Best Epson WorkForce printer

Epson WorkForce WF-3640 Review & Rating


As the next-generation version of the Editors' Choice Epson WorkForce WF-3540 that it's replacing, the Epson WorkForce WF-3640 ($199.99) has a lot to live up to. The good news is that it mostly does, with excellent paper handling and an impressive set of multifunction printer (MFP) features for a micro office. The bad news is that it's a step down in graphics quality from its predecessor, but that's balanced by a step up in text quality. The printer easily delivers enough to be our Editors' Choice for moderate- to heavy-duty use in a micro office or busy home office.

Basic MFP features for the WF-3640 include the ability to print and fax from, as well as scan to, a computer, including over a network. It can also work as a standalone copier and fax machine. In addition, it can print from and scan to a USB memory key or memory card.

Connect the printer to a network, using either Ethernet or Wi-Fi, and you can print from iOS or Android devices through a network Wi-Fi access point. If the network is connected to the Web, you can also scan to email, print through the cloud, and scan directly to any of several cloud services (Box, Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive). If you connect the printer to a single PC by USB cable instead, you can't use the cloud-based features, but because the printer offers Wi-Fi Direct, you can still print from a phone or tablet using a direct connection.

Paper Handling
Paper handling is one of the WF-3640's strongest points. The ample 500-sheet paper capacity is divided into two 250-sheet drawers, making it easy to keep two kinds of paper loaded and switch between them. Beyond that there's a single-sheet manual feed, so you can use a third type of paper without having to swap out paper in either tray, and a built-in duplexer for two-sided printing.

For scanning, the printer offers a 35-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF) to supplement the letter-size flatbed. The ADF can handle up to legal-size paper, and it can duplex as well, turning the page over to scan the second side. Duplex scanning combined with duplex printing also lets you copy both single- and double-sided documents to your choice of single- or double-sided copies.

Setup, Speed, and Output Quality
The printer is a little too big to comfortably share a desk with, but still a surprisingly compact 12.1 by 17.7 by 22.2 inches (HWD) with the paper tray open and only 16.8 inches deep with the tray closed. It weighs 25.4 pounds. For my tests, I connected it to a wired network and installed the drivers and software on a Windows Vista system. Setup was standard fare.

See How We Test Printers

On our business applications suite (using QualityLogic's hardware and software for timing), I clocked the WF-3640 at 5.4 pages per minutes (ppm). That makes it significantly faster than the Epson WF-3540, at 4.5ppm. It's also faster than the vast majority of inkjet MFPs at this price. One of the few exceptions is the Brother MFC-J4510DW , which came in just a smidge faster than the WF-3640, at 5.6ppm.

Output Quality, Menus, and Cost Per Page
Output quality for the printer is uneven, with typical photo quality. Text quality is at the high end of the range for inkjet MFPs, and graphics quality is at the low end of the range. The text isn't quite a match for a laser, but it's more than good enough for most business use, as long as you don't have an unusual need for small fonts.

Graphics quality is good enough for any internal business need. Depending on how much of a perfectionist you are, however, you may or may not consider the quality good enough for, say, PowerPoint handouts. Colors are a little faded on the multipurpose paper we use for testing, and I saw some obvious banding in large areas of black and dark green. Photos on glossy photo paper qualify as true photo quality, roughly equivalent to what you would expect from drugstore prints.

Another plus is the printer's 3.5-inch color touch-screen control panel. A well-designed set of menus makes it easy to give commands for copying, scanning, and faxing. One particularly noteworthy feature is the option to create up to 12 presets, with settings for resolution, duplexing, document size, cloud destination, and so on. The presets let you easily repeat your most common scan, fax, and copy tasks without having to redefine the settings each time.

If you occasionally need to print on tabloid-size paper—the one paper handling trick the WF-3640 misses—be sure to check out the Brother MFC-J4610DW. And if you're more concerned with graphics output quality than with speed or paper handling, take a look at the Epson Expression Premium XP-810 Small-in-One , which offers better output quality than the WF-3640 for both graphics and photos, but not for text.

If you don't need to print on tabloid-size paper, and if you're not particularly demanding about graphics quality, the Epson WorkForce WF-3640 is a clear winner. It delivers excellent text for an inkjet MFP, fast speed, a long list of MFP features, and, most of all, excellent paper handling for both printing and scanning. That's more than enough to make it our Editors' Choice for a micro to small office with moderate to heavy-duty needs.

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