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Epson WorkForce Pro WF-4720 All-in-One

Introduction, Design Features

It’s been some time (late 2012!) since Epson has updated its WorkForce Pro 4000 series of all-in-one business printers, and the new ones bear little resemblance, in terms of features, price, and appearance, to their predecessors.

The WorkForce Pro WP-4590, for example, had no Wi-Fi connectivity and listed for $499.99, whereas the relatively new WorkForce Pro WF-4720 All-in-One Printer—today’s review model—does support Wi-Fi and it lists for just $199.99. The earlier model was white and way larger, with a control panel dominated by myriad buttons and a keypad. The WF-4720, in contrast, is black, much smaller than the 2012 model, and equipped with a control panel that’s primarily just a color touch screen.

Part of a multi-unit release a few months ago, the WorkForce Pro WF-4720 is the smallest new 4000-series model, in terms of capacity, features, and several other key features. At the same time, Epson also released the more robust WF-4740, as well as a smaller 3000-series model, the WF-3720—which we’ll be reviewing soon. It’s important that you pay attention to their individual feature lists; what you give up for the relatively small difference in list prices among them is significant. Today’s review unit, for instance, comes with only one paper-input source and a manual-duplex-only automatic document feeder (ADF), meaning that the scanner can’t scan two-sided pages without your help. The $299.99-MSRP WF-4740, on the other hand, has two paper cassettes and a larger, auto-duplexing ADF, as well as some other significant differences.

All three WorkForce Pro models do, however, deploy Epson’s now-familiar PrecisionCore inkjet print-head technology, which Epson touts as endowed with “performance beyond laser.” That may sound like huffed-up marketing, but as we’ll get into near the end of this review, this is not an idle boast. Few printers, inkjet or laser, print as well—be it with text, graphics, or photos—as this one.

As we’ll also get into later on, it does so at fairly reasonable per-page ink costs. The numbers are not quite as low as you’d see from one of Brother’s INKvestment Business Smart or Business Smart Plus all-in-ones (AIOs), such as the Brother MFC-J6535DWWorkForce ET-4550 EcoTank All-in-One. But, compared to the WF-4720, there are drawbacks to both of those. The Brother model doesn’t print as well, for one thing, while the EcoTank AIO costs significantly more. In addition, since the ET-4550 is not a WorkForce Pro machine, it comes with only two PrecisionCore print chips, instead of the four chips in the Pro models, making it slower, with slightly inferior print quality. We’ll look into all of this—print quality and running costs—a little deeper as we progress through this review.

Depending on your needs, the WF-4740 may be a better value for your home office or small office. We’ll look more closely at the differences in a moment. Meanwhile, if you don’t print or copy a lot—say, no more than 500 to 1,000 pages per month—and you don’t scan a lot of two-sided multipage documents, the WF-4720 will be an excellent printer choice. It’s small, light, and easy to install and put to work, and it’s not overly expensive to use. Its running costs are, in fact, lower than some close competitors, such as the Canon Maxify MB2120 Wireless Home Office Inkjet and the HP OfficeJet Pro 6978 All-in-One, and it prints a little better than both. The main thing that held it back from becoming an Editors’ Choice is its lack of an auto-duplexing ADF. (Of the two other machines just mentioned, the WorkForce ET-4550 EcoTank also lacks one, but the OfficeJet Pro 6978 has the goods.)

Design Features

All three of the WorkForce Pro models mentioned earlier are black, relatively small cubes; they have much smaller footprints than their predecessors. The WF-4720 measures 9.8 inches high by 16.7 inches across by 19.4 inches from front to back (HWD), and it weighs 20.1 pounds. (In contrast, the Maxify MB2120 is a little taller and wider, at 10.3×18.3×18.1 inches and 23.2 pounds.) It has a 35-sheet ADF, but as mentioned, it’s not auto duplexing, meaning that you’ll have to turn over your two-sided documents, multipage or otherwise, manually to scan the other sides. The print engine, on the other hand, is auto-duplexing, so you can do automatic two-sided printing.

The connectivity options consist of Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and connecting to a single PC via USB. (Per usual, with that last connection method, many of the mobile-connectivity features we’re about to discuss won’t be available.) Mobility features unaffected by connecting via USB are Wi-Fi Direct and Near-Field Communication (NFC), peer-to-peer network protocols that allow you to connect a mobile device to the WF-4720 without either it or your mobile device being part of an intermediary network. The NFC hotspot is located to the left of the control panel, as shown in the image below. Those mobile features that do require an Internet connection are Epson’s Email Print and Remote Print; Apple AirPrint; Google Cloud Print; and three utilities: Creative Print App, Android Printing, and Scan to Cloud.

