Multifunction Device / Multifunction Printer Buying Guide
- — 24 August, 2009 11:40
- What is a multifunction device?
- Factors to consider
- Printing speed
- Print and scan resolution
- Media Handling
- Ease of use
Although the speed of multifunctions (especially for photo printing) has improved in the last few years, there is still substantial difference between devices. While some multifunction devices can print full-colour A4 photographs in 35 seconds, others take up to 5 minutes, and the results are often worlds apart in terms of quality.
To further confuse the issue, laser and inkjet speeds are measured and quoted differently. While it is generally a good rule of thumb to ignore inkjet multifunction print speeds, figures given for laser multifunction devices are often more accurate.
Speed is an issue in an office environment — especially if there are peak printing times when you need to meet deadlines, such as monthly reports. Buy a multifunction device with plenty of memory: this will allow it to store big files locally and print them out with a minimum of waiting time. More memory, and a fast processor, will also help keep things moving if people want to scan a document while you're printing, for example.
If speed is important to you, don't just go on what the advertising material tells you. The best way to work out whether an MFD is fast enough is to read independent reviews that involve tests conducted in real-world scenarios.
At a certain price point, the print speed difference between multifunction devices becomes negligible, which means the deciding factor will come down to the features of each multifunction device.
Since quoted print speeds can't really be trusted, PC World conducts its own standardised testing. We include the results in our reviews so you know how a device will perform in the real world. Below we have compiled some basic information about what you can expect these days from a multifunction device, and how it compares to what the vendor claims. As you can see, laser printers are generally truer to claimed speeds, though there can still be a slight discrepancy. The inkjet figures here are only representative of draft mode speeds; normal quality printing is usually much slower.
• Claimed speeds: 22 to 30 pages per minute (ppm) monochrome
• Test results: 21 to 30ppm text
• Claimed speeds: 30ppm colour graphics
• Test results: 24 to 30ppm colour graphics
• Claimed Speeds: 28 to 40ppm monochrome, draft mode
•Test results: 17 to 25ppm text
•Claimed Speeds: 22 to 40ppm in colour, draft mode
•Test results: 11 to 25ppm colour graphics
Print and scan resolution
Like speed, print and scan resolution specifications can often be misleading. Inkjet multifunction printers can boast maximum colour print resolutions of up to 9600x4800 dots per inch (dpi), though this is not always the resolution of the scan engine. Many devices use software to interpolate an image, smooth and sharpen colour, and generally optimise a picture to provide an image with a higher resolution than the scan engine itself.
Ink droplet size can often be a good way to determine an inkjet multifunction device's ability to handle fine detail when printing; better printers offer droplet sizes as low as 0.5 picolitres, while lower-end printers have droplets of 1.5-2 picolitres.