Epson WorkForce Pro WF-C8690 A3 Color MFP With PCL/PostScript
The Epson WorkForce Pro WF-C8690 ($1499.99) is a high-volume wide-format all-in-one (AIO) designed for midrange to heavy use in medium- to large-size offices and workgroups. It’s fast, highly expandable, and supports super-high-capacity ink cartridges. Add to those perks its reasonable purchase price and competitive running costs, and it’s easy to crown it our Editors’ Choice for high-end wide-format printers.
Clear a Path, Make Room
The WF-C8690, which is the sibling to the single-function WorkForce Pro WF-C8190, supports not only the more common tabloid-size (11 by 17 inches) wide-format paper; it also prints larger super-tabloid-size (13-by-19-inch) pages. The larger the pages your machine can churn out, the bigger the machine itself must be, of course. The WF-C8690, for instance, measures 22.5 by 24.1 by 34.1 inches (HWD) with its trays extended and weighs a whopping 101 pounds, which is slightly smaller, yet more than 20 pounds heavier, than its predecessor, the WorkForce Pro WF-8590. Obviously, it will require its own dedicated sturdy stand or countertop and at least two people to wrestle it there.
Over the past few years we’ve reviewed several lower-volume, much lower-priced wide-format AIOs from Brother, Epson, and HP, but very few high-volume machines similar in specs and price to the WF-C8690, which means, of course, that there are very few machines in our database to compare it to. Epson’s own WorkForce ET-16500 EcoTank Wide-Format All-in-One Supertank Printer, one of that giant printer maker’s bulk-ink models that uses bottled ink rather than cartridges, by comparison, is several inches shorter and weighs 50 pounds less than the WF-C8690. It too supports the super-tabloid format, but its maximum monthly duty cycle is 55,000 pages less than that of this brawny big brother.
Out-of-the-box paper handling consists of one 250-sheet drawer that holds paper up to tabloid-size, and an 80-sheet multipurpose tray on the back that holds up to super-tabloid-size sheets. If that’s not enough paper (or input sources), you can expand it up to 1,830 sheets from four sources, with up to three 500-sheet add-on drawers ($425-list each). Epson also offers a combination cabinet/printer stand for $250. HP’s print-only tabloid-size PageWide Pro 750dw, on the other hand, has a default paper input capacity of 650 sheets, expandable to (with two 2,000-sheet trays) 4,650 sheets, and the Epson ET-16500 holds 502 sheets and is not expandable.
The 50-sheet automatic document feeder (ADF) supports single-pass auto-duplexing, meaning that it scans both sides of two-sided pages simultaneously, but the ET-16500’s 35-sheet ADF supports only manual duplexing. With its 75,000-page monthly duty cycle (5,000 pages monthly recommended), the WF-C8690’s volume rating is more than three times higher than the ET-16500’s and several other consumer-grade wide-format machines, and the same as the HP 750dw’s.
In addition to the standard Epson printer and scanner drivers, the WF-C8690, as its cumbersome full name implies, comes with additional drivers for both HP PCL (Printer Command Language) 5 and PCL 6, as well as Adobe PostScript 3. And the printer itself emulates both HP PCL and Adobe PostScript page description languages (PDLs), for compatibility with high-end printing presses and prepress imaging equipment used in desktop publishing and graphics design applications.
Most enterprises don’t require these PDLs for everyday printing and copying, but support for all three of them ensures the various talents throughout your organization access to the features that best meet their needs, though. With the PostScript drivers installed, for example, your document and graphics design departments can use the PostScript emulation to print composites for proofing—before sending final document files out to the print shop for high-volume print runs.
You can configure and monitor the AIO, as well as set up and initiate walk-up tasks, such as making copies or scanning to a network drive or cloud site, from the WF-C8690’s spacious and well-laid out control panel. The panel consists of a handful of buttons, status LEDs, and a number pad, all anchored by a 5-inch color touch screen.
In addition to the control panel, you can also monitor, configure, and essentially manage all settings and controls from a built-in secure (HTTPS) web server that resides in the WF-8690’s memory. Like most business printers and AIOs, you connect to this one locally or over the internet with your browser via an IP address. In fact, some aspects of monitoring and configuration, such as viewing reports, managing contacts, and setting security options, are easier from the web portal than the control panel.
Connecting and Securing the WF-C8690
Like its predecessor, the WF-8590, the WF-C8690 supports just about every connection interface or protocol available (except Bluetooth), starting with the basics, Wi-Fi, Ethernet (up to 1,000 Base-T), and connecting directly to a PC via USB 3.0, as well as the two popular peer-to-peer network protocols: Wi-Fi Direct and near-field communication (NFC). Those last two enable your team to connect their smartphones or tablets to the printer without either it or the mobile devices being part of your local area network or being connected to an intermediary router. NFC is a touch-to-connect protocol that lets you print from or scan to your mobile device by simply touching it to a hotspot on the printer, in this case, to the left of the touch screen, below the power button.
Additional connectivity options for printing emails and attachments, printing remotely, and support for Apple iOS and Android mobile platforms, as well as printing from and scanning to various cloud sites, are available through a set of mobile apps (which include Epson Email Print, Epson iPrint Mobile App, and Epson Remote Print) called Epson Connect. Third-party mobile printing and scanning is available through Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, and Amazon’s Fire OS. And, if none of these will get the job done you can always rough it by printing from or scanning to a USB thumb drive via the port located on the left-front of the chassis.