The possible scanning destinations on this model include straight to a PC, to the cloud, to an e-mail, to a network folder, to a flash drive, or to PDF. As mentioned, WorkForce Pro inkjets deploy 4S PrecisionCore print head chips, compared to the 2S chips used in non-Pro models. On a physical level, that’s four 1.33-inch chips containing 3,200 nozzles between them, compared to two chips with 1,600 nozzles, for increased speed and precision.

In addition to the aforementioned printing and scanning destinations, you can also print from and scan to USB thumb drives. They plug into a port located behind a small cover on the front-left side of the chassis, outlined in red in the above image.

Configuration, as well as setting up and initiating walk-up tasks, such as making copies or printing from the cloud, is handled from a 2.7-inch color touch screen LCD…

The control panel resides on a tilting appendage for easier viewing and operating, as shown here…

Setup Cost Per Page

The WF-4720’s light overall weight and small footprint make it easy to get out of the box, and the connectivity options make it simple to find a place to put it. What we did notice during setup, though, was that some of this AIO’s appendages, such as its input and output trays, are somewhat flimsy. At one point, while reaching over the printer to connect the Ethernet cable, bumping the ADF tray extension with a shoulder knocked off its foldout extension. The good news is that it didn’t break and wasn’t that difficult to snap back on. Unfortunately, fragile appendages are a common trait among low-cost inkjet printers like this one.

Otherwise, installation was simple and straightforward. To level the playing field, we test all of the printers we can via Ethernet. However, we realize that most offices will use Wi-Fi; hence, we test the experience of connecting to and using the printer wirelessly, as well. For example, we tested to make sure that the printer’s Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) feature, which allows you to connect the printer to your network by touching a button on it and a button on your router, works. It worked for us flawlessly. Installing the printer and software, as well as a few-minute initiation while it charged the system with ink, took no more than 20 minutes.

Nowadays, versus just a few years ago, your options for controlling the cost of your printer’s consumables are varied. You can choose, for example, to pay more for the printer itself up front, so that you can pay less for ink as you go, or vice versa. The WF-4720 falls into the vice versa model, although, when you choose Epson’s highest-yield ink cartridges for this printer, its running costs are relatively low. Epson rates it at a 30,000-page maximum monthly duty cycle (the number of pages the manufacturer says you can print each month without overtly stressing the printer), with a recommended monthly page volume of up to 1,500 pages. Given this AIO’s running costs, we think that churning out anything remotely close to 30,000 pages a month would be folly.

Epson sells two yield sizes of ink cartridges for the WF-4720, standard-capacity and high-capacity (XL). The black standard-capacity cartridge sells on Epson’s site for $37.99, and its estimated yield is 900 pages. The three color (cyan, magenta, and yellow) ink tanks sell for $24.99 each, with (when combined with the black ink) a projected 650-page yield. Using these advertised prices and yield estimates, we calculated the cost per black page at 4.2 cents, and the cost per color page at a rather high 15.6 cents.

Nowadays, these are extremely high running costs. You can do much better by purchasing Epson’s XL tanks. The black tank sells for $49.99 and has an estimated page yield of 2,600, and the three color tanks cost $39.99 each, and between them, combined with the black ink, they have estimated page yields of 1,900 pages. Using these numbers, we calculated the monochrome cost per page at 1.9 cents and the color cost per page at 8.2 cents.

As mentioned, you can do better by purchasing an Epson EcoTank model or a Brother INKvestment model. EcoTank printers, for example, can print both monochrome and color pages for less than a cent each; certain INKvestment printers print monochrome pages at just under a cent per page and color pages at just under 5 cents. But as we’ve said before, given the price of these types of printers, only users who print and copy a lot will benefit from these low running costs. If you print and copy just a few hundred pages each month, the WF-4720’s running costs are acceptable, and, as we said earlier, few printers print as well as this WorkForce Pro AIO.

Paper Handling

Another shortcoming of the WF-4720 is that it has only one 250-sheet paper input source, but then the HP Maxify MB2120 and HP OfficeJet 6978 competitors are no different. The disadvantage of having only one paper-input source is that to change media type and size, you must open the drawer and reconfigure it, then do the same when you’re finished printing on the different-size media. But then, this is really only a problem if you have to make this change often. Even so, printers with multiple input sources allow you to keep more than one type of media at the ready for printing.

The input cassette resides just below the output tray. You can see it in the image below protruding from the bottom front of the chassis…

The 100-sheet output tray extends from the front of the chassis, just above the input drawer. We printed hundreds of pages during our tests, and ran many pages through the ADF, with no paper jams or any other mishaps. But then, we’ve come to expect nothing less from an Epson inkjet printer.

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