Jack of all trades

Q: Should I buy an all-purpose printer/scanner/fax machine or will I be better off buying separate devices? And how much should I expect to pay?
–J. Palmer,
Los Angeles

A: All-in-one devices, more commonly known as multifunction printers (MFPs), have plenty to offer-especially in the realm of space and cost savings. Since desktop space is at a premium for most of us, adding three or more devices to an already cramped work area just isn’t an option. It’s also a lot cheaper to buy one combined unit rather than three or four individual ones. With an MFP you also cut your maintenance costs significantly. But because they cram so many features into one machine, the performance rarely matches that of more specialized devices.

For the small office/home office user, the quality is typically good enough for most tasks. The most robust part of most MFPs is the fax machine, since it uses the same technology as a scanner. The quality of the other devices will vary according to how much you are willing to shell out. MFPs come in both laser and inkjet versions, depending on which flavor you fancy. Overall, an MFP is probably a good choice as long as you’re not trying to print a full-color magazine. However, there are color MFPs available-although the quality may not be what you’d expect from a stand-alone color printer or scanner. For a black and white MFP expect to pay between $300 and $800, depending on the print and scanning resolution you desire.

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