Epson WorkForce WF-3540 review

Pros

  • Prints, faxes, scans and copies
  • Unusually capable paper handling
  • Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity
  • Duplex printing and scanning
  • Prints through the cloud

Cons

  • Text quality is a touch below par

One step up in Epson's line from the Best Buy award winning WorkForce WF-3520, the WorkForce WF-3540 costs £20 more and is similar to its less expensive sibling in most ways, but it's more appropriate for a different level of use.

Both of these inkjet MFPs are aimed primarily at busy micro or small offices. However, where the WF-3520 is also a reasonable choice for a personal or home office printer, it's hard to picture the WF-3540 in that role. It offers double the paper capacity, making it far more likely to wind up as a shared printer in a micro or small office with particularly heavy-duty needs.

Aside from the paper capacity, the two models are functionally nearly identical. As with the WF-3520, the WF-3540 offers Ethernet and Wi-Fi for easy sharing on a network. It also offers the same basic MFP features, starting with printing and faxing from, as well as scanning to a computer – including over a network – and working as a standalone copier and fax machine. Other useful conveniences include printing from and scanning to a USB memory stick, and printing directly from a PictBridge camera.

As with the WF-3520, the WF-3540 supports printing through the cloud, assuming the printer is connected to your network, and it supports Apple AirPrint for printing over Wi-Fi. One thing this model adds that the WF-3520 doesn’t have, however, is support for Wi-Fi Direct, which lets you connect to the printer even if you don't have a Wi-Fi access point on your network.

Paper handling

The single most important difference between the two models is the WF-3540's higher paper capacity, at 500 sheets. With two 250-sheet drawers, it's easy to keep two kinds of paper loaded, for convenient switching between different sizes of paper. Alternatively, you can load the same paper in both drawers and set the printer to switch to the second drawer when the first runs out. Beyond that, the WF-3540 includes a duplexer (for two-sided printing), and a single-sheet manual feed.

For scanning, the printer offers a letter-size flatbed and a 30-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF). And since the ADF also duplexes, scanning one side and then turning the page over, you can use it in combination with duplex printing to copy both single and double-sided documents to your choice of single or double-sided copies.

As you might expect going by its paper capacity, the WF-3540 is a little big to share a desk with. However, at 450 x 560 x 310mm (WxDxH) with the paper tray fully open, it's surprisingly compact for its level of paper handling. It's also worth mentioning that the printer body is only 425mm deep, so it shouldn't be hard to find enough room for it even in a small office.

Setup and speed

Setup is standard fare. For my tests, I connected the printer to a wired network and installed the drivers and software on a Windows Vista system.

I timed the printer on our business applications suite (using QualityLogic's hardware and software for timing) at an effective 4.5 pages per minute (ppm). That’s tied with the WF-3520, which isn't surprising, since Epson rates both printers at the same speed. More significantly, it makes the WF-3540 fast for the price.

In comparison, the HP Officejet 6700 Premium e-All-in-One came in at 3.4 ppm. The photo speed of the WF-3540 was also reasonably fast, averaging 1 minute and 12 seconds for a 4 x 6.

Output quality

Output quality for the WF-3540 is a slightly mixed bag, with the printer scoring reasonably well for an inkjet in terms of graphics and photos. However, with text it’s near the low end of the scale for an inkjet, although still good enough for most purposes. Unless you have a particularly critical eye or an unusual need for small fonts, you shouldn't have any complaints about the text.

Graphics quality was at the high end of the range that includes the vast majority of inkjet MFPs, making the output good enough for virtually any business use, including PowerPoint hand-outs or the like going to important clients or customers. Depending on your level of perfectionism, you may consider it suitable for marketing materials, like trifold brochures.

Photo quality in my tests was good enough for most business purposes as well. Also worth mentioning is that despite the similarities between the WF-3540 and the Epson WF-3520, the WF-3520 scored a touch better for text quality on our tests, while the WF-3540 scored better for graphics and photos. The differences may simply be a matter of individual variation from one unit to the next, but they were enough to be noticeable for all three types of output.

One other feature that’s worth a mention is the WF-3540's 3.5in colour touchscreen control panel, which is a welcome improvement over the Epson WF-3520's smaller LCD plus buttons. Although there are no functional differences between the two, the touchscreen is easier to use and another addition that helps the WF-3540 justify its slightly higher price.

Verdict

The WF-3540’s text output quality does take some of the shine off this printer, but there's plenty here to make up the difference, from the long list of MFP features to the fast printing speed and the easy-to-use touchscreen control panel. Add in the excellent paper handling, and at this price point the Epson Workforce WF-3540 scoops a Best Buy award, and is a great choice for a micro or small office with suitably heavy-duty needs.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Product

Epson WorkForce WF-3540

Printer Category

Inkjet, Copier, Fax

Print Duplexing

Automatic

Direct Printing from Cameras

Yes

Type

All-In-One

Inkjet Type

Standard All-Purpose

Color or Monochrome

1-pass colour

Connection Type

USB, Ethernet, Wireless