with Mir Kamin
I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.
To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/
Thanks to the fine folks at Epson and the ladies in charge here at Work It, Mom!, I was given the opportunity to check out one of Epson’s latest all-in-one office solutions, the WorkForce 600. It arrived on my doorstep looking all sleek and black and pretty, and it only took me a week to clear off enough space in my office to actually, you know, set it up and start testing it.
The idea, of course, behind a compact all-in-one machine like this is that you can get everything you might need in a small space and at a low price point (in this case, around $200). Most tech aficionados will tell you that without exception, you will be trading off quality in exchange for this convenience; no machine can do everything and do it well without costing a fortune. I happen to agree, but only to a point—most people only require a “good enough” level of performance from something like a scanner, say, and the gains of getting all of this functionality in a small desktop machine will outweigh the drawbacks.
Prior to receiving this machine, my office “work horse” was a smaller all-in-one that didn’t include a fax machine. I use it primarily for printing and occasionally for scanning.
So let me tell you what happened with the WorkForce. The first thing you need to know is that we’re an all-Mac household, so I cannot speak to any issues with installation and use on a PC. On our Macs, though, we ran into an issue right away with the software installation, because my husband’s machine had a prior version of the software installed on it. Instead of detecting this and asking if he’d like to replace or upgrade the software, the installer claimed the software installed correctly but then it didn’t work. Oops. The installation was less problematic on my (clean) machine, and my husband figured out the issue, deleted his prior version, and then was able to install on his machine.
The unit itself is sturdy and has a nice feel. You don’t find yourself worried that the buttons are going to fall off, or anything like that. The standard paper feed works smoothly and the document feeder option (where you can leave a stack of papers for scanning or copying and it will feed them in automatically) is a huge perk. I have often wished for a document feeder. (I have also often wished for a butler. It’s nice to know that some wishes come true.)
The next thing you need to know is that one of the features of the WorkForce is the ability to use it over a wireless network, which is a huge plus. Unfortunately, it only runs up to 802.11.g, when most of today’s wireless networks are operating on 802.11.n. If you’re not a techie, don’t panic; all that means is that it’s not capable of operating as quickly as the typical wireless network. The good news is that you can still hook it into your 802.11.n network, but the bad news is that doing so effectively slows your entire network down to 802.11.g speeds (for every device on that network). For this reason we opted to plug the WorkForce 600 into our router rather than to use it wirelessly. (And just so we’re clear, here—I don’t know of any printer that works wirelessly at the higher speed, yet. I’m just mentioning it because I’d rather be corded than slower than necessary, y’know?)
Try as I might to get someone to send me a fax (”Send me a fax! I have to test this machine!” “Are you on crack? I don’t have a fax machine!”), I was unable to test this functionality. Possibly because I’ve never had a fax machine, before, and neither do any of my friends. Heh.
I found the scanner’s performance perfectly acceptable for text documents, but my husband the photographer felt its performance when scanning pictures was somewhat lacking. Again, if you need an extremely high level of performance from a single component, you’re probably better off buying that functionality in a dedicated piece of equipment. But if you need an occasional scanner for mostly textual uses, this is fine.
Similarly, our foray into printing photographs was deemed “perfectly acceptable” by me and “lacking” by him. Color charts/graphs were vibrant, though. The software also shows you the level in your ink cartridges each time you print, which is a nice little bonus feature.
And now, the great news: I have never seen a home inkjet printer churn out copies as quickly as this machine does. Yowza. if you need to print mass quantities, the speed of printing (the specs say up to 38 ppm) may make this the machine for you. Do keep in mind that this is in “draft” mode, however. If you need high-quality printing, the speed is on par with other machines. Making copies is faster than on a conventional compact all-in-one, though, thanks to the document feeder and quicker scanning.
Bottom line? If you need a relatively inexpensive do-it-all machine and your main focus is printing, this may be the right machine for your home office. Thanks, Epson, for letting me be a guinea pig!
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