An all-in-one printer performs four classic office functions: printing, scanning, copying, and faxing. There are pros and cons to all-in-one printers, and some factors to look at when shopping for one. Here's what you should know before buying, and a few of my top picks for your home or office...
Buying an All-In-One Printer
Let's start with the benefits of all-in one printers... You save a lot of space with an all-in-one printer, obviously. Not so obviously, you save electricity by having just one machine powered on all the time. There are fewer power and network cables to worry about (or none at all if you buy a wireless model). Supplies are used more efficiently because you don't need idle paper, ink, toner, etc., in four machines. Oh, and of course you don't have to BUY and service all four machines. It's like saving on the cost of baskets by putting all of your eggs in one; but that leads me to a downside of all-in-one printers, too.
If a critical component such as the print head or power adapter fails on an all-in-one printer, all of your functions are gone until it's repaired. An all-in-one printer doesn't get as much rest as four separate machines, so it may tend to fail sooner, depending on your usage.
Another con to all-in-one printers is compromise of quality or functionality. A machine designed to do everything won't do each thing the best; it would cost an arm and a leg if it did. And it goes without saying that a machine that CAN do everything is going to be more complicated to use than a single-purpose tool. It reminds me of a combo TV/VCR/DVD player I bought once. I think you could even cook a Pop-Tart in that thing.
However, that doesn't mean you can't get an intuitive interface and print quality that's good enough for all but the most exacting professional demands.
When shopping for an all-in-one printer, up-front cost is actually the least important factor. Over the long term, the cost of supplies and consumable parts makes the biggest difference in total cost of ownership. So pay close attention to the number of prints/copies/faxes you can make before buying more ink; the cost of ink in both color and black-and-white; the availability of refilled ink cartridges for a given model; and the replacement costs of drums, scanner lasers, print heads, etc.
Sometimes you can't use refilled ink cartridges at all. The printer manufacturer may protect its monopoly on ink cartridges with proprietary technology that won't allow refilled cartridges to be used in its machines.
I should mention that some "all-in-one" printers coming to market now don't have the ability to send a fax. Faxing is a fading feature, especially in "all-in-one" printers designed for home use. If you only need to send or receive a fax occasionally, use an online fax service. See my articles Send a Free Fax and Free Inbound Faxing to learn about faxing over the Internet.
Popular All-In-One Printers
Some of the most popular all-in-one printers on the market include the HP Photosmart Premium Fax C309 (under $200); the Epson Workforce 610 (about $150); and the Canon Pixma MP990 (about $200).
The Canon Pixma MP490 is a surprisingly good machine for only $80. It doesn't do fax, but for photo printing, scanning, and low-volume copying you can't beat that price.
For printing on larger than letter sized paper, try the Brother MFC-6490-CW. It handles up to 11x17 inch paper and costs around $275.
High-volume black-and-white printing is more economical on a laser printer than inkjet. The Brother MFC-780W is rated for 10,000 copies a month and does scanning, copying, and faxing too, all for $275.
If you're shopping for an all-in-one for your office, check out the HP Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless All-in-One. HP says this workhorse will save you up to 50% on color printing, compared to laser printers, and will reduce energy use by 50%. The 8500 can copy and scan both standard and legal-size documents, prints photos, and cranks out up to 500 sheets without reloading. I've had a similar HP model, the OfficeJet Pro L7780, for three years and it's been a great tool.
Whatever your pattern of printing, scanning, copying, and faxing, there is an all-in-one printer designed to fit it. What's your favorite all-in-one printer? Post a comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 7 Oct 2010
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- All-In-One Printers (Posted: 7 Oct 2010)
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