Epson's WorkForce Pro WF-M5694 Multifunction Monochrome Printer

A rare black-and-white inkjet MFP office printer

Epson WorkForce Pro Multifunction Monochrome Printer
Epson WorkForce Pro Multifunction Monochrome Printer - an inkjet. Photo courtesy of Epson

Pros:

  • Prints very well
  • Strong performance
  • Huge 10,000-page ink tanks
  • Auto-duplexing automatic document feeder
  • Emulates PCL and PostScript page description languages (PDLs, printer languages)
  • Only available black-and-white inkjet MFP
  • Capacity expansion options
  • PrecisionCore printhead

Cons:

  • Somewhat high cost per page
  • Purchase price a bit high for what you get

Bottom Line: This black-and-white multifunction inkjet printer nips at the heels of its laser counterparts, with good-looking monochrome prints and a fairly competitive cost per page, but perhaps not quite competitive enough.

Buy the Epson WorkForce WF-M5694 at Amazon

Introduction

In the not-something-you-see-everyday column, today we’re looking at a rare duck, indeed, a black-and-white multifunction inkjet printer, Epson’s ($399.99-MSRP) WorkForce WF-M5694 Multifunction Monochrome Printer. Yes, there are many (perhaps hundreds) of black-and-white printers in the world, but all but the tiniest fraction of them are laser printers. There are so many monochrome lasers, in fact, that it’s surprising that one of the major inkjet printer makers hasn’t come out with an inkjet challenger such as this one sooner.

Overall, this is a fine printer with decent print speeds and good print quality. My only complaint about it is a slightly high (compared to other inkjets in this price range, anyway) per-page cost of operation. And yes, I did say slightly. You get plenty of features, as well as ink tanks that will most likely last you several months.

Design and Features

The WF-M5694 looks like any one of the white WorkForce models in the 5000 and 6000 series, including the WorkForce Pro WF-6590 Network Multifunction Printer reviewed here a while back. With the input and output trays extended, the WF-M5694 measures 18.1 inches across, by 25.8 inches from front to back, by 15.1 inches high, and it weighs 31 pounds—making it comparable in size and weight to several of its monochrome laser competitors, as well as several color inkjets by Epson and others.

 

The WF-M5694 is loaded with convenience and productivity features, starting with a 35-sheet auto-duplexing automatic document feeder, or ADF for scanning, copying, and faxing two-sided multipage originals without your having to flip the originals manually. In fact, with this MFP’s auto-duplexing print engine for printing both sides automatically and this ADF, you can copy up to 35 2-sided documents, for a total of 70 sides without you or a team member having to intervene at all. You handle this and other functions, such as walk up (PC-free) copying, scanning, or faxing, as well as configuration, from a 4.3-inch color touch screen, which is surrounded by a 10-key number pad, buttons, and status LEDs.

You can connect without being part of a network with Wi-Fi Direct, but Near-Field Communication, or NFC, another popular peer-to-peer protocol for printing directly, is not available. In addition, several cloud sites and other mobile connectivity options are supported. Security features include PINs for securing data until the PIN is typed into the control panel, as well as a Web portal for configuring not only individual print jobs but the machine itself.

Finally, there’s this MFPs support for (or emulation of) HP’s PCL and Adobe’s PostScript, making the WF-M5694 compatible with high-end typesetting and printing equipment.

While you can’t proof colors, you can proof text and layout, which, depending on the task at hand, is often enough.

Performance, Print Quality, and Paper Handling

Epson rates the WF-M5694 at 20 page per minute, or ppm, which is relatively fast, but only half (or less) as much as some monochrome laser printers. Brother’s single-function HL-L6200DW Business Laser Printer, for example, gets about 48 pages per minute, or ppm. During my tests, when I printed text files, the MF-M5694 churned them out at a rate just under 20ppm. As the documents grew more complex, though, with highly formatted paragraphs, colored text, graphics, and images, the ppm rate dropped to just under 14ppm, which is still quite good for this group of benchmark tests.

Print quality really is one of this printer’s strong points. Text was very near typesetter-quality down to the smallest of point sizes, and the fills and gradients and business graphics were smooth and mostly unblemished. The same can be said about photos. In fact, this inkjet prints some of the best grayscale images I’ve seen, outside of a near-dedicated photo printer, such as the imagePROGRAF Pro-1000 (and, perhaps, six-ink consumer-grade photo printers, like the Pixma MG7720).

WorkForce models utilize Epson’s PrecisionCore printhead technology in all of this family of printers, which in the WorkForce Pro models not only deliver great print speeds but also exceptional print quality. This is the first WorkForce model I’ve seen with a 4S PrecisionCore printhead, which is twice as big as the 2S printheads found in all other WorkForce Pro models. You’d think that a 4S printhead would print twice as fast as a 2S one, but that, as shown in the numbers above, that’s not the case at all.

In any case, this is some of the best black-and-white output we’ve seen from a monochrome device. As for paper handling, it comes out of the box with a 250-sheet main drawer and a rear 80-sheet multipurpose tray for printing envelopes and other off-size jobs, for a total of 330 sheets. You can add another 250-sheet drawer for about $100, for a total of 580 sheets from three sources. During my tests, everything worked as expected, including the duplexing ADF and print engine.

Cost Per Page

Compared to most monochrome laser printers and some inkjets, the WF-M5694’s cost per page isn’t bad, but it’s a bit on the high side for a high-volume printer. Epson offers only one size of ink cartridge for this printer, a 10,000-page black ink tank that sells on Epson.com for $164.99. Using these numbers, the CPP comes out to about 1.6 cents per page. Again, not bad but not the best you can do economically.

But then there are several other reasons to choose an inkjet over a laser printer, including a huge difference in power usage, as well as better-looking black-and-white graphics and images. This CPP isn’t necessarily outrageous, but the problem is that there are so many color inkjet all-in-ones out there that print black-and-white pages for less. Nowadays, high-volume printers that churn out thousands of pages each month really should do so for under 1 cent, to make the most sense economically.

Whether 1.6 cents works for you is up to you, of course, and this printer’s superior grayscale images is important for some, not so much for others; it’s all relative. Keep in mind that every 5,000 prints for which you pay an additional half-a-cent, will cost you $50; Five-thousand pages per month will cost you $600 per year. The more you print (and the higher the CPP), the more you pay.

The End

There are many things to like about this printer, including a decent print speed and good overall print quality. It’s loaded with features, and it performs all of its all-in-one features quite well. Four-hundred dollars may be a stretch, though, and a lower cost per page would surely make it a much better value, and therefore more attractive overall. Even so, aside from these slightly high economic concerns, I found very little to dislike about the Epson WorkForce WF-M5694 Multifunction Monochrome Printer.

Buy the Epson WorkForce WF-M5694 at Amazon