Epson WorkForce Pro WF-M5694

Monochrome inkjet all-in-one printers are a rare breed, and the Epson WorkForce Pro WF-M5694 ($399.99), geared to small workgroups, is a welcome addition to this exclusive club. Employing Epson’s PrecisionCore print-head technology, designed to improve both speed and output quality, the WF-M5694 is built to go head-to-head with laser printers. Although it doesn’t quite live up to the Editors’ Choice HP LaserJet Pro MFP M426fdw, it delivers most of that printer’s speed, and even a slightly lower running cost, and is a good choice for a workgroup, or a small or micro office.

Design and Features
The WF-M5694 is an off-white machine, measuring 13.5 by 18.1 by 16.6 inches (HWD) when closed for storage, and it weighs 31 pounds. You will probably want to set it on a table of its own. Atop the printer is a legal-size flatbed, plus an automatic document feeder (ADF) that can hold up to 50 sheets. The ADF can scan two-sided documents by scanning one side, flipping the document over, and then scanning the other. Many of today’s all-in-one printers, including the HP M426fdw, can scan both sides of a two-sided document in a single pass, considerably reducing scan times.

Below the flatbed is the front panel, which is set at an angle for easy viewing. It includes 4.3-inch color touch screen from which you can easily access menus to control MFP functions, an alphanumeric keypad, and buttons to launch scans or cancel or pause a job. Below the panel is a USB thumb drive, from which you can print files, and you can scan documents to it.

The WF-M5694 is capable of medium-duty printing, with a 55,000-page maximum monthly duty cycle and a recommended monthly print volume of up to 2,500 pages. It has an auto-duplexer for two-sided printing. Its 330-sheet standard paper capacity is split between a 250-sheet main tray and an 80-sheet bypass feeder. You can add a second 250-sheet tray for a maximum capacity of 580 sheets. The HP M426fdw also has a 250-sheet main tray and a slightly larger 100-sheet multipurpose tray, but takes an optional 550-sheet tray for a maximum paper capacity of 900 sheets. It’s also built for somewhat heavier-duty printing, with a maximum monthly duty cycle of 80,000 pages.

Epson WorkForce Pro WF-M5694 Multifunction Monochrome Printer

The WF-M5694 offers a good set of connection choices, both wired and wireless. It can connect to a computer via USB 2.0, or to a LAN via Ethernet or 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. It also supports Wi-Fi Direct, which lets you make a direct peer-to-peer connection to a computer or mobile device. It lacks the near field communication (NFC) connectivity found in the HP M426fdw. The WF-M5694 supports printing from the Epson iPrint app (for iOS or Android), Google Cloud Print, Epson Creative Print, Epson Scan to Cloud, Epson Email Print, and Epson Remote Print.

The WF-M5694 comes with a good selection of printer drivers, including a universal driver plus PCL and PostScript drivers. (Graphic artists and others who rely on Adobe programs such as Illustrator generally get better output quality with a printer that includes a PostScript driver.) I tested the WF-M5694 over an Ethernet connection, with its drivers installed on a computer running Windows 10 Professional.

Printing Speed
I timed the WF-M5694 at 17.7 pages per minute (ppm), in printing the text-only (Word) portion of our new business applications suite, within range of Epson’s 20ppm rated speed. Its first-page-out time averaged 9 seconds. In printing our full business suite, which includes PDF, PowerPoint, and Excel files in addition to the aforementioned Word document, the WF-2760 averaged 13.5ppm.

We haven’t tested any other mono inkjet all-in-one printers with our new suite, and thus can’t directly compare the WF-M5694’s speed with that of the HP M426fdw, but based their timings on similar test documents in each suite, the WF-M5694 turned in a very respectable speed, seemingly slower than the M426fdw but not by as much as you’d expect considering the latter’s 40ppm speed rating.

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Output Quality
Overall output quality for the WF-6530 was a touch below par for an inkjet multifunction printer, with average photos, and slightly subpar text and graphics. Text should be fine for any business use, except those requiring very small fonts. I noticed more degradation and broken type than usual at very small type sizes (4 and 5 points) with several of our test fonts. With graphics, thin lines were frequently lost, and the printer did poorly with gradients and differentiating between areas of similar tone. With photos, the prints tended to look okay at a distance, but considerable graininess was apparent when I viewed them from a foot or so away.

Running Costs
Based on Epson’s prices and yields for its highest-yield ink cartridges, the WF-M5694’s running costs are 1.6 cents per page, a bit lower than the HP M426fdw’s 2.2 cents per page.

Once, laser printers were lasers and inkjets were inkjets, with dramatic differences between them. Today, there is much more parity, in speed, price, running costs, and even paper handling. The Epson WorkForce Pro WF-M5694 is a true laser-class inkjet, and even undercut the HP M426fdw, our Editors’ Choice micro-office mono laser, in cost per page. The WF-M5694’s feature set is somewhat lesser compared with that of the HP M426fdw, and fell short of that model’s graphics quality in our testing, but is still well worth considering, especially if you’re an inkjet fan. This one really can compete with lasers.