Epson WorkForce Pro WF-4820 Wireless All-in-One Printer Review
Part of Epson’s 2020 refresh of its WorkForce Pro line of multifunction (print, copy, scan, and fax) printers, the WorkForce Pro WF-4820 All-in-One Printer ($179.99), is an entry-level to midrange machine designed for use in small offices and home offices. A replacement of 2017’s WF-4720 (an Editors’ Choice recipient), the WF-4820 comes with some notable updates, including a larger touch control panel, faster print speeds, and a higher monthly volume rating. However, it faces a crowded field of capable competitors — including its nearest sibling, the WF-4830, which boasts double the paper capacity from two input sources and a bigger, auto-duplexing automatic document feeder (ADF). These valuable time-saving features come at an unbelievable $20 over the WF-4820’s list price. There’s nothing wrong with the WF-4820, but anything it can do, the WF-4830 can do better.
Small and Sturdy
The WF-4820 is one of five WorkForce Pro AIOs Epson updated in 2020. In the WorkForce Pro pecking order, it is second from the bottom, a step above the slightly smaller and lighter WF-3820. The WF-4820 is 5 pages per minute (ppm) faster than the WF-3820, and its monthly volume rating is notably higher. Then comes the WF-4830, followed by the wide-format WF-7820 and WF-7840.
Measuring 10.9 by 16.7 by 19.8 inches (HWD) and weighing 22.5 pounds, the WF-4820 is about an inch taller and 2.4 pounds heavier than its WF-4720 predecessor, and a couple inches shorter and around 4 pounds lighter than its WF-4830 sibling, whose extra height and girth come from a second paper cassette and a slightly bigger ADF with a duplexing mechanism.
The many competitors for the WF-4820 include HP’s OfficeJet Pro 9015 (an Editors’ Choice winner) and OfficeJet Pro Premier, Canon’s Pixma G4210 (a bulk-ink MegaTank machine) and Pixma TR8620, Brother’s MFC-J5845DW, and the Editors’ Choice–winning Epson WF-C5790 (also a bulk-ink AIO). Some of these are larger and more expensive to buy, but comparability is about determining which machines provide similar solutions while maintaining the best overall value. A $400 bulk-ink printer, for example, often delivers better value in the long run than does a $150 machine that uses more traditional ink cartridges.
Most of these require similar desk space and weigh about the same as the WF-4820. Providing greater capacity and volume and at a higher purchase price, the Brother MFC-J5845DW and the Epson WF-C5790 are significantly bigger and heftier: 38.6 and 41.2 pounds, respectively.
The WF-4820’s built-in scanner is fed by a 35-page manual-duplex ADF. If you’re scanning a stack of two-sided pages, you’ll need to wait for one side to be scanned and then flip the stack over so the machine can read the other side. The WF-4830, on the other hand, comes with a 50-sheet auto-duplexing ADF that scans both sides of two-sided pages by itself while you’re off fetching coffee.
Of the other printers mentioned here, the two OfficeJet Pro AIOs come with auto-duplexing 35-sheet document feeders, and Epson’s WF-C5790 comes with a 50-page single-pass auto-duplexing ADF, meaning that it has two sensors, one for each side of the page, allowing it to scan both sides simultaneously. The rest are manual-duplexing.
Paper handling on the WF-4820 consists of one 250-sheet cassette that you can configure to hold up to 50 sheets of premium photo paper or 10 #10 envelopes. The WF-4830 has a significant advantage here with two 250-sheet cassettes that you can load up with your everyday paper or use for additional types of media, such as company letterhead or photo paper. This increased capacity and flexibility can greatly extend the amount of time between trips to refill or change the paper.
Most of the competing machines have only one paper drawer, but the Epson WF-C5790 and Brother MFC-J5845DW have 250-sheet paper cassettes plus 80- and 100-sheet multipurpose trays, respectively, for printing envelopes, labels, or photos without having to open or reconfigure the main paper drawer and interrupt everybody else’s workflow. Canon’s TR8620 also has two paper sources: a 100-sheet cassette up front and a 100-sheet tray that pulls out from the back of the chassis. The G4210’s sole paper drawer holds only a meager 100 sheets of paper. The two HP OfficeJets have single 250-sheet cassettes.
