos on glossy paper and could see distinctions such as stray hairs and subtleties in eye color. I’m probably going to frame one of these printed photos. Now you do pay (in time) for the better quality – a full-color 4×6 photo took just over 1 minute at normal quality but over 3 minutes on the ‘best’ setting.

Of course it also support PictBridge so you can print straight from your digital camera.

Printing

The WorkForce is no slouch in the printing department with speeds up to 38 pages per minute (ppm) in black and white. As with photo printing the quality is very good – black text on white paper is crisp and has very little smudge factor. The Epson WorkForce printers all use special Durabrite Ultra ink which is a type of thermal ink, and Durabrite is quick drying and smudge proof. I intentionally tried smudging newly printed color and b&w printouts with little luck. I was also pleased to see that there was no ink bleed through or wrinkling with cheaper, thinner paper.

Scanning

Here is another area where the Workforce 600 excelled. I tested scanning a page that I had ripped out of a glossy magazine and that had sat in my laptop bag for weeks, getting crumpled in the process. I smoothed it out as best as I could and laid it on the flatbed scanner. The result looked brighter and crisper than the original while staying faithful to the original. That’s in all likelihood due to the magnification and brightness of my monitor, but human visual perception being the most important factor here, the scanner performed very well. Given its 2400×2400 dpi resolution, you’ll be hard pressed to need much more for day to day tasks.

Copying & Faxing

While I live in a cell phone only household and could not test the fax function, I was able to test the copy function which is one of the main components of faxing. I was not quite as thrilled about copies as I was with scanning as the pages don’t go through the same scanner the way that much larger copiers tend to function. However, this is not to say that the copies were inadequate, but I did find that my both b&w and color copies lacked the same punch and crispness as the original.

As with other multifunction printers, you can copy straight to a USB stick or other compact memory card. Of course, this works for scanning as well.

Connectivity

Now here’s the feature that I think is the icing on the cake: WiFi connectivity. No longer do you have to sit your printer near your computer, network switch or run a ridiculously long Ethernet or USB cable across your office. Setting up WiFi was also very easy using the setup utility. I am yet to have any issues with the network connectivity to the 600. It supports 802.11b/g and is n-compatible.

If you would rather be wired, then you can go with either the 10/100 Ethernet jack or USB 2.0 connection.

Conclusion

It doesn’t seem that long ago that Epson was the world’s brand of choice when it came to home printers, having mastered the dot-matrix market. HP, Canon and Lexmark seem to have had better brand recognition in the recent past, but Epson is set to reclaim some of their former glory with these fine new all-in-one printers.

The WorkForce 600 as well as the other WorkForce printers are currently available for sale.

8 comments

  1. Too bad you couldn’t test the fax capabilities. What I have found it that if you have an answering machine hooked up to another wall jack on the same line as the printer/fax, once the answering machine picks up (as it is supposed to do because it answers in fewer rings than does the fax) then the fax fails to receive the incoming fax. The only way you can get the two (answering machine and fax) to work properly is to plug the answering machine directly into the printer/fax device EXT jack/port. The manual leads one to believe that it will work either way (answering machine plugged into another wall jack on the same line or into the EXT jack on the fax/printer device). Not true, in order for the answering machine and the fax to work properly, the answering machine MUST be plugged into the fax/printer EXT jack.

    Sounds like a step backward, as my 8-year old HP all-in-one worked fine with the answering machine plugged into a wall jack on the same line in another room. Seems silly to have to move my answering machine from the kitchen (where it is most convenient) into my home office where the new Epson Workforce 600 is located just to get the answering machine to work with the Epson.

  2. Do you need a separate phone line for fax? – looks like it I can;t get the thing to fax over network, maybe needs a linksys voip box

  3. Hi Joe – no, you shouldn’t need a separate fax line, although a lot of people with home offices that do a lot of faxing and calling do.

    BTW, you should distinguish between a POTS fax line and using the Internet to fax. There are quite a lot of services that allow you to do e-mail-to-fax, or web-to-fax, so you don’t actually need a fax machine or a phone line. This Epson all-in-one will let you scan to your computer which you can then turn around and ‘virtual-fax’ from your computer.

    Hope this helps!

  4. Thanks, I’m in an office with only network wall sockets , phone is cisco voip, wanted to set this thing up on a switch to share with other computers. Didn’t want to pay more for a fax service. the only set up in their online manuals is pots for the fax and network scan and print. Should have integrated a voip phone adapter – a linksys phone adapter would give 2 phone ports, 1 for the fax…is there a truly networked aio out there?

  5. Well, you can definitely plug it into a network switch, b/c it has an Ethernet jack.

    But yeah, the fax port is definitely for a traditional phone line.

    Interesting suggestion for Epson, et al though! I suppose it would work as long as you can still dedicate a phone # to the fax ‘machine’.

  6. Great review – thanks! Since the printer is located near my router, I can set it up w/ the ethernet connection to the router – or go the wireless route. Any thoughts on which would be faster? My router is a D-Link xTreme N – so it should be pretty fast.

    Thanks.

  7. As long as you’ve got 100Mbps Fast Ethernet, it’ll be faster than 802.11g. 802.11n would be faster though.

    USB 2.0 will be even faster than both of those.

    However, for the most part, I wouldn’t worry about your connectivity to your printer too much. Typically printers take longer to print than they do to receive the data.

    Hope this helps!

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