The world has become digital — there's no denial. Whether it be applying for loans or writing examinations, everything has moved within the confines of a computer screen. While that makes life a lot easier, especially when most of your stuff gets done on your smartphone, the paper as a medium of registering information still lives on for important moments or activities. We are yet to see a completely paperless office take on to save our environment. That’s why we still have offices and government departments that require paper documents for various needs. Be it deals to be signed, document proofs or simple presentations and quotes, all still need to be physically printed and handed over.
Therefore, the printer still exists — for documents or photos, we still need a physical copy of records. Printers are generally associated to be huge, bulky and ugly equipment, sitting on the office desk or in roadside Internet Cafes. However, it is not always possible to carry soft copies along with you and search for a printer to get a hard copy — there are times when you need to print on the go.
Portable photo printers have been existing in the market for a while and some mainstream printer manufacturers have tried their hand at portable printers, one of which is Epson. Their latest portable printer for the Indian market — the WorkForce WF-100. But it does not come cheap. It's priced at Rs 20,990. On paper, it looks pretty expensive for a tiny and simply inkjet printer — it's not even a multi-function peripheral — and we find out if it can justify its price.
As we stated earlier, all printers are usually bulky black/white boxes. However, the WorkForce WF-100 is aimed to be ultra-compact, light-weight and highly portable, which shows in its form factor. It measures just 2.4-inch by 12.2-inch by 6.1-inches (HxWxD) and weighs around 1.5Kgs. In fact, it looks like a jewellery box. Thanks to this miniature form factor, you can tuck it in your backpack along with your laptop without any noticeable issue. The body is made entirely of black plastic with a mesh-like finish, which is elegant to look as well as resist scratches and fingerprints. For controls, the printer depends on a 1.8-inch LCD display, a four-way D-pad and a cancel button made of rubber switches. The power button is the only one that features a plastic build.
However, not all is well with the build of Epson WorkForce WF-100. The top cover opens up upwards and doubles as a paper feed tray and a protection lid. Though this is a nice touch for added practicality, it is pretty flimsy. It keeps the weight minimalist, but also adds to a feeble lid that can be ruined and rendered un-repairable if you accidentally stretch it too far. While this may have been done to keep the weight low, it doesn’t inspire confidence when you are offloading a bunch of pages (only 20 at a time) for this lad on the tray without attention.
What’s also missing is a paper output tray — Epson should have provided a foldable or sliding tray/arm to catch the final printed pages. You have to keep an eye on the pages after printing so that they don't just slide off the table. You cannot keep this printer at the edge of your table because of this missing tray. But that's all we complained about the printer. Asking for a scanner onboard would be asking for too much as, though it would make it a complete portable executive print station, it would be adding on bulk as well as cost. A pass-through scanner could have been considered anyways.
The WF-100 also sports two ports — one for charging and another for data that uses a micro USB data cables. Yes, charging. The Epson WF-100 is a portable printer that has a built-in battery that can power the printer anywhere. It utilizes a 24V power brick, similar to a laptop's, to top-up itself when using it at home or office. Sadly, the built-in lithium-ion battery cannot be charged via the micro USB cable, which would have added additional value to the product. On a full charge, Epson claims that it can deliver up to 50 colour pages and 100 black and white pages before you need to hunt for the power socket, which is pretty impressive for a little printer that can be a travel companion.
One of the essential parameters to look out for in a printer is connectivity and the WF-100 doesn’t disappoint when it comes to options. Apart from the standard USB 2.0 connectivity, this baby also uses Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi Direct. You can connect it to your existing office or home Wi-Fi network and even rename it to your liking. If you have documents and emails to print from your smartphone/tablet, then you can use the Epson app (Android and iOS), to directly connect to the printer without a router (Wi-Fi Direct) and print straight from your handset. However, we found the Wi-Fi setup method a tad complicated, especially for configuring the password setup using the navigation buttons. Epson needs to address this ease of configuring Wi-Fi Direct.
The WorkForce WF-100 is just another inkjet printer. It supports A4 and LTR pages, and below. With its black and colour cartridges, Epson claims you can expect it to deliver 250 pages in black and approximately 200 pages in full colour. Note that this figure varies on the content that you are printing — the more colour your content has, the sooner the ink depletes. The standard black ink cartridge costs around Rs 1,339, while the colour cartridge will set you back by Rs 1,069. If you go by the average that Epson states, you would be paying Rs 5 per print print for both B/W as well as colour documents.
However, the number of pages that Epson claims on full cartridges is under ISO standards, that no one ever prints. Usual prints that we take these days are either presentations or reports apart from standard CV and quotes/bills, which have a huge amount of ink needed. ISO standards are calculated at draft modes with minimal text on it. This could very well put you at a higher average price per print depending on the amount of ink your document requires. And since this baby Epson can also print high-quality photos, the costs per page figure could rise even more. Rushing for heavy printing jobs should be done on standard office printers or head to your local stationery shop as they will be a lot cheaper than printing on this Workforce. The WF-100 can be treated as an emergency portable printer when you are stranded for an important print and you have no place to get one.
As for the printing speeds, we got varied results in different power modes — simple drafts gave around 2ppm whereas coloured presentations gave an approximate time of 0.5 to 1.5ppm. It certainly isn’t a fast printer but is meant to get the job done when you are on the move.
Since the WorkForce WF-100 is an inkjet printer, it churns out prints with good quality. Text and colours appear sharp, but it completely depends on the quality of paper in use and resolution you choose. The WF-100 can print on various kinds of paper — Legal, Letter, A4, B5, A5, A6, 8x10, 5x7 and 4x6, as well as for the following Envelope dimensions — #10, DL and C6.
As for the printing itself, the WF-100 is pretty silent. At 49 decibels max on plain paper, the printer can be almost invisible to people around you.
If you are a businessman or a professional; from the field of education or anyone who could require prints anywhere, then the Epson WorkForce WF-100 is the printer for you. With good quality imaging, sufficient battery life for a whole day (approx), and a light and portable package, the WF-100 is definitely a suggestible printer. Sadly, the expensive price of Rs 20,999, along with a slightly pricey cost per print, makes this a difficult recommendation for those who are hunting for something similar on a budget. Though choices are limited in this portable printing segment, the Epson EF-100 is presently your best bet.
— Joint review by Francis D'Sa, Editor, Technology and Amritanshu Mukherjee, Sub Editor, Technology
Also published on Deccan Chronicle