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Epson WorkForce WF-3500 series hits the nail on the head for small/micro businesses

Issue #1308 – About a year on from the launch of the Epson WorkForce WF-3500 series, business inkjet All-in-One series, the range has come in front of me again, arrousing renewed interest. Targeted fairly and squarely at the small business environment, WorkForce WF-3500 series offers reasonably fast printing, a low Cost of Printing, a very flexible feature set and extensive remote printing capabilities.

#1308 - Epson workforce wf-3520dwfEpson-WorkForce WF-3520DWF

Although print speeds of 15ppm in black and 9.2ppm in colour are slower than some of its competitors, the WF-3500 series makes up for it in other ways. In addition, this AiO is designed to be a robust workhorse capable of printing a maximum of 12,000 pages in one month. This would put recommended throughput at about 100 to 750 pages per month, which is not as high as some competitors but very healthy none-the-less.

One of the most significant features of the WF-3500 series is that all four inks are pigment. This means that prints are durable in their own right, water resistance, smudge resistant and highlighter resistant – really useful in the business environment where documents and envelopes may be subjected to all three hazards regularly.

Ink cartridges are offered in two versions, the standard T129x series (Black – 480 pages; colours – ranging between 378 and 616 pages) and the high capacity T130x series (Black – 945 pages, colours – ranging between 600 and 1005 pages). Using the high capacity T130x series, Epson claims that the WF-3500 series will cost 50% less to run than an equivalent laser AiO. This is not hype and inkjet AiOs also offer a much higher level of features and functions than equivalent lasers!

Paper handling
For a machine targeted at micro and small business to have a 250-sheet paper input tray is relatively unusual, so the WF-3500 series scores here, especially as two of the three models in the range have second paper trays as standard that also hold 250 sheets, making the total paper capacity a very healthy 500 sheets.

Duplex (2-sided) printing is standard on all models – again, great for business use – and the scanner has a duplex Automatic Document Feed (ADF) that allows both sides of a documents to be copied, scanned or faxed in one operation. Also available, is a single sheet feed at the rear of the printer, meaning that it can easily handle printing on light card.

All-in-all, this paper handling capability is very impressive and means that it can handle all of the typical activities of a small business with ease.

As always, USB interface is provided as the basic standard for all printers but the WF-3500 series goes way beyond that with both wired and wireless networking available, together with WiFi direct capability, giving it maximum connectivity flexibility and allowing it to be used in any environment.

#1308 - epson connect1Epson Connect

Cloud communications / other special features
Epson has an extraordinarily wide range of printer devices that are Cloud and mobile printing capable already, the WF-3500 series being but one. In addition, the range of cloud capabilities is probably the widest in the industry as at August 2013, including:

  • Air Print
  • Google Cloud Print
  • Epson Connect
    • Epson iPrint App
      Print, scan and share documents or photos using a local Epson Wifi printer from a smartphone or tablet. Includes the ability to monitor the printer, run a nozzle check and clean the print head remotely from the portable device
    • Epson Email Print
      Email a document as an attachment directly to the Epson printer for printing from any connected device anywhere in the world
    • Epson Remote Print
      Print to an Epson Connect printer from anywhere in the world using the Epson Remote Driver, with full preference customisation
    • Epson Scan-to-Cloud
      Scan documents directly to Cloud storage or sharing and email documents to any email address or to be printed via email on other Epson Connect printers
Epson ConnectEpson Connect

This suite of features gives users the opportunity to make maximum use of the printer’s capabilities regardless of device being used and location in the world. The only difficulty would be placing a document in the device for scanning from the other side of the world – but, someone else can scan a document directly to you regardless of where you are!

Very, very impressive.

WorkForce WF-3500 series – Three models
This range of small business All-in-One inkjet printers comprises three models. All are print, copy and scan machines and all have fax capability with auto-reversing 2-sided Automatic Document Feeder (ADF), together with: wired and WiFi networking; 2-sided print (duplex); 250-sheet primary paper tray; large touchscreen display; pigment inks for water and smudge resistant printing; and Epson Connect.