For both the WF-4820 and the WF-4830, the maximum monthly duty cycle is 33,000 pages with a 1,600-page recommended monthly page volume. The two OfficeJets come with maximum duty cycles and recommended page volumes of 25,000 and 1,500 prints. Epson’s WF-C5790’s duty cycle is 45,000 pages per month and its recommended volume is 2,500 prints, notably more than the WF-4820. The MFC-J5845DW’s ratings are comparable to the WF-4820’s. Canon no longer publishes these ratings for consumer-grade machines.
Connections for Absolutely Everything
You can configure the printer, make copies, scan to or print from a cloud site, send faxes, monitor ink levels, and more from the WF-4820’s control panel, which has a 4.3-inch color touch screen and Power, Home, and Help buttons.
The WF-4820’s 4.3-inch display, which is nearly twice the size of the WF-4720’s 2.7-inch screen, is spacious and easy to get around on. Functions and configuration options are laid out logically and simple to find, which is not always the case. You can also configure the printer, set security parameters, generate usage reports, and a lot more from the AIO’s built-in web portal, which works well on mobile devices.
For connecting to the WF-4820, you have Ethernet and Wi-Fi for networking, USB 2.0 for connecting directly to a computer, and Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth LE for direct connections to mobile devices. If you’re upgrading from the WF-4720, you may be used to a near-field communication (NFC) button that allowed you to connect your phone or tablet to the printer by touching it to an NFC hotspot on the control panel. NFC was a hot feature for a hot minute but didn’t really catch on; the WF-4820 no longer has this function. However, it has plenty of other ways to talk to your handheld.
The printer comes with an extensive suite of software, including Apple AirPrint, Android Print app, Mopria Print Service, and the Epson Connect collection. Epson Email Print, Epson Remote Print, and Scan to Cloud run on your computer; the Epson iPrint, Epson Creative Print, and Epson Smart Panel apps are available for both iOS and Android. You can also print from and scan to USB thumb drives via the port located in a small, covered compartment to the left of the output tray.
In addition to the WF-4820 print and scan drivers, the WorkForce Pro software bundle includes TWAIN drivers for scanning directly into apps that support it. You also get Epson’s two excellent scanner interfaces, Epson Scan 2 and ScanSmart, as well as Epson Fax Utility. Our review of the WF-4830 goes into more detail about all these options, including their OCR software and plug-ins for specialized scanning.
Good Speed for Its Class
Epson rates the WF-4820 at 25 monochrome pages and 12 color pages per minute (ppm), which is fast enough for an AIO in this class. I tested it over Ethernet from our standard Intel Core i5-equipped PC running Windows 10 Professional. For my first test, I printed our standard 12-page Microsoft Word text document several times, timing each session and averaging the results, and came up with a score of 26.4ppm, or just over its 25ppm rating. Once again, the WF-4830 surpasses the WF-4820 with a monochrome print speed of 27.5ppm.
Canon’s slow TR8620 (13.8ppm) and slower G4210 (8.3ppm) aren’t even in the same class. Epson’s WF-C5790, on the other hand, achieves a comparable 24.4ppm. HP’s two OfficeJets, the Premier and the 9015, manage 17.4ppm and 22ppm, respectively, and Brother’s MFC-J5845DW scored 20.6ppm.
For the second leg of my testing, I timed the WF-4820 as it printed several vibrant and content-heavy Adobe Acrobat business documents and Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint spreadsheets and handouts containing charts, graphs, and other business graphics. Then I combined those scores with those from printing the 12-page text document above and came up with a score of 11.6ppm for printing our entire suite of test documents. This is just edged out by the WF-4830’s 12ppm.
That score ties the OfficeJet Pro Premier’s, and it beats the G4210 and TR8620 by about 7ppm. The OfficeJet Pro 9015, however, outpaces our WorkForce Pro test unit, achieving 15.5ppm, and Brother’s MFC-J5845DW manages 12.6ppm. Epson’s WF-C5790, the fastest of this bunch, scored 17.7ppm.
