The printer market is cutthroat, so new models need to be something special. The market for black-and-white, all-in-one workgroup printers may be less crowded than low-end consumer models, but still offers a variety of options from multiple brands. This means the Epson WorkForce Pro M5694, from Long Beach, Calif.-based Epson America Inc., better bring a strong game or get left behind. Turns out the WF-M5694 prints fast with inkjet quality that rivals laser output, prints and scans double-sided, and can spit out 2,500 pages per month. And the huge black ink cartridge can print as many as 10,000 pages. To be clear: Black ink is your only color choice. Such an all-in-one monochrome printer that's not a laser is a rarity.
Setup and Configuration
The WorkForce Pro M5694 arrived in a box not designed for retail sale: plain cardboard with a part number and an accurate but not persuasive printer image. Best Buy doesn't now offer this printer, so it may be out of the retail channel altogether.
At 31 pounds it's a fairly substantial printer that required a couple of grunts to pull out of the box. That heft ensures it stays put, and it never wobbled as the printhead flew back and forth.
As with all Epson printers we've seen, dozens of blue tape strips kept parts from shifting during transit. The ink “cartridge” is really almost a plastic ink brick with an ink bladder inside. Ink for 10,000 pages? It could be, but of course your mileage may vary (YMMV) as with all ink/page ratings.
Lots of ports and connection options greeted us. LAN via Ethernet, LAN via Wi-Fi, USB, and phone ports if you want to feed your fax nostalgia. When you first turn on the printer, it takes about 10 minutes to whirr and buzz and get ready for work.
We plugged in an Ethernet cable and tried something unusual: We searched for a new printer device through Windows 10, connected to it, and then sent it a document. No drivers loaded, no configuration of the client or printer. Bingo—the page appeared.
Of course, basic document printing is far down the list of features on the WF-M5694, so we downloaded the official client software (no CD or DVD was found in the box), and loaded it up. Our Intel i5 test desktop took a while to load the software, but an ASUS ZenBook we're testing, with an SSD, installed the software much faster.
Wired (LAN or USB) or wireless connection options are available, as well as Wi-Fi direct from smartphones and tablets with the Epson app. But the connection choices are mutually exclusive, so we used the Wi-Fi and LAN connection options to test with Windows 7 and 10 clients. Epson's EpsonNet Setup found the printer and showed connection type, MAC and IP addresses, and driver status. That went fine, and our test page looked great.
Epson Email Print and Google Cloud Print may appeal to a minority of users, but they’re included and they weren't that tough to configure. Epson provides a long and complicated email address for email-to-print that you can modify as long as it's unique in the @print.epsonconnect.com domain.
Ink on Paper, Copy, and Scan
Epson claims 20 pages per minute (YMMV) depending on print density, and we believe that. It takes 13 seconds to prime the inkjets when cold and print out the first page, but once warm pages nearly fly out in half that time. Even double-sided pages, with paper flipping, come out at a decent pace.
As stated before, the WF-M5694 print quality looks like a laser with the naked eye. With a heavy magnifying glass, dots can barely be seen on curved letters. Epson claims “Performance Beyond Laser” and that's only a little marketing-speak.
Copier? Place your pages face up in the Automatic Document Feeder and hit the key, and out they come. Plenty of options to expand, shrink, and arrange copied pages, like putting a legal-size image onto letter-size paper, and zooming options.
Epson's Document Capture Pro software has been around for a while, and works pretty well. The scan image quality is high, and you can send scans directly off to cloud sites like Evernote. If you start the software on your computer and go to a networked WF-M5694, you can choose to have the scanned images feed directly to your PC storage. No walking back and forth to scan, hit Enter on the PC, trudge back to scan the next job, etc.
If you need a monochrome workgroup all-in-one printer, don't just assume it has to be a laser. Check out the Epson WorkForce Pro M5694 and you might be surprised at how fast inkjets can produce high-quality documents.