Epson WorkForce ST-C4100 Supertank color MFP review

A rose by another name would be the Epson WorkForce ST-C4100 Supertank Color MFP ($499), an inkjet all-in-one (AIO) printer that, apart from being listed under “For work” and not found under For Home. section of Epson’s website, is essentially identical to the EcoTank ET-4850, the top-of-the-line letter- and legal-size AIO in Epson’s bulk ink consumer lineup. The two have some slight differences in cosmetics, marketing and extended warranty options, as well as how much ink is in the box, and the WorkForce’s list price is a full 99 cents lower than the EcoTank. Because they’re so closely separated, the ST-C4100 earns the Editors’ Choice award we gave to the ET-4850 for a high-performance AIO for the small office/home office.

What is the same and what is different?

Physically and functionally identical to the EcoTank ET-4850, the WorkForce ST-C4100 prints, scans to a PC, operates as a standalone copier and fax machine, and scans to online services. It also offers the same paper handling: a 250-sheet input tray and automatic duplex (printing on both sides) and letter-size flatbed paired with a 30-page automatic document feeder (ADF) for scanning. However, the ADF has no way of scanning two-sided originals and putting the pages in the correct order.

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Aside from not having an EcoTank logo and only being available in white (the ET-4850 is available in white or black), the ST-C4100 is a twin of the consumer AIO. It has the same desk-friendly size (10 x 16.4 x 19.8 inches with the paper trays extended) and the same USB, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi Direct connectivity options. (See our ET-4850 review for more details.)

Epson WorkForce ST-C4100 front ink tanks

According to Epson, there are only three other differences between the two printers: their marketing, their warranties, and how much ink each one contains. Officially, the EcoTank is sold through consumer channels and the workforce through business channels. In practice, however, you can find both online—although as of this writing, some reputable vendors are discounting the WorkForce model by up to $100.

The standard warranties are also similar, but the extended warranty options are not. Both come with a two-year warranty, although Epson says you have to register the ET-4850 to get the second year. The only extended service option for the EcoTank is a one-year service plan, but the WorkForce ST-C4100 offers a choice of plans that allow you to extend the warranty up to five years, as well as the option to add Next Business-Day replacements . If you buy the ET-4850 from a dealer, you’ll likely get longer extended coverage, but typically not a next-day replacement.

Epson WorkForce ST-C4100 with open drawer

The third difference is a bit unclear: both printers’ websites state that you get up to two years of ink in the box (with a footnote saying that this calculation is based on 200 pages printed per month). However, the webpages also state that the ST-C4100 comes with two sets of ink bottles, while the ET-4850 only has one set – a nearly $60 WorkForce bonus that should allow it to double to print as many pages before you need to buy more ink. As of this writing, Epson has yet to officially confirm this fine print online, but I can confirm that the ST-C4100 sent in for review had two sets of ink bottles in the box compared to the ET-4850.

Testing the WorkForce ST-C4100: Same performance, same output quality

Both Epsons are rated at 15.5 pages per minute (ppm) for monochrome pages and 8.5 ppm for colour, and both delivered the same performance with every document in our test suite.

Using our standard testbed PC and an Ethernet connection, I timed the ST-C4100 to 16.8 ppm for black and white text using our 12-page Microsoft Word file (including the time to print the first page). It was 7.5 ppm across our entire business application suite, which combines the text document with colorful PDF, PowerPoint, and Excel files. The WorkForce took an average of 1 minute and 25 seconds each to print 4″ x 6″ photos onto Epson’s Presentation Matte paper.

Epson WorkForce ST-C4100 paper drawer

The stopwatch difference between the two printers was one second, slightly within error. For text printing, both are linked to the cheaper, cartridge-based Brother MFC-J4335DW, which we’ve named Editors’ Choice for low-volume home and micro-office printing. The Brother’s 10.5 ppm beats both Epsons in our business application suite.

As expected, the quality of text and graphics output for the ST-C4100 was the same as for the ET-4850, just at the top for business inkjet printers. The edges of text characters weren’t quite as sharp as a laser printer, but all the fonts you’d likely use in standard business documents were legible at sizes as small as 5 points. Graphics on plain paper showed subtle banding in fills at the default settings, but colors were nicely saturated and thin lines held up well.

Photos on Epson’s recommended Presentation Matte paper actually looked a lot better than the photos of the EcoTank on the recommended glossy paper, but that’s due to the different papers. Business graphics printed on the matte paper showed no banding and even more vivid colors than my samples on plain paper. (Again, see the ET-4850 review for more details on output quality.)

Finally, as one of Epson’s bulk ink printers (with reservoirs that are refilled with bottles instead of replaceable ink cartridges), the ST-C4100 offers remarkably low running costs – just 0.3 cents per black and white page and 0.9 cents for colour. You can find comparable speed and features at a much lower purchase price with a cartridge-based inkjet printer, but if you anticipate printing many pages, the lower cost of consumables can translate to a lower total cost of ownership.

Choose your pressure value

As may seem obvious, the WorkForce ST-C4100 and EcoTank ET-4850 are essentially interchangeable options for a home office AIO or a personal AIO in a workgroup. In either case, if you don’t plan to print a large number of pages, you should consider a cartridge-based inkjet instead, either the Brother MFC-J4335DW or, if you want more speed and more flexible paper handling, the wide-format Epson WorkForce Pro WF- 7840 or WF-7820.

Between the EcoTank and Supertank twins, the ST-C4100 has the edge if its paid next-day replacement policy appeals to you. Other than that, they’re evenly matched, sharing our Editors’ Choice award for high-performance small office multifunction printers. Either can be the better value on any given day, so be sure to check both.

Epson WorkForce ST-C4100 Supertank color MFP

The final result

Twin to the EcoTank ET-4850, the Epson WorkForce ST-C4100 Supertank Color MFP is a four-function model whose low running costs make it a bargain for the home office or personal AIO when you print a lot of pages.

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