People still love paper, meaning they still love printers, or at least put up with printers. And when some executives or sales professionals hit the road they still need printouts, so they are willing to pack a portable unit for the job. Shrunken printers have limitations, though, such as the amount of paper they hold in the page feeder and the small quantity of ink that fits into tiny ink cartridges.
But some jobs require a printer no matter what. When faced with that situation, the Epson WorkForce-100 mobile printer, from Long Beach, Calif.-based Epson America Inc., could be the solution. The company has managed to pack quite a bit of quality into quite a small package, which includes wired and wireless networking as well as printing from smartphones and tablets. And the WF-100 even has its own battery, so wireless means no AC cords either.
The small box delivered to our door held what Epson claims is the smallest and lightest portable printer on the market, and from what we found checking the stats of similar printers from HP and Canon, the WF-100 does seem to be the big winner of the small race. It might be a squeeze to fit the unit into a laptop bag or briefcase, but getting it into a backpack is a snap, even with a laptop, tablet, or smartphone already inside.
The printer is smaller than a loaf of bread; it has a similar width and length (6.1 x 12.2 inches), but it’s only half as high (2.4 inches). We turned it on, let it click and whirr for a bit, then added the two tiny ink cartridges, one black and one tricolor (cyan, magenta, and yellow). Then we initialized the inkjets, which took about four minutes of additional clicking, whirring, and shuttling.
Next, the 1.5-inch color screen asked if we wanted to print a test page. Yes, please. The output surprised us. We assumed some quality would be sacrificed for portability, but the output was more than good enough for internal use, and even for external documents with text and light graphics. The last Epson printer we tested, the WorkForce Pro WF-5690, has better output, but that beast is an all-in-one built for a department or small business and is the size of a beer cooler. This printer is, as mentioned, smaller than a loaf of bread.
The rest of the setup details were fairly simple, which is a plus since everything must be done through the color screen with a cursor controlled by arrow keys. Unlike most printers, this one has an internal battery, so standby mode and power-off settings are important. Wi-Fi networking setup takes some time since you must enter your password by scrolling through upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and a full range of symbols. The printer found our router's SSID without a problem, then took the password and made connections on the first attempt.
Software installation can be done via the included DVD, or more likely via the Web to laptops without an optical driver. The typical end-user license agreement, language choice (English or French), and progress bar crawl did the job without a hiccup. There are no fancy administration programs; the small, color display screen handles those duties.
Printing from PC and Smartphone
Once ready, we printed text documents from a USB-connected, Windows 8.1 PC with good results. The printhead is pretty small, so additional passes are needed to print a full page, but not more than many personal inkjet printers. Sure, the Epson WF-5690 is faster, but it’s far too heavy to carry around.
While printed text is surprisingly good, the image printing really caught our eye, especially when printing from an older Android smartphone. Using Epson photo paper (the kind with the shiny surface) produced 4- x 6-inch pictures that are just about as good as the ones you get from the drugstore. And who needs a photo booth? A smartphone and this printer at your next party will do the job nicely. And both phone and printer are mobile, battery-powered, and wireless.
Not everyone needs a mobile printer, of course. But since the Epson phone app pulls files from the cloud, the Epson WF-100 mobile printer could print any file from the cloud, at any location, at any time. Think back to all those times when working remotely that you searched for scratch paper to give someone a note or remind you to send a colleague a document at a later time. With the WF-100, you can quickly print a full document with better resolution than you would think a printer this small could manage. Hmmm. Maybe everyone does need a mobile printer.