Looking to make your home office more efficient? Consider a multifunction center (MFC) printer, also known as a multi-device or all-in-one printer. These machines combine standard printer functionality with the ability to fax, scan, and copy—all within one manageable footprint.
With an Multi-Function printer (also known as an All-In-One printer), you can reclaim your desk space and stop making trips to the office center just to scan a photo or send a fax. More functions mean more choices. But, once you determine your primary needs, the selection process becomes easier.
Pick a Task, Any Task
Before researching MFC printers, take a moment to consider the available functions. How important is each one, and which will you use most?
Not all MFC printers have fax capabilities, so if faxing is important to you, be sure to find one that does. (Keep in mind your computer may have fax software, so you might not need this particular feature.) Additional considerations include whether you want the ability to fax even when your computer is off and whether you need speed dial, or fax memory.
If the print function is most important, examine the same features that you would on a single-function printer. The print path is key if you commonly use such nonstandard media as envelopes, labels, or card stock. If you print large volumes, consider paper capacity. And, if you want double-sided prints, look for a unit that allows duplexing. If you plan to do photo printing, find an MFC printer that includes a slot for memory cards, and be sure the cards your camera uses are compatible.
Copy quality is important if this is the main function for which you plan to use an MFC printer. Go to a store that carries such printers, and use several of them to make test copies. Look for sharp edges, alignment of text, and vivid colors. Avoid units that produce copies that are blurry or show extra lines or other markings.
Do you plan to use your MFC printer primarily for scanning? If so, consider document placement options, which include a document feeder or flatbed arrangement. If you will be scanning books, magazines, or other objects that do not fit through a feeder, then the flatbed option is a better choice. Optical character recognition (OCR), which requires special software, is useful if you want text images converted to text for formatting or editing.
Once you know your priorities, you can further narrow your selection by checking out the details:
• Laser versus inkjet. Although inkjet machines are typically slower and more expensive to operate, they produce a higher-quality output.
• Monochrome versus color. Simply put, if you want to print in color or make color copies in addition to black and white, you need a color-capable machine.
• Cost of consumables. Remember to include paper and ink or toner cartridge costs as you tally up the total price.
• Bit depth. This specification measures scan quality. Look for a unit with a bit depth between 24 and 36.
• Memory. The more memory a machine has, the faster it will print. Look for at least 0.5 megabytes of standard memory.
• Resolution. A higher resolution means better print quality. Look for at least 600 dpi for standard printing or higher for more demanding tasks.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure the product you choose will work well with your existing system. Measure the desk space you have available, and check the dimensions of each MFC printer to ensure that the unit you choose will fit. Find out what software comes with each machine and whether you will need to purchase additional applications, such as OCR. If you plan to use your printer through a network, be sure it is enabled for a wired or wireless setup (depending on which you plan to use).
Multi-function Printer Recommendations
The Brother DCP-7065DN Monochrome Multi-Function Laser Copier is a $168.89 (Adorama-priced) device that is an affordable option that still meets a users varied needs. It has print and copy speeds of up to 24ppm and produce professional-looking output at up to 2400 x 600 dpi. Designed for use in an office it supports both Windows and Macintosh operating systems for flexible in house use..
It you are looking to crib your notes the printer has just the tool for you with the ability to condense four printed pages onto a single sheet, or simply print two pages on a sheet using its duplex function. While it is only a black and white printer it has the ability to scan color images with 48-bit color depth and supports Optical Character Recognition software for both Macs and Windows so scanned documents can be annotated.
Entry level systems in this class are increasingly powerful as can be seen in the $119.00 Canon imageCLASS MF4450 Multifunction Laser Printer, available at Adorama. You can print and copy pagers in black and white at speeds up to 24 ppm and get a first printed page as quickly as six seconds. It has a integrated fax and includes a color scanning capability of up to 9600 dpi (interpolated.)
The scanner supports 24-bit color and has the ability to scan color images in 9600 x 9600 interpolated resolution. The 33.6 Kbps modem is capable of transmitting pages with a 200 x 400 dpi resolution at three seconds a page.
Lets not forget that there are power users of printers as well as other technologies and for those that put a stress on a regular multifunctional device there are higher end models designed to meet more demanding users. A good introduction to that category is the Dell 2355dn Multifunction Mono Laser Printer; available at Adorama for $289.00. The 2355dn features a powerful 360MHz processor that helps drive its 35 ppm print speed and its 1200 dpi resolution.
It has a 4.3” LCD color display to help walk first time users through its various capabilities and can be used to program the device for use in repetitive uses. It can copy documents at 35 ppm. Designed for use in offices with a diverse environment it supports not only the usual desktop operating systems from Apple and Microsoft but also offerings from SAP, Citrix and Novell as well as a variety of Linux offerings.