High-volume AIOs like this one are designed to be accessed by multiple users, which, in busy office environments, could be up to 25 (or perhaps even more) individuals printing, scanning, copying, and faxing documents of varying levels of importance and sensitivity—all on your centralized, readily accessible printer. The WF-C8690 lets you secure documents with personal identification numbers (PINs). Often called Secure Print, most competing multiuser AIOs come with this security feature.
The User Access Control lockout feature lets you deny access to users and/or groups to specific features, such as printing color documents or making multiple copies, or even accessing the printer at all. When used in conjunction with the comprehensive reports available through the web portal (or printable from the control panel), the ability to secure print jobs behind PINs and limit access will help you keep the WF-C8690 secure.
Where Fast Begins
As I said about the WF-C8690’s print-only sibling, the WF-C8190, Epson’s 24 pages-per-minute (ppm) rating is, for high-volume machines like this, the speed at which fast printing begins. The HP PageWide 750dw, for instance, is rated at 35ppm, and I’ve seen much higher-end Epson inkjet printers churn out two-sided pages at 100ipm (images per minute, where both page side counts as an image). Keep in mind, too, that the following test results are comprised from printing letter-size pages. Tabloid pages (which are precisely twice the size area-wise as letter-size media) with roughly an equal percentage of ink coverage, should take about twice as long to print, and super-tabloid pages a bit longer still.
I tested the WF-C8690 over Ethernet from our standard Intel Core i5 testbed PC running Windows 10 Professional. When printing my 12-page Microsoft Word monochrome text document, I timed it at an impressive 28.3ppm, which is faster than its 24ppm rating and almost 2ppm faster than the WF-C8190 print-only model, but 7.2ppm slower than the HP 750dw. (The Epson ET-16500 was so far behind on this test that making a comparison here wouldn’t provide any value.)
To continue testing, I printed several PDFs, Microsoft Excel spreadsheets with full-page graphics, and a few full-page colorful PowerPoint handouts with dark solid fills and backgrounds. Then, I combined the scores from printing the previous 12-page text document with the results from printing these more complex color document pages. Here, the WF-C8690 managed a highly respectable 18.8ppm, which is historically among the highest scores I’ve seen from a machine churning our entire suite of test documents.
PrecisionCore Print Quality
All of today’s WorkForce printers and AIOs deploy Epson’s PrecisionCore printhead technology. Among the several print speed and output quality tweaks, PrecisionCore relies on printheads with ink chips populated with significantly more and smaller, tightly condensed ink nozzles that apply ink to paper with greater accuracy than traditional printheads. According to Epson (and my own experience reviewing PrecisionCore printers over the years), this results in greater detail and more accurate, vibrant colors.
The WF-C8690 renders near-laser-quality, well-shaped, and highly legible text more than attractive enough for most internal and external documents. And the several charts, graphs, and other graphics I printed were mostly spot on, with solid fills, evenly flowing gradients, and well-delineated borders and hairlines. The few ink distribution flaws I found were noticeable only when I started searching for them. Except for desktop publishers, graphics designers, or printer reviewers, the recipients of your printer’s output will most likely care more about the content than the intricacies of the machine that produced it.
PrecisionCore machines, while not photo printers, do a great job of printing color-rich and detailed photos, in this case up to 13 by 19 inches. However, unlike its WF-8590 predecessor, the WF-C8690 can’t print borderless photos and pages, though most of Epson’s lower-end inkjets can. The previous model’s ability to print, or bleed, to the very edge of the paper, is an advantage over its laser and HP PageWide competitors. However, the inability to print borderless is a limitation of laser and PageWide technologies—they just can’t do it. Inkjet printers, on the other hand, don’t have that limitation. Epson must have had some other reason for restricting the WF-C8690’s output this way.
Relatively Inexpensive Ink
The WF-C8690’s running costs, its per-page cost of the ink required to keep it printing and copying, is comparable with the per-page cost of midrange to high-volume laser printers, which is relatively reasonable, but not the best you can do nowadays. When you use Epson’s highest yield—11,500 monochrome pages and 8,000 color prints—ink cartridges for this AIO, depending on where you buy your consumables, each black page should run you about 1.6 cents and each color page about 6.7 cents. That’s slightly higher than the HP 750dw’s 1.1 cent monochrome and 5.6 cents color, which can add up significantly the more you print and copy.
However, some of the wide-format, lower-volume models discussed here have printing costs twice as high and higher. If you need a high-volume printer that can churn out wide-format pages, especially super-tabloid, comparably, the WF-C8690’s running costs aren’t bad.
Features Meet Performance
My only real complaint about the WF-C8690 is that its default complement of paper capacity is a mere 330 sheets, which, given the size of its ink cartridges and its volume ratings, seems like a lopsided mismatch designed to sell add-on paper trays. I’m also not happy about the missing borderless-printing ability. Otherwise, like its predecessor, this is an impressive, feature-rich and built-to-perform wide-format laser alternative. The WF-C8690 prints well and fast enough for most environments, and it’s feature-rich. Its support for a wide range of media allows your organization to design and print several different types of documents. The Epson WorkForce Pro WF-C8190 is a logical replacement for its predecessor as our current top pick for high-end wide-format printers.