Before You Buy a Multifunction Printer
What You Need to Know About MFP Features
Multifunction printers (MFPs) have become incredibly popular with small and home businesses and no wonder; an MFP can save space, reduce energy costs, and improve productivity by integrating the traditional office duties of printing, faxing, scanning, and copying into a single device. MFPs (also known as all-in-ones) continue to decline in price while improving in features.
An MFP is essentially a printer with added scanning/copying and fax capability. Typically a printer manufacturer will market both a basic printer and an all-in-one based on the same printing engine. Even if you don’t have a regular need to fax, scan or copy having an MFP gives you the flexibility to do so when required.
If your business does not have a need for scanning/copying and faxing, a “printer only” unit is less expensive to purchase and may be simpler to operate as MFPs typically come with document feeders (increasing the size and weight), more complex control panels, and additional software for faxing, scanning, etc.
Choosing the Type of Printer
If printing is the primary intended use of the MFP then it is important to match your needs to the printer capabilities. More expensive models are typically designed for higher print speeds and heavier use.
Fortunately, there is a wide selection of available MFPs that are based on both inkjet and laser printing engines. There are even MFPs that excel in color photo printing.
Is Faxing Required?
Some MFP devices no longer include fax modems, which is fine for businesses that have no need to exchange faxes with customers or vendors. Faxing is still handy for sending/receiving documents that require signatures, but setting up your own fax service requires connection to a phone line. A normal phone line can be shared with a fax machine if tying up the phone line while sending/receiving faxes is not a concern. Otherwise, a separate phone line is needed.
If you need fax capability but don’t want the hassle and expense of setting up your own fax, there are several online services that allow you to send and receive faxes via email, web, or smartphone.
Most MFPs come with a low to medium resolution scanning unit designed for document scanning. If you need high-resolution scanning of photos or other media-like slides or negatives you will want either a separate standalone scanner or an MFP that specializes in photo scanning/printing such as the Canon Pixma line of MFPs.
Automatic Document Feeders
If you intend to fax, scan, or copy large documents, make sure the MFP you choose has an automatic document feeder (ADF) with sufficient sheet capacity. Typically the less expensive MFPs have smaller 20-30 sheet ADFs whereas more expensive models can hold 50 sheets or more.
Automatic Duplexing (2-sided print/scan/copy/fax)
It is highly likely that at some point you will want to scan, fax, or print two-sided documents. If your MFP does not have automatic duplexing and you want to print on both sides of a page, you will need to print the odd pages of the document, take the printed pages, flip them, return them to the input paper tray, and print the even pages. This is tedious and error-prone, so consider automatic duplexing a very desirable feature, especially considering it is no longer the expensive option that it used to be.
When it comes to connecting to an MFP, the more options the better. Aside from the standard USB connector, if you want to connect the MFP to a network you will need a wired (Ethernet) port or wireless (Wi-fi) capability (for printing from mobile devices).
Most MFPs that have Wi-fi connectivity support wireless industry standard protocols such as Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print, or NFC (which allows you to tap an NFC-enabled smartphone or tablet to the MFP and have it connect automatically).