Buying an All-In-One Printer
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 Tips
Let's start with the benefits of all-in one, or multifunction 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. 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 multifunction 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 multifunction 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 all-in-one printer with 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.
But it's not so easy to find information on cost of supplies, cost per page, and overall cost of ownership for multifunction printers. You can scan the manufacturer's website, but if they provide this information at all, it often reflects a rosy best-case scenario. For a better idea of the total cost to own and operate an all-in-one printer, I recommend independent review sites that do standardized tests. A couple of good ones I've found are Computer Shopper's Multifunction Printer Reviews, Ratings, and Pricing and CNET's Printer Reviews.
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.
Which All-In-One Printer Should I Buy?
There are several factors that come into play here. Are you most concerned about print speed for black and white text-only pages, print quality for pages with mixed text & color graphics, photo printing options, or cost per page? Do you need to scan pages that are larger than a standard 8.5x11 page? When it comes to copying, do you need an automatic document feeder, and hands-off automatic duplexing? And will a paper tray that only holds 100 sheets be sufficient, or do you need dual trays that can hold 500 or more?
Other factors to consider when buying a multifunction printer are connectivity and the ability to interface with mobile devices. I recommend a model that can print wirelessly, if you have more than one computer in the home or office. And if you have a tablet or smartphone, it's smart to choose one that comes with a mobile printing app. Some even allow you to scan documents directly to a mobile device.
Here are five high quality all-in-one printers that I can recommend for home and small office settings:
The Brother MFC-J825DW ($149) offers both wired and wireless connectivity, and has a document feeder and duplexer. Print quality is excellent, and you can expect a cost of about 4 cents/page (black) and 12 cents/page (color). Other notable features are the ability to print directly on CD/DVD discs; and the iPrint&Scan app which lets you print docs, photos, and PDFs from your iPhone or iPad, as well as Android and Windows-based tablets and smartphones.
The Epson WorkForce 845 All-in-One Printer ($139) is noted for excellent print quality and print speeds (12.5 ppm black). It has an automatic document feeder, and can be connected via USB, ethernet or wifi. A free app enables wireless printing from mobile devices. One cool feature is the ability to email an attachment directly to the printer. This lets you (or others) print documents and photos from any location. Print cost is estimated at 3 cents/page (back) and 7 cents/page (color).
The Lexmark Prevail Pro705 ($199) offers wireless connectivity, a document feeder and duplexer. Reviewers say this is a great little office workhorse, with a low cost of ownership, but it does not excel at photo printing.
The Kodak ESP Office 2170 ($149) does wifi, but has no mobile printing app. It provides excellent print quality, but is not the speediest of the bunch. It has a document feeder, but does not do automatic duplexing. Print cost is reasonable, at 3 cents/page (back) and 9 cents/page (color), despite the 2-cartridge system (one black and one tri-color cyan/magenta/yellow). I prefer the 4-cartridge system used by most printers now, so that you only have to replace a cartridge when a certain color is empty.
If you're shopping for an all-in-one for your office, check out the HP Officejet Pro 8500A Wireless All-in-One ($299). 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 8500A 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 four years and it's been a great tool. Shop around online, and you can find the 8500A for as low as $155!
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 Nov 2011
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Buying an All-In-One Printer (Posted: 7 Nov 2011)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved