All-In-One Printers

Category: Printing

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...

All-In-One Printers

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...

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Most recent comments on "All-In-One Printers"

Posted by:

07 Oct 2010

I love my Canon Pixma. Don't remember the model number - but it is just great for home office use. It has the scan, print, fax and copy all in one. Printing pictures are pretty good quality too. Been very happy with it.

Posted by:

Roger Martindill
07 Oct 2010

I love my Epson 610 All-in-one printer. It faxes, copies and does a great job printing.

Posted by:

gene jacobson
07 Oct 2010

I've an HP Photosmart all in one, not the premium one, that I've had for several years. It, and its software work wonderfully and the print copy is excellent. It allows many options for printing, copying, scanning. It walks on water as far as I'm concerned. They do make their money on supplies, of course, but I'm willing to pay the price for the convenience of the machine itself. Excellent quality and extremely reliable.

Posted by:

07 Oct 2010

I feel in love with AIO printers, a couple of years ago, when I bought my first Brother printer. My printer is used for home use and some may wonder why I would want a stand alone Fax. Every once in awhile, you just need to send a Fax. This way, I do NOT have to mess with some PC Fax program or go looking all over town for a Faxing place. I simply put the paper in that I want to Fax, dial the phone number and it is done!!!

The biggest problem with any printer is the ink cartridges. Costly, just about says it all. I prefer the individual cartridges printers. Yes, it can be a hassle, but in the long run, it works for my needs. I also, have found several online stores, that sell my cartridges really cheap. So, I buy in quantity, that way I am rarely out of ink, when I need to print something.

The current printer I am using is a Brother 240C. I have had it for about a year and should it fail, I have not lose any money. I got this printer for $29.95 refurbished. It has worked beautifully since I set it up. The next printer I want is one that is wireless, so I can print from both of my computer at home.

Posted by:

07 Oct 2010

I agree that a machine designed to do everything won't do each thing the best. I work with Sharp and have been experimenting with all-in-one, or multifunction printers (MFPs). I am usually disappointed in one of the functions. I now am using a Sharp MFP and am happy with all the functions. I used to work in an office where the copier was always breaking down. This works great.

Posted by:

07 Oct 2010

Can you tell me if a HP officejet j4680 is a good printer?It is a 4 in 1 and at about $70.00 i was wondering if it is worth it? Any help will do,thanks alot.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I have no personal experience with it. But I'd suggest that you do a Google search and see what others are saying at Epinions and other consumer forums.

Posted by:

Martin J. Gouldthorpe
08 Oct 2010

Thanks Bob for the helpful All-in-one printer article. Recently our 6 year old Canon Pixma ip5000 developed problems indicating it needed to be replaced. It had served us very well and did a lot of work, I mean an awful lot of work in our office during those years.

I thought of replacing it with a Canon Pixma MX870. The salesman at the computer store said it was a great machine but would be very expensive on ink. Apparently it does not like refilled or generic cartridges. Instead, he recommended the HP Office Jet 6500. We bought it and are very pleased with it so far. Reports are that, like the HP 8500, it is very economical with ink. Print quality is very good - we have no complaints. Keep the good articles coming.

Posted by:

08 Oct 2010

I have to go with Epson. Our newest one is the NX420. It's inexpensive to purchase, uses individual ink tanks and does an adequate job. It's bit noisy but not unbearable.Very easy wireless setup with our laptops (about 10 minutes).
Have nothing but praise for Epson inkjets. Our R320 is still going strong after 4+ years.

Posted by:

08 Oct 2010

The biggest cost with printers and all in ones is the astronomical cost of ink. My experience with those printers with permanent print heads has been clogging (e.g. epson and Kodak), so I generally prefer those with the print head built into the cartridge (e.g. most HP). I have several of the older HP all in ones which use cartridges that may be refilled or bought refilled. I am currently using an HP 750 psc all in one and an HP 820 printer--both workhorses that use inexpensive ink cartridges without chips.

Posted by:

Joseph Kiron
08 Oct 2010

I hate the HP Officejet J4580 with a passion and wish I'd never seen it. Pity I never had my big, slow 10-year old PSC500 overhauled instead of junking it.

Posted by:

Andrew Brown
09 Oct 2010

My wife made the mistake of buying the Kodak Easy Share 5500 all in one printer. Worked until the warranty expired. Print head expired and getting a new one became a challenge. Forums indicate that it's a common problem. I suggest anyone buying any product not only check the user reviews but also google the forums and parse out comments from those who have an axe to grind from the mainstream users.

Posted by:

20 Oct 2010

I bought a HP B110 for the usual reasons (wireless, print, scan, copy & I don't need a fax).

Pleasantly suprised to find that it also has it's own email address, although I can't think of when I'd want to email to it!

Posted by:

20 Oct 2010

"Joe": I have used an HP Officejet j6480 for three years without a problem.

My wife never thought that we would ever need a fax machine, until our daughter got into a terrible car accident. I had never known how many governmental agencies still rely on something that is well, kind of 'old school'.

There are two different ink cartridges for this model, a regular and larger capacity ink version.

I will certainly stick with HP.

Posted by:

John Burman
20 Oct 2010

Suggest you use Consumer Reports for ratings

Posted by:

20 Oct 2010

Avoid a Dell V510 series at all costs. Bought one with a new computer because it was easier then doing the research and I knew my old HP would not be compatible w/Windows 7. Most ridiculous printer I've ever used--3-5 pages per black cartridge, 7-8 per color cartridge, cartridges only available from Dell. Absolute rip-off. Web search indicates that this is a common experience.

I've resorted to saving files to a USB thumb drive & firing up an old Win ME machine hooked to an HP Deskjet to print what I must have printed rather than waste the ink for this thing.

Posted by:

28 May 2011

For me, it all comes down to $$$$$, is it easy to use and do they treat me, the customer, well?
They all will sell you a cheap entry level printer,
they almost give them away. Why? because they pook your eyes out when you buy ink. Printer $50.00, replace two ink cartriges, $50.00, they are not your friends.
Then I got an entry level Epson. It has four ink cartriges, one for each color. First, I went to Ink Sell to make sure they had the ink in a ganeric, it is half the price and works just fine.
Also, I do not get pop ups trying to sell me something every time I get on the computer (bad HP) One day when I want to print photographs, I'll
go back to Epson and buy a higher end printer but only use the Epson ink to print only photos. Why will I go back to Epson? because they treated me, the customer, well, so I trust them, so they are my friend

Posted by:

06 Jun 2012

In October, 2011 I purchased a Canon Pixma MP495 all-in-one wireless printer and was fairly satisfied with the quality of the machine, however, it seemed to use a lot of black ink, even with the XL ink cartridges, so I listed it for sale on eBay recently and purchased an HP Photosmart 6510e all-in one printer with a touch screen. My wife and I both love this printer and so far are satified with the print quality and ease of use. Having owned an HP printer in the past, we hope this one will last us awhile. it is made in China, so we somewhat skeptical of how many years this one will hold up.

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