To finish up, I tested the WF-4820’s photo rendering prowess by printing our two highly detailed and colorful 6-by-4-inch test snapshots. It printed each one at an average of 12 seconds, about average for this class of printer and 1 second faster than the WF-4830. Only the Brother MFC-J5845DW is faster, turning out a photo in just 10 seconds.
The Ever-Dependable PrecisionCore Printhead
The PrecisionCore Heat-Free Technology printheads that Epson uses in its WorkForce and WorkForce Pro printers consistently produce quality output that you and your business can depend on. PrecisionCore printheads contain more and smaller ink nozzles than most other inkjet printers, resulting in crisper, near-laser quality text. And PrecisionCore’s tighter dot patterns produce more detailed business graphics and photos.
The WF-4820 continues the tradition of producing well-shaped, highly legible text, even when rendering text tiny enough to require magnification to read. This little WorkForce Pro can also churn out borderless documents and photos up to 8.5 by 11 inches. (Borderless output or “bleed,” when applied properly, gives your marketing material and photographs — especially photographs — a finished effect suggesting professionally designed documents.) Its accurately and brilliantly colored business graphics and top-notch photos are better than acceptable for embedding in business documents.
Falling Behind on Cost-Consciousness
Ever since Epson released the first WorkForce printer back in 2008, I’ve complained about the running costs of this business-oriented brand. Here we are 12 years later, with all sorts of new technologies and marketing strategies designed to reduce the per-page cost of ink, and the WorkForce and WorkForce Pro lines still use standard ink cartridges that make it too expensive to print more than a few hundred pages a month.
If you buy Epson’s highest-yield cartridges for this machine, your running cost will come out to about 3.6 cents per monochrome page and 11.7 cents for color prints. To be fair to Epson, it did release its EcoTank Pro brand of robust business-ready AIOs with respectable volume, capacity, and feature sets earlier in 2020. But there’s no Epson bulk-ink solution for smaller offices with a monthly volume under 500 pages.
Were you to push this AIO to its 1,600-page recommended volume each month, it would cost you considerably more than most of the other AIOs discussed here. Canon’s G4210 and all other MegaTank and standard EcoTank models print monochrome pages for 0.3 cent and color pages for 0.9 cent — several times less than the WF-4820. If you print several hundred or thousands of pages each month, that per-page cost difference adds up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the life of the machine.
HP’s 9015 and Premier AIOs are also cartridge-based, and you could spend a fortune on ink to keep them in service. But they work with HP’s Instant Ink program, meaning that you can sign up for a monthly subscription where the printer monitors ink levels and orders replacement cartridges from HP before you run out. With this solution, if you opt for the highest-yield tier (700 pages for $19.99 per month, plus $1 for each additional 20 pages), each page — even letter-size borderless photos — will cost you 2.9 cents. The $400 price tag of the OfficeJet Pro Premier includes a free two-year subscription to the lowest-yield tier of 300 pages each month for 24 months.
As one of Brother’s INKvestment Tank AIOs (also a cartridge-based machine, but with more capacity), the MFC-J5845DW prints black pages for 0.9 cent each and color pages for 4.7 cents.
Canon’s cartridge-based TR8620’s running costs are double the WF-4820’s for monochrome and slightly higher for color. When you buy the highest-yield ink bags (10,000 pages monochrome and 5,000 pages color) for the Epson bulk-ink WF-C5790, the black per-page cost is 1.7 cents, and each color page costs 7.7 cents.
Small offices with small budgets tend not to look past the initial price tag of a printer when making purchasing decisions. But with such a robust field of options, and so many opportunities to reduce per-page cost, you should definitely calculate your expected printing volume and ink purchases out to at least five years to understand what a printer will really cost you.
A Nice Printer Without a Niche
Cartridge-based printers still have a place in the small-business printer market, and the WF-4820 is perfectly capable of producing a moderate volume of business prints and copies, but giving up the WF-4830’s larger, auto-duplexing ADF and a second 250-sheet paper cassette to save $20 isn’t good business sense. If you’ve run the numbers and settled on an Epson AIO, we recommend that you dig in your pockets for some spare change and get the more capable, convenient, and time-saving machine.