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

Extra features

OCR: Optical character recognition (OCR) software is sometimes supplied with the machine. This allows you to scan documents and extract the text for editing.

ADF: An Automatic Document Feeder (ADF) is convenient if you need to frequently fax, copy or scan multi-page documents and don't want to individually feed each sheet. Most ADFs should be able to handle at least 30 pages.

Direct CD/DVD printing: Some inkjet multifunction devices enable you to print directly onto CDs and DVDs with matte white surfaces. The feature is handy for labelling archived data or for simply making discs look more professional when sending them to clients.

Printing on other media: Other media may include overhead transparencies, labels, stickers, envelopes etc. Multifunction device vendors don't always provide detailed information as to which media is compatible with their device, though making note of the media thickness (measured in gsm) will allow to you determine what quality of photo media can be used.

Two or more paper trays, or optional expansion: This feature might be useful for extra capacity if large documents need to be printed regularly. Most devices tend to have room for 100-250 pages at any one time in the input tray; with two trays, this capacity is doubled. Inkjet multifunction devices often have more than one tray, with one tray dedicated to plain paper and the other dedicated to photo paper.

Direct printing: Almost all inkjet multifunction devices these days provide some direct printing functionality, often in the form of one or more card readers and a PictBridge-capable USB port. These features allow you to print directly from your camera or mobile phone without having to first upload the pictures to a computer. Some multifunction devices also allow some form of photo manipulation and editing from the device itself.

Local and networked scan presets: Many laser multifunction devices targeted at large offices provide networked scanning in the form of individual "scan boxes" which can be accessed directly from a Web interface. On lower-end laser and inkjet multifunction devices, network scanning can also be found in the form of direct scanning presets, as well as the ability to scan to e-mail.

Scanning film or slides: This can be handy for photographers, though the quality of the results can be underwhelming if you don't have the right software (third-party software like Silverfast can replace bundled applications if you are serious about scanning your negatives). Make sure you choose a multifunction with a high scan resolution; 9600x4800dpi is ideal for scanning negatives.

Questions to ask / considerations

• How do I plan to use the device? Do I primarily want to print documents or photos?

• Do I plan to network the device?

• How many sheets can the input tray hold?

• How much space will it take up?

• Does the multifunction device's connection options match up with what I need?

• Card readers: can the multifunction read a variety of media, or just one type?

• How much memory does the printer have? More memory allows the multifunction device to handle more print jobs and save documents for future printing.

• What services and support are provided? How long is the warranty?

• Does the MFD support my operating system — e.g. Windows, OS X, Linux?

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