AT THE END OF THE DAY
The Epson WorkForce ST-C4100 Supertank Color MFP, a four-function model similar to the EcoTank ET-4850, is a home-office or personal AIO deal if you print a lot of pages.
- Operating costs are low.
- Mobile device printing and scanning
- The initial cost is quite high.
- Automatic document feeder (non-duplexing) (ADF)
- At small font sizes, text quality suffers
EPSON WORKFORCE ST-C4100 SUPERTANK COLOR MFP SPECS
|Color or Monochrome||Color|
|Connection Type||Ethernet, USB, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct|
|Maximum Standard Paper Size||Legal|
|Number of Ink Colors||4|
|Number of Ink Cartridges/Tanks||4|
|Direct Printing From Media Cards||No|
|Direct Printing From USB Thumb Drives||No|
|Rated Speed at Default Settings (Color)||8.5ppm|
|Rated Speed at Default Settings (Mono)||15.5 ppm|
|Monthly Duty Cycle (Recommended)||800|
|Monthly Duty Cycle (Maximum)||5000 pages per month|
|LCD Preview Screen||No|
|Printer Input Capacity||250|
|Cost Per Page (Monochrome)||0.3 cents|
|Cost Per Page (Color)||0.9 cents|
|Automatic Document Feeder||Yes|
|Scanner Type||Flatbed with ADF (Standard or Optional)|
|Maximum Scan Area||8.5″ x 14″|
|Scanner Optical Resolution||1,200 by 2,400 pixels per inch|
|Standalone Copier and Fax||Copier, Fax|
The Epson WorkForce ST-C4100 Supertank Color MFP ($499) is an inkjet all-in-one (AIO) printer that is essentially identical to the EcoTank ET-4850, Epson’s top-of-the-line letter- and legal-size AIO in the bulk-ink consumer lineup, except that it is found in the “For Work” section of Epson’s website rather than the “For Home” section. Cosmetic issues, marketing, and extended warranty choices, and how much ink comes in the box are all small changes between the two, and the WorkForce’s advertised price is 99 cents less than the EcoTank’s. With so little to distinguish them, the ST-C4100 shares the Editors’ Choice award for a heavy-duty small-office/home office AIO that we granted the ET-4850.
What Are the Similarities and Dissimilarities?
The WorkForce ST-C4100 prints scans to a PC, acts as a standalone copier and fax machine, scans to internet services, and is physically and functionally identical to the EcoTank ET-4850. It also has the same paper handling as the previous model, with a 250-sheet drawer and automatic duplex (double-sided) printing, as well as a letter-size flatbed and 30-page automated document feeder (ADF) for scanning. The ADF, on the other hand, is unable to scan two-sided originals and reorder the pages.
The ST-C4100 is identical to the consumer AIO except for the lack of an EcoTank logo and the fact that it is only available in white (the ET-4850 is available in white or black). It offers the same desk-friendly dimensions (10 by 16.4 by 19.8 inches with paper trays extended) and the same USB, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi Direct connection options.
Only three additional differences between the two printers, according to Epson, are their marketing, warranties, and the amount of ink they come with. Officially, the EcoTank is offered to consumers, while the WorkForce is sold to businesses. In practice, however, you can find both online, with some trustworthy merchants offering discounts of up to $100 on the WorkForce model as of this writing.
Standard warranties are likewise identical, while extended warranty options are not. Both have a two-year warranty, though Epson says the ET-4850 must be registered to acquire the second year. The EcoTank’s only option for extended service is a one-year plan, but the WorkForce ST-C4100 offers a variety of plans that allow you to extend the warranty for up to five years and add a next-business-day replacement. You can certainly receive longer extended coverage if you buy the ET-4850 from a dealer, but not always the next-day replacement.
The third distinction is a little hazier: both printers’ websites claim that the package contains up to two years’ worth of ink (with a footnote saying that that that calculation is based on 200 pages printed per month). However, the ST-C4100 comes with two sets of ink bottles, whereas the ET-4850 only comes with one—a WorkForce bonus worth nearly $60 that should allow you to print twice as many pages before needing to buy new ink. Epson hasn’t validated this online small print as of this writing, but I can confirm that the ST-C4100 provided for evaluation came with two sets of ink bottles in the package, compared to the ET-4850’s one.
The WorkForce ST-C4100 was put to the test, and the results were identical in terms of performance and output quality.
Both Epsons print monochrome pages at 15.5 pages per minute (ppm) and color pages at 8.5 pages per minute (ppm), and they produced identical results with every document in our test suite.
I timed the ST-C4100 at 16.8ppm for black-and-white text using our regular testbed PC and an Ethernet connection using our 12-page Microsoft Word file (including the time to print the first page). It scored 7.5ppm on our overall business applications suite, which includes the text document as well as colored PDF, PowerPoint, and Excel files. On Epson’s Presentation Matte paper, the WorkForce took an average of 1 minute and 25 seconds to print 4-by-6-inch photographs.
The difference in stopwatch time between the two printers was one second, well within the error margin. Both are tied for first place in text printing with the Brother MFC-J4335DW, which is our Editors’ Choice award for low-volume home and micro-office printing. In our business applications suite, the Brother’s 10.5ppm outperformed both Epsons.
The ST-text C4100’s and graphics output quality was identical to the ET-4850’s, falling just shy of top-tier for business inkjets. Although the edges of text characters didn’t quite match the crispness of laser printers, all of the fonts used in normal business documents were easily visible at sizes as small as 5 points. At default settings, fills in graphics on plain paper showed some banding, but colors were pleasantly saturated, and small lines held up well.
Epson’s suggested Presentation for photos The images on matte paper looked considerably better than the EcoTank’s photos on glossy paper, but that’s due to the differing media. Business graphics printed on matte paper had no banding and were much more brilliant than my plain paper examples. (See the ET-4850 evaluation for more information on output quality.)
Finally, as one of Epson’s bulk-ink printers (with reservoirs refilled with bottles rather than replaceable ink cartridges), the ST-C4100 has a low operating cost of only 0.3 cents each normal black page and 0.9 cents every color page. With a cartridge-based inkjet, you can get the equivalent speed and features for a considerably cheaper initial price, but if you plan to print a lot of pages, the lower consumable cost can result in a lower total cost of ownership.
Select a Printing Cost
The WorkForce ST-C4100 and the EcoTank ET-4850, as you might expect, are virtually interchangeable options for a home-office AIO or a personal AIO in a workgroup. If you don’t plan on printing a lot of pages, a cartridge-based inkjet like the Brother MFC-J4335DW or, if you want greater speed and flexibility, the wide-format Epson WorkForce Pro WF-7840 or WF-7820, is a better option.
If the extra-cost next-day replacement policy appeals to you, the ST-C4100 has the benefit over the EcoTank and Supertank siblings. As heavy-duty, small-office multifunction printers, both are on an equal footing and share our Editors’ Choice awards. On any given day, either could be a superior deal, so make sure to look at both.