Epson WorkForce Pro WF-C5290DW review: A green giant

Great value for small workgroups, with plenty of connection choices and very low energy consumption

IT Pro Recommended
£175 exc VAT
  • Cheap running costs
  • Great connectivity
  • Good value
  • High-quality output
  • Lower print speeds than claimed

If you’re looking to minimise your environmental impact, an inkjet is the way to go – and you won’t do much better than Epson’s WorkForce Pro WF-C5290DW. Throughout our tests, this small workgroup printer never consumed more than 27W, which is around 2% of the peak draw of an equivalent business laser.

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It’s cheap to run, too. With XXL black and XL colour ink cartridges, typical mono and colour pages work out to just 1.2p and 5p respectively. Be warned, though, that the printer is supplied with small starter ink bags; Epson doesn’t quote a page life, but our testing suggests that they’re only good for around 500 pages.

Despite all of this, there’s very little in the way of technical trade-off. The WF-C5290DW comes with Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n wireless and USB 2, along with AirPrint, Wi-Fi Direct and an integrated NFC sensor: for £175, it’s a remarkable specification.

Initial installation takes a while, as once you’ve loaded the four ink bags in the lower tray, the printer has to spend around ten minutes priming its reservoirs. Things get slicker from here on, though, as Epson’s installer software discovers the printer, loads the drivers and automatically updates the printer’s firmware.

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The installer also gives you a network status monitor and an E-Web browser plugin for printing web pages. Remote printing by email has to be set up separately, but this doesn’t take long: a wizard registered the printer with our Epson Connect cloud account and instantly assigned it a customisable email address. 

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For an even more seamless experience, you can install Epson’s free remote print driver, which appears as a regular printer in the Windows print dialog. Behind the scenes, it links up with the printer via your Connect account, allowing you to dispatch print jobs over the internet from anywhere in the world. Remote access can be secured with a global key, although if you have already installed the driver in unrestricted mode, you’ll need to run the routine again after enabling this feature.

There are plenty of additional access security features, too: we were able to browse usage logs from the Connect web portal, choose who was allowed to print email attachments and optionally block photo printing altogether. You can also configure up to ten users and decide whether or not they’re allowed to print from a PC and use colour. And for sensitive prints, the driver offers a walk-up-and-print option, which requires a four-digit PIN to be entered at the printer’s control pad to release protected print jobs. 

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Although the WF-C5290DW claims a maximum print speed of 34ppm, this isn’t achievable in the real world. The quoted ISO rating of 24ppm is a lot more realistic: our 34-page Word document emerged at 23.5ppm at Standard quality, which tumbled to 6.2ppm when we switched to High quality. Our 24-page colour DTP document was slower still, with Standard and High modes averaging 20.5ppm and 6ppm. 

For a sub-£200 inkjet, output quality is really very good. Both driver modes produced sharp text with almost imperceptible dusting on cheap 75gsm paper, and colour reproduction was impressive, too: our test charts revealed super-smooth transitions across complex colour fades, while grey shades using equal mixes of C, Y and M ink were perfectly reproduced. Photos printed on heavier 100gsm paper showed plenty of detail, with no banding at all, and moving up to 160gsm semi-gloss paper yielded excellent results with not a hint of edge bleeding.

All of this makes the WorkForce Pro WF-C5290DW a superb choice for small workgroups with a keen eye on the environment. The starter ink bags aren’t very generous, but Epson makes up for that with a low purchase price and running costs that no laser can match.

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