Office Automation

SOHO Multifunction Printers – Ten factors you ought to consider before buying one

A Multifunction printer (MFP) is very popular in the SOHO (Small Office / Home Office) segment because it offers print, copy, scan & fax (optional) capabilities in one device. Its also called an AIO – All In One device. In this post, we explore ten factors that you ought to consider before buying an MFP.

1. Printing Technology: Inkjet/ Laser

A Multifunction printer is primarily categorized based on the printing technology – Inkjet / Laser. While Inkjet printers are comparatively cost effective to buy, they offer a lower printing speed (generally) and higher cost of printing per page. So, for low printing volumes/ month, Inkjet printers might be fine – but for higher volumes, consider Laser MFP’s. Both Inkjet & Laser MFP’s have separate models for printing/ scanning in color.

2. Faxing:

Many Multifunction printers include faxing capabilities, but some don’t. With some multifunction printers, its even possible to send and receive faxes directly from a PC. Its important to look at how many pages the MFP can hold in its memory, both for receiving and sending faxes. Auto-redial feature could be handy.

3. Speed: PPM – Pages Per Minute

One of the predominant specification you would notice with MFP’s is the speed of printing, generally expressed in PPM – Pages Per Minute. This value ranges from 3 PPM to 25 PPM on most MFP’s meant for SOHO, although higher speeds are available. This may be an important factor, as at times slow printing may cause frustration – especially if you need to print many pages.

4. Network Connectivity: Wired Network (RJ-45), Wireless Network (802.11b/g/n), USB 1.0/2.0, Bluetooth, Internet

While almost all the MFP’s connect to the computer with a USB cable, some of them can print directly without having to install the driver CD on the computer (For Windows). When multiple users are sharing an MFP, Wired Network connectivity (RJ-45/ Cat6 Cables)/ Wireless Network connectivity (802.11 b/g/n) might be required to initiate print jobs over the network. Some MFP’s support Bluetooth connectivity and some of them allow you to print from a mobile device (smart phone). Some MFP’s support printing over the Internet – So, you can print a document in your printer from a friends house over the Internet.

5. Input/ Output Trays and ADF:

Most of the Multifunction printers have a fixed capacity input/output trays that can hold a certain amount of papers (50-500). The MFP automatically takes papers from here instead of the user having to feed each paper manually. There are some (optional) trays that can hold and print on special types of paper like Photo, Cards, Transparencies, Envelops, Labels, etc. The MFP can print on paper of various sizes – A4, A5, A6, Ledger, Legal, etc depending on the model of the MFP. Some of them have multiple trays for simultaneous loading of multiple paper types/ sizes.

Automatic Document Feeder (ADF): Some MFP’s provide a useful function called ADF – Automatic Document Feeder. This lets the MFP print/scan/copy multiple pages automatically, without user intervention. You can just place a set of papers on the ADF and the printer would take one by one automatically. But every ADF has a maximum capacity (20 pages, 35 pages, etc). There are certain specialized Duplexing ADF that scans (and hence prints, copies) both the pages (front and back) automatically, without the user having to flip papers manually.

6. Scan Type: Flatbed/ ADF, One-sided/ Duplex

A Multifunction printer can scan papers either from a Flatbed (Glass), where papers are placed manually one by one (or) from an ADF, where multiple papers can be placed and the printer automatically takes one by one. Flatbed scanners might be better for high resolution/ high quality scanning. Most of the MFP’s in this segment support One Sided Scanning, while some of them scan both sides of a paper, automatically. Some MFP’s allow to scan to your email directly, while others scan to a file.

7. Copier Resizing:

Most of the MFP’s allow for resizing (25% – 400%) while copying. That means, you can shrink the size of the printed document (which needs to be copied) up to 25% of the size of the original paper, or expand it up to 400%, while copying it to a new paper.

8. Digitizing/ Optical Character Recognition (OCR):

Some MFP’s can Digitize a scanned document using Optical Character Recognition technology. So, you can scan a written paper (for example) in to an editable text document. But the accuracy of the OCR depends on a lot of factors including the legibility/ clarity of the text being scanned.

9. Photo Printing/ Memory Stick support:

Some MFP’s have an optional tray for holding thicker glossy photo papers for printing photos from image files. It is even possible to print photos directly from a memory stick/ USB drive without using a computer, with certain MFP models. In some multifunction printers, you can even connect  digital cameras directly to print photos.

10. Consumables/ Warranty:

This is a very important factor to be considered before buying a Multifunction Printer because the recurring cost (Toner cartridge / Drum) is quite high for multifunction printers. The color cartridges are especially expensive. So, cost per print-capacity (for consumables) is an important factor to be considered before buying MFP’s. Consumables are generally not covered under warranty.

Most of the manufacturers offer a one year warranty. But some of them offer a two year, three year and 5 year limited warranties as well. It is suggested to read what that ‘limited’ statement refers to, from the manufacturers website before buying a multifunction printer.

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