One step up in Epson's line from the Editors' Choice Epson WorkForce WF-3520, the Epson WorkForce WF-3540?is similar to its less expensive sibling in most ways, but more appropriate for a different level of use.?Both of these inkjet MFPs are aimed primarily at busy micro or small offices. But where the WF-3520 is also a reasonable choice for a personal or home office printer, it's hard to picture the WF-3540 in that role. It offers double the paper capacity, making it far more likely to wind up as a shared printer in a micro or small office with particularly heavy-duty needs. That's enough to put it in a different category, where it's also an Editors' Choice.
Aside from paper capacity, the two models are functionally nearly identical. As with the WF-3520, the WF-3540 offers Ethernet and Wi-Fi for easy sharing on a network. It also offers the same basic MFP features, starting with printing and faxing from, as well as scanning to a computer, including over a network, and working as a standalone copier and fax machine. Other useful conveniences include printing from and scanning to a USB memory key and printing directly from a PictBridge camera.
As with the WF-3520 also, the WF-3540 supports printing through the cloud, assuming the printer is connected to your network, and it supports Apple AirPrint for printing over Wi-Fi. Unlike the WF-3520, it adds support for Wi-Fi Direct, which lets you connect to the printer even if you don't have a Wi-Fi access point on your network.
Paper Handling and Printer Size
The single most important difference between the two models is the WF-3540's higher paper capacity, at 500 sheets. With two 250-sheet drawers, it's easy to keep two kinds of paper loaded, for easy switching between, say, legal and letter size. Alternatively, you can load the same paper in both drawers and set the printer to switch to the second drawer when the first runs out. Beyond that, the WF-3540 includes a duplexer (for two-sided printing), and a single-sheet manual feed.
For scanning, the printer offers a letter-size flatbed and a 30-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF) that can handle up to legal-size pages. And since the ADF also duplexes, scanning one side and then turning the page over, you can use it in combination with duplex printing to copy both single- and double-sided documents to your choice of single- or double-sided copies.
As you might expect from its paper capacity, the WF-3540 is a little big to share a desk with. However, at 12.1 by 17.7 by 22.2 inches (HWD) with the paper tray fully open, it's surprisingly compact for its level of paper handling. It's worth mention also that the printer body is only 16.8 inches deep, so it shouldn't be hard to find enough room for it even in a small office.
Setup and Speed
Setup is standard fare. For my tests, I connected the printer to a wired network and installed the drivers and software on a Windows Vista system.
I timed the printer on our business applications suite (using QualityLogic's hardware and software for timing), at an effective 4.5 pages per minute (ppm). That counts as tied with the WF-3520, which isn't surprising, since Epson rates both printers at the same speed. More significantly, it makes the WF-3540 fast for the price. For comparison, the Canon Pixma MG6220 Wireless Inkjet Photo All-in-One managed only 2.9 ppm, and the Editors' Choice HP Officejet 6700 Premium e-All-in-One, came at 3.4 ppm. Photo speed was also reasonably fast, averaging 1 minute 12 seconds for a 4 by 6.
Output Quality and Other Issues
Output quality for the WF-3540 is a mixed bag, with the printer scoring reasonably well for an inkjet with graphics and photos, but with text near the low end of the scale for an inkjet, although still good enough for most purposes. Unless you have a particularly critical eye or an unusual need for small fonts, you shouldn't have any complaints about the text.
Graphics quality was at the high end of the range that includes the vast majority of inkjet MFPs, making the output good enough for virtually any business use, including PowerPoint handouts or the like going to important clients or customers. Depending on your level of perfectionism, you may consider it suitable for marketing materials, like trifold brochures.
Photo quality in my tests was good enough for most business purposes as well, and roughly equivalent to what you might expect from drugstore prints. Also worth mention is that despite the similarities between the WF-3540 and the Epson WF-3520, the WF-3520 scored a touch better for text quality on our tests, while the WF-3540 scored better for graphics and photos. The differences may simply be a matter of individual variation from one unit to the next, but they were enough to be noticeable for all three types of output.
One other feature that demands mention is the WF-3540's 3.5-inch color touch-screen control panel, which is a welcome improvement over the Epson WF-3520's smaller LCD plus buttons. Although there no functional difference between the two, the touch screen is easier to use and another addition that helps make the WF-3540 worth the higher price.
As with the Epson WF-3520, finally, although the WF-3540's level of output quality takes a little of the shine off the printer, there's plenty here to make up the difference, from the long list of MFP features to fast printing to the easy-to-use touch screen control panel. Add in the excellent paper handling, and the Epson Workforce WF-3540 is an easy pick for Editors' Choice for a micro or small office with suitably heavy-duty needs.
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