Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4525 DNF review

22 Sep 2011

The best of both worlds: laser speeds and inkjet image quality, with plenty of features and stunningly low running costs

Price when reviewed: 
198(£198 inc VAT)
Buy it now for 
5

When Epson came into the PC Pro offices to demonstrate its new WorkForce Pro line, it wasn’t at first clear if we were seeing an inkjet or a laser. It’s big and boxy like a laser, with a 250-sheet paper cassette, an ADF and both Ethernet and fax capabilities. It also has running costs far below what we’ve come to expect from an inkjet – but the Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4525 DNF is exactly that: an inkjet all-in-one that takes on lasers at their own game.

The first step towards that is the ink. One black and three colour tanks slot straight into a compartment on the front of the printer, with a choice of three capacities. Go for standard (1,200 pages of black, 800 of each colour) and your page costs will be 1.5p for mono and 5.9p for colour. But there are also XL (2,400 and 2,000) and XXL (3,400 and 3,000) sizes, both of which lower that to an impressive 1p for mono and 4.2p for colour, not to mention dramatically extending the time between replacements. The printer itself costs a reasonable £198 inc VAT to buy, so it effectively rebuts every cost argument in favour of a laser.

It’s also fast. We couldn’t get anywhere near the claimed maximum of 26ppm – even in economy mode it topped out at 15.6ppm – but the Epson consistently rolled standard-quality pages out at 14.6ppm in mono and 8ppm in colour. This isn’t going to trouble the 20ppm speeds of our A-Listed colour laser, the Lexmark C540n, but when you consider the Lexmark’s print costs of 1.9p for mono and 10.6p for colour, it’s certainly a worthy trade-off.

Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4525 DNF

The quality question is more difficult to answer, however. Placed beside prints from a good laser, we found we could always pick out the Epson page, but that doesn’t mean it fails in this regard. It can’t quite match the crisp, sharp edges of a laser, or the smoothness of complex shapes, but it’s right up there at the top of the inkjet pile for text quality. Colour pages and diagrams were just as clean, although solid areas of colour showed slight speckling to give their inkjet source away.

Since it’s an inkjet, the WP-4525 is also capable of a bit of photo output on the side. Again, it won’t stand up against the best consumer inkjets, but it produced a 6 x 4in best-quality print in a decent 1min 5secs and our A4 test montage in 2mins 30secs. The quality was better than we expected, with only slight grain and some pale colours marking it apart from genuine photo devices.

The Epson’s scanner picked up detail in bright areas of our test photos that some scanners bleach out, and text was sharp once we upped the resolution above 150ppi – at that level edges were quite frayed. There was quite a bit of grain in solid areas of colour, but nothing too disastrous. It copies standard documents quickly, and we fired a four-page A4 colour document through the ADF in 1min 16secs.

There were a few glitches along the way here, though. There doesn’t appear to be a way to copy without the duplicate gaining a 5mm white border, and there’s no option to run off draft-quality copies to save on ink. The ADF copy also slightly distorted a few of the smaller images on its way through.

But all things considered, the Epson WorkForce Pro is a real best-of-both-worlds device: perfect for a small office that might want the speed and low running costs of a laser, but still has a need for the quality and flexibility of an inkjet. It doesn’t quite hit the heights of either, and we’re not entirely convinced it will stand up to the heavy workload of some office lasers just yet, but the fact it even comes close is hugely impressive for the price. For a small or home office trying to decide between inkjet or laser, the WP-4525 is the closest thing to a perfect compromise we’ve yet seen.

Details

Price ex VAT £165
Price inc VAT £198
Performance 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 6

Basic Specifications

Colour? yes
Resolution printer final 4800 x 1200dpi
Ink-drop size 3.0pl
Integrated TFT screen? yes
Rated/quoted print speed 26PPM
Maximum paper size A4
Duplex function yes

Running costs

Cost per A4 mono page 1.0p
Cost per A4 colour page 4.2p
Inkjet technology Piezo-electric

Power and noise

Peak noise level 44.0dB(A)
Dimensions 460 x 420 x 341mm (WDH)
Peak power consumption 17W
Idle power consumption 2W

Copier Specification

Fax? yes

Performance tests

6x4in photo print time 1min 5s
A4 photo print time 2min 30s
Mono print speed (measured) 14.6ppm
Colour print speed 8.0ppm

Media Handling

Borderless printing? yes
CD/DVD printing? no
Input tray capacity 250 sheets
Output tray capacity 150 sheets

Connectivity

USB connection? yes
Ethernet connection? yes
PictBridge port? yes

Flash media

USB flash drive support? yes

OS Support

Operating system Windows 7 supported? yes
Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Windows 2000 supported? no
Operating system Windows 98SE supported? no

Price comparison powered by Reevoo

£427