Depending on your needs, the old saying “Jack of all trades, master of none” may aptly apply to multifunction printers (MFPs), which are also known as all-in-one copier-scanner-printers. (Many MFPs also serve as a fax machine, too.) On the other hand, they may be just what you’re looking for.
Multifunction machines can save you money. After all, you’re buying one piece of hardware instead of three or four, which means you’ll also save on space. And having a single piece of software to install and a single user’s manual to read can be real time-savers.
However, the quality of combination units often doesn’t rival that of individual components, and the cost savings can also be deceiving. For example, your pricey laser toner cartridges will empty faster, so you’ll have to purchase them more often. Another problem arises if one of the devices malfunctions and you need to take the unit in for repairs; should this happen you’ll have lost all of your equipment.
Ultimately, your needs will determine which option is best for your situation. If your primary needs are printing and copying, and not so much scanning and faxing, most MFPs will suffice. If, on the other hand, you plan to frequently use all four functions, you’re probably better off purchasing each component separately. As a general rule, individual components are built to last longer and handle larger loads. For this reason, larger businesses with much greater printing and scanning needs usually opt for dedicated machines for each task.
Another consideration is who will be viewing your printed material. If you primarily print in-house memos and vendor invoices, or if you scan material for your own in-house use, a good laser printer with scanning and fax capabilities should meet your needs. But if you frequently scan or print photographs or .PDF files for publication or to send to clients, you’ll need a quality laser or inkjet printer, which offer higher resolutions and more reliability than most all-in-ones.
You can usually purchase a good multifunction machine for between $200 to $500. Some even include memory card slots, which enable you to print photos directly from your digital camera.
Be sure to check out our informative AllBusiness.com Buyer’s Guide, The Benefits of MFPs and All-in-Ones, for more good advice.