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Multifunction Printers

Posted By : of Data Doctors on August 11, 2005

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I am looking for a multi-purpose printer (fax scanner copier), reliable, not out of date and something my kids can use for school. Hate Lexmark. What's your recommendation?

- Dawn

This question was answered on August 11, 2005. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

When it comes to the all-in-one multi-function solutions for printing, faxing, scanning and copying, the concept sounds very enticing, but the execution and the long term usefulness is not what you may be expecting.

It’s one of those “great when they work and a nightmare when they don’t” technologies.

The space savings from these devices is very attractive, but for the most part (regardless of the brand), these devices perform all the functions adequately but rarely do any of them very well.

For instance, print speed and photo quality may be sub-standard in order to get the product to market at a lower price or the scanning quality is very poor because it tends to be the least used of the functions.

My biggest problem with these devices is the accompanying software that’s required to be installed and always running for everything to work the way it was designed in the laboratory.

All too often, this “bloat-ware” causes performance issues for the computer and can conflict with other programs that are trying to run in the background as well (NEVER install one of these devices if you are experiencing problems with your system.)

By default, these devices install software that requires constant contact with the device so that it can auto-launch the associated program when you hit any of the buttons on the unit.

Though the software has improved dramatically over the years, it’s still not something that I like to have stealing resources from Windows just so you can hit a button to start scanning on those rare occasions you need to...

There are also potential service issues down the road when one of the functions stops working and the cost of repairing it isn’t cost effective (which is often times the case).

Very few of the folks that I have assisted with these devices ever use all of the functions on a regular basis either The copier and the printer usually are the most commonly used functions, with faxing and scanning being used on occasion, if ever (Make sure you have a phone line near the intended location if you intend to use the fax portion.)

During the installation of the software, see if a “custom” option is available to limit what gets installed automatically.

Rather than pushing a button to launch a software program, open the associated program manually when you need it, then push the button so you can reserve valuable resources in your operating system.

As far as the best solution for your use, you must do the homework to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the devices in your price range

Hewlett Packard (HP) has the longest track record in this segment and is usually a good bet, although specific models in other brands are also getting very high review marks.

In general, stay away from the entry level products (lowest price) and be sure you understand what is covered in any extended warranties that are shoved in your face (none of them cover software issues).

You can get lots of user feedback and reviews from sites like, and by searching for “multifunction printers”.

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Posted by of Data Doctors on August 11, 2005

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