What is your opinion of the latest combination printer-scanner-fax machines? Are they reliable or am I better off with separate ones?
This question was answered on November 21, 2007. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
You don’t have to be tech savvy to understand why multifunction printers (MFPs) which combines printing, scanning, copying and in some cases faxing into one device are so attractive.
They save an enormous amount of space, cost substantially less then buying individual devices and consolidate the expense for consumables such as ink or toner.
The trade offs for committing to these all-in-one devices is that they generally provide mediocre performance in most of the functions; when any one item malfunctions, you lose all of the functions while the machine is being serviced and they typically install an extraordinary amount of software which slows down your computer.
The biggest mistake made in buying these handy devices is basing the buying decision on price.
This is one device that it’s critical you buy based on function and not on price Make sure you thoroughly review the specs of the most important function(s) to you, so you don’t end up with a space saving device that makes very poor copies or scans at such a low resolution, it’s practically useless
As an example, inkjet MFPs are generally cheaper than laser MFPs, but the inkjet’s cost per page when using the printer (or copier) is higher and the overall cost to replace the consumables is also higher.
If you have a small business or a SOHO (Small Office Home Office) and you have a high volume of printing or copying, you will likely get better overall performance (in both print quality and cost per page) with a laser based MFP.
Conversely, if you rarely print or copy anything or if you find yourself replacing ink cartridges more because they dry out rather than run out of ink, a laser based system may be a better choice.
Ink cartridges dry out from non-use, but the toner in laser printers does not, so if you are on either ends of the volume spectrum, a laser based system is likely your best choice.
Inkjet based system will perform just fine for moderate volume home users, but the copy and scan functions tend to suffer on the low-end units and the ability to fax (if you even need it anymore) is being eliminated from many as well.
Once you have narrowed your selection down, search for the model number of the units you are considering in Google to see what others are saying about each device.
My biggest gripe with all of these devices is not as much the hardware as it is the bloated software that comes with the unit.
If you just “go with the flow” and allow the installation CD to run its course, you will likely end up with so many extra processes in your computer that it will take a lot longer to startup and run slower all the way around.
The software, in its default installation, is designed to allow you to click on any of the buttons on the MFP and “auto-launch” the associated software on your computer.
While this may have a high “wow” factor, the trade-off in overall performance of your computer is rarely worth it.
I highly recommend that you pay close attention during the installation process and watch for the “custom” installation option, which will allow you to eliminate unnecessary programs from being installed.
About the author
Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on November 21, 2007