Buying Guide: Multifunction printer/scanner/fax machine

Save space and money!

The emergence of multifunction printer/scanner/fax/copy machines has made them the must-have computer accessory in the small home and office.

Compact, efficient, and doing the tasks that were once regulated to a host of standalone devices, Multifunction office machines provide a space- and money-saving solution to their owners.

As with all popular products, these flexible machines have morphed into a wide range of systems which, while sharing the same basic functions, offer a range of varying specifics and price points so that they can meet most any users’ needs.

Shown: Canon Pixma MX882 Wireless All-In-One

Which functions do you need most?

All things are not equal in this space, and if you are contemplating buying a multifunction machine, I suggest you give some though as to which features will be the most important. Will you be scanning often or rarely? Is printing the primary function?  Do you fax a great deal?

These should all be factors that will weight your decision in one direction or another, as of course will be cost. This guide will simply look at some examples of multifunctional inkjet devices to show what some of the options are, starting at offerings for the most cost-conscious, and heading into the fullest featured models that carry a heftier price tag to match their advanced features.

There is a range of features that all models will likely share (except for some very entry-level models):

  • Wireless connectivity, enabling the elimination of cables between digital image device and the printer.
  • Printer speed: how many pages it can crank out a minute. Printer resolution: Is the output photo quality, or prints just look good?
  • Memory capacity: This impacts almost all aspects of the device. The more memory inside, the faster it can scan, copy, or print a document, particularly color documents.

Faxing is an area that is often initially overlooked by a customer buying a device and yet it can be very frustrating if the multifunctional device does not have full faxing or support sending color documents. Take a minute to ensure that it meets your needs, and not just the needs of today but also give a thought to how you, your family or co-workers may use it in the future. Another note on faxing is that not all all-in-one systems offer faxing, and companies can and do offer very similar machines, often one with and one without faxing capabilities.

There is a good deal of feature overlap on basic functions such as paper types and sizes supported, print resolution, and so forth. Many also have basic software that enables contrast adjustment, red-eye removal and the like. As the price tag increases the capabilities of the software also increase as companies seek to differentiate themselves via software.

Let’s take a look at three representative multifunction machines that are available right now.



The Canon PIXMA MX340 All-In-One Printer

The versatile Canon PIXMA MX340 ($69.95) is capable of printing color images with a 4800x1200 maximum dpi and black-and-white at 600x600 dpi and uses a two cartridge system, one for black and the other for color inks. It supports paper sizes up to legal and a range of glossy formats and handles #10 envelopes as well and has an automatic document feeder.

It allows printing from smartphones with integrated PictBridge technology and supports wireless printing and scanning from anywhere in a house. The copier has all the features a customer has come to expect including multiple copies and fit-to-page.

Its scanner supports a maximum resolution of 1200x2400 dpi, supports network scan, and has an auto scan mode and a scan to memory feature. The fax feature has a 50-page memory capacity and faxes black and white documents at approximately 3 seconds per page and color at 1 ppm.


The Hewlett-Packard HP OfficeJet 4500 All-In-One

Printing is always a strength from HP, but it is not this multifunctional device’s only one. The Hewlett-Packard HP OfficeJet 4500 ($79.95) is capable of 28 ppm in black and 22 in color in draft mode and 6 ppm and 4 ppm respectively ion high quality image mode. One drawback on the print side is that it does not do duplex printing.

The scan resolution is up to 1200 dpi and it can scan a maximum image of 8.5” x 11.7” in flatbed mode. It is capable of making up to 28 black and white copies per minute and 22 cpm in color with a resolution of 1200x1200 in color.

It has a fax memory capable of storing up to 100 pages and can fax black-and-white pages at 3 seconds per page. The 4500 also supports both wired Ethernet connection as well as wireless connectivity.


Epson Workforce 840 All-in-One Inkjet

For a high-end workhorse, the Epson Workforce 840 (approx. $185) could be just the ticket, targeted more to the office than home user, although it has tools that both environments will appreciate. Designed to be shared wirelessly by multiple PCs it has a 500 sheet paper capacity and can automatically print on both sides of a sheet.

The dual sided ability shines through in a number of ways. It can print two sided black and white documents in 7.4 and dual sided color at 5.4 ppm color and single sided it has 15 ppm in black and white and 9.3 ppm in color.

A two sided 30-page Auto Document Feeder allows a user to copy, scan and fax two sided documents and the scanner has a 2400 dpi and can scan to PDF, PC or e-mail to save time. The fax has the ability to send out black and white documents at 3 pages a second and can store 180 pages in memory. Other features include software for optical character recognition and Epson’s Easy Photo Print.

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