Wide-format printers are a wonderful addition to any home or office thanks to the ability to make large prints and signage up to 13 x 19 inches in size. These printers let you decorate your walls with massive family photos or cover a city block with posters advertising your business.
Unfortunately, wide-format printers usually come at a significant cost in terms of the initial price and the cost of ink. The Epson WorkForce 1100 might just change all that thanks to a starting price as low as $150 at some retailers. Is this low-cost wide-format printer as good as it sounds? We took a closer look to find out.
WORKFORCE 1100 SPECIFICATIONS
BUILD AND DESIGN
The Epson WorkForce 1100 looks like a close relative of the rather massive Epson Stylus Photo R1900, and for good reason: The WorkForce 1100 and Stylus Photo R1900 are “almost” the same printer. The 1100 tips the scales at 26.3 lbs. while the R1900 weighs in at 26.9 lbs. The dimensions are virtually identical at 24.3" x 31.4" x 16.4" with the paper trays open and 24.3" x 12.7" x 8.5" with the paper trays closed. In fact, the only real differences between the 1100 and the R1900 are the fact that the 1100 uses less expensive DURABrite inks rather than UltraChrome Hi-Gloss 2 inks, the 1100 is limited to a minimum ink droplet size of 3 picoliters rather than 1.5 picoliters, and the 1100 lacks the tracks for printing on CDs or roll paper holders for larger prints.
The combination of dark gray and light gray plastics is much easier to keep clean than the glossy plastics found on cheaper printers, but the overall look is still very modern. Both the input and output paper trays fold into the printer to keep it compact when not in use.
The top panel controls are extremely basic on the 1100. The control panel consists of just four buttons, much like the R1900. While that might sound like too few buttons, it keeps things remarkably simple, and the Epson printer software allows you to make all the needed adjustments electronically rather than manually with buttons on the printer.
The back of the 1100 uses the same Spartan layout we’re used to seeing on Epson wide-format printers. This is where you’ll find the typical USB 2.0 port for connecting the printer to your computer, but I wish the WorkForce 1100 included Wi-Fi connectivity as well. This printer is targeted at small businesses and home offices that need a low-cost wide-format printer for creating presentations and promotional materials. Most modern offices (even small home offices) are setup with Wi-Fi networks, so there’s simply no reason for Epson to leave Wi-Fi out of the equation. Sure, that would probably make the 1100 more expensive, but this printer can be found for a price as low as $150 and I would gladly pay a little extra for wireless connectivity.
One very minor annoyance with the design of the 1100 is the lack of a built-in card reader or front USB port for transferring files directly to the printer for immediate printing. I’m sure this was another cost consideration, but it would have been nice if you could just plug a USB flash drive into the front of the printer and print all of your documents. Again, this is a pretty minor issue and it’s completely understandable for the price of this printer. Just be aware that you’ll have to print from your PC since there’s no way to print directly from the printer.
As previously mentioned, despite the apparent external similarity between the R1900 and the WorkForce 1100, one of the biggest differences is inside the printer. The WorkForce 1100 uses low-cost Epson DURABrite Ultra pigment ink rather than the expensive Epson UltraCrome Hi-Gloss 2 pigment inks. This is great from an ink cost standpoint, but it also means that the 1100 lacks the Advanced MicroPiezo print head seen on the R1900. This is why the 1100 is limited to a minimum ink droplet size of 3 picoliters (twice the size of the R1900). While that might sound like a horrible problem, the reality is that the prints from the 1100 look virtually identical to prints from the R1900 when viewed by the naked eye. We didn’t notice any difference in printed details until examining the prints side-by-side with a magnifier.
It’s worth pointing out that we’re still talking about quality pigment-based inks despite the fact that the WorkForce 1100 uses lower-cost inks. Unlike dye inks that suffer from short-term color shifting and “chroming” problems, the pigment inks used in the 1100 provide immediate color stability so colors look the way they should as soon as the print comes out and the colors stay that way. Epson claims these pigment inks last up to 105 years under glass.
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