  • WF-3520DWF, black finish
  • WF-3530DTWF, adds second 250-sheet paper tray (white finish)
  • WF-3540DTWF, adds WiFI Direct, larger touchscreen (black finish)
#1308 - Epson workforce wf-3540dtwfEpson-WorkForce WF-3540DTWF

Bearing in mind that this range has a bigger brother, the WorkForce Pro series, that is faster and targeted fairly and squarely at business use, and also a little brother, the Workforce WF-2500 series, that is more of a serious home and micro business machine, there is very little about the WF-3500 series to be concerned about. There is plenty of choice in the WorkForce range.

There is just one area where the WorkForce WF-3500 series could extend its attraction in the small business environment – and that is to have truly high capacity cartridges. Thankfully, it only means taking a step up to the WorkForce Pro series to reap the benefit of cartridges that offer up to 3,400 pages per cartridge – and therefore the absolute best of cost-effectiveness! In fact, the bottom of the WorkForce Pro WP-4500 series is priced at about the same level as the top of the WF-3500 series (of course, the Pro range does also extend to about double the price of the WF-3500 series as well!)!

Print speed
Copy speed
Paper input
ISO – 20ppm black / 18ppm colour
ISO – 12cpm black / 9cpm colour
150-sheet standard feed (A4)
twin-feed model available
1-sheet A3 manual feed
9.3cm touchscreen
LC123 series (600 pages each)
LC127XLBK (1,200 pages)
LC125XL C/M/Y (1,200 pages)
Ships with LC123 series
Print speed
Copy speed
Paper input
ISO – 15ppm black / 10ppm colour
ISO – approx 8cpm colour
250-sheet standard feed
20-sheet photo
35-sheet duplex
7.5cm TFT
PGI-550PGBK (375 pages); XL (620); XXL (1,000)
CLI-551 C/M/Y (approx 330 pages); XL (approx 700 pages)
CLI-551BK and XL (photos only)
Ships with PGI-550 and CLI-551 series
Print speed
Copy speed
Paper input
ISO – 15ppm black / 9.2ppm colour
Not quoted
250-sheet standard feed
single sheet rear feed
(capacity not quoted)
6.3cm LCD
T129 series (C=474 / M=378 / Y=616 / K=385 pages)
T130 series (C=765 / M=600 / Y=1005 / K=945 pages)
Ships with T129 series
Officejet Pro 8600
Print speed
Copy speed
Paper input
ISO – 18ppm black / 13ppm colour
ISO – 9cpm black / 8cpm colour
250-sheet standard feed
250-sheet optional second feed
6.75cm touchscreen
HP950 Black (1,000 pages); HP951 C/M/Y (700 pages)
HP950XL Black (2,300 pages);
HP951XL C/M/Y (1,500 pages)
Ships with HP950 and HP951 C/M/Y

The lack of true high capacity cartridges does have an effect on its cost competitivity against its peers, as demonstrated in the chart below, particularly bearing in mind that it is available at around the same price as Brother’s MFC-J4510DW.

Note that for this level of machine, the Lifetime Average Cost Per Page (CPP) over three years shown in the accompanying chart is calculated on the basis of printing 100 pages per month with 30% of pages printed in black only and 70% of pages printed in colour; 7.1% coverage per colour; is based on the use of maximum capacity supplies; takes into account any standard, or starter, supplies shipped with the device; and also includes the cost of purchase. All prices used are Median Street Price in Euros, including tax, sourced in Germany.

Perhaps one of the most interesting points to note here is that Brother’s MFC-J4510 works out to be the most cost-effective at high home usage / low business usage levels due to its competitive purchase price combined with high capacity cartridges! At even slightly higher page volumes, even with its higher purchase price, the Officejet Pro 8600 would steal the overall advantage.

Epson’s WorkForce WF-3520DWF, despite being competitive on black printing, is sufficiently expensive to buy and with a higher CPP on colour printing that it does not compete aggressively overall.

Overall assessment
Epson’s WorkForce WF-3500 series is positioned to compete in the same pricing space as the Hewlett-Packard Officejet Pro 8600 series and Brother’s MFC-J4000 series, which would be its closest competitors. However, the WorkForce WF-3500 series is slower than either of these. Canon’s PIXMA MX925 joins the group at the lower end (comparable in price to the WorkForce WF-3520DWF) and is the same speed as the WorkForce.

Very much in its favour, the WF-3500 series has more comprehensive Cloud capabilities than either of these main competitors. As an alternative to laser for small business, the WorkForce WF-3500 series is very well placed, with reasonably fast printing speeds, good paper handling, excellent remote printing capabilities and low cost of printing.