Multifunction Device / Multifunction Printer Buying Guide

Our tips on how to buy the best printer - for printing photos, scanning, faxing or copying. We help you choose the right multifunction device or all in one printer

A large and clear LCD panel is also a helpful feature. It makes it easier to navigate the menus and view photos. Some devices might even let you edit photos.

Multifunctions generally come with software that you can install on your PC. Look for software that offers access to the multifunction's range of features in a single point-and-click interface. This means you won't need to load up separate applications to access different features. Some software interfaces are task-based, allowing you to follow on-screen instructions for the particular task you want to undertake. This type of interface is useful for inexperienced computer users. Some business-targeted laser multifunction devices rely on Web-based interfaces that you access through a browser; these can be harder to use than software packages. However, these interfaces generally offer comprehensive security and network configuration options as well as the ability to monitor a printer's usage. Some even offer a job status window so you can monitor a print queue and upload print jobs directly from your Web browser.

Warranty

Most multifunction devices have a minimum warranty period of one year. Some companies offer extensions of up to three years, and many retailers offer extended warranties that allow you to replace the device up to five years after purchase.

Costs

Inkjet multifunction devices can be bought for as little as $50, and can easily reach into the $500-600 range, while laser multifunction devices generally range from $200 to $5000. However, the initial outlay is just one part of the equation; you will also need to calculate running costs.

In most cases, laser multifunctions are cheaper to run than inkjet ones, with an average cost of $0.04 to $0.10 per A4 page. This cost includes all toners and other perishables like fusers, waste bottles and drums. Cheaper multifunction devices often have higher running costs than more expensive printers. Some manufacturers have begun combining the fuser, waste bottle and drum into a single unit.

The running cost of an inkjet multifunction device can range from $0.15 to $0.30 per A4 page, with the ink cartridge being the only real consumable. Some inkjet multifunctions have individual cartridges for each colour instead of one cartridge for all three colours. This means you won't need to replace all the inks when you run out of one colour. Buying the individual cartridges will usually cost a few dollars more than a combined cartridge. If you plan to use one colour more than others, opting for individual cartridges will save you money.

If you require an inkjet multifunction but are worried about the running costs, look for an office-focused model, as they generally have cheaper consumables than those designed for home use.

Ongoing costs are only part of the story when considering a multifunction, but if you are trying to decide between laser and inkjet, the laser will almost always be cheaper.

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