Multifunction machines (also called "all–in–ones") save money — and space — by combining several important office machines into one device. A 3–in–1 multifunction machine is a printer, copier, and scanner; a 4–in–1 is all of these plus a fax machine; and a 5–in–1 is all of these plus a computer fax.
Q: When should I choose a laser multifunction machine?
A: You should choose a laser multifunction machine if you plan to print only black–and–white documents, or if you need to print large volumes of black–and–white.
Laser multifunction machines (based on toner replacement costs) produce black–and–white text at a cost of between two and four cents per page. On the other hand, a toner cartridge in an inkjet multifunction prints black–and–white text at a cost of five to seven cents per page. Over the long run, then, businesses or households printing a lot of black–and–white documents will save money on toner by opting for a laser multifunction.
Q: When should I choose an inkjet multifunction machine?
A: If, in addition to producing a modest volume (10 to 25 pages per day) of black–and–white documents, you anticipate needing to print color reports, presentations, or digital images, then you should opt for an inkjet instead of a laser multifunction machine. If you plan to print large volumes of black–and–white text and the occasional color document or image, then you may want to purchase a laser multifunction machine and a stand–alone inkjet printer. Any business or individual printing large volumes of color prints may want to invest in a stand–alone color laser printer. (Read about how a color laser printer can be a wise investment.)
One more word about inkjet multifunctions: If you want to print sharp, photo–quality digital images from your multifunction machine, opt for an inkjet model that prints at a color resolution of 4800 x 1200 dpi. For optimal, professional–grade photo printing, however, you may want to consider a top–of–the line photo printer. (Read more about photo printers.)
Q: When should I get a stand–alone copier, fax machine, printer, or scanner instead of a multifunction machine?
A: If you print more than 50 pages or copy, fax, or scan more than 30 pages per day, you should consider opting for a stand–alone machine for each function. (Click here to use the "Help Me Decide" multifunction tool.)
Q: Is the printer on a multifunction machine as good as a stand–alone printer?
A: Depending on the model, the printer on a multifunction can be as good as or better than a stand–alone machine. The same is true of a multifunction machine's copier, fax machine, and scanner. Ultimately, you need to compare the core features. See comparison tables for multifunction and stand–alone machines.
Q: What happens if one of the functions breaks down? If the printer malfunctions, for instance, can I still use the copier, scanner, or fax?
A: The copier, fax machine, and printer all use the same printing engine, so a problem with the printing engine will simultaneously affect all three. Similarly, the fax machine and the scanner use the same optical reading technology. As a result, a particular problem with the optical technology hardware will prevent you from using both the fax machine and the scanner.
If there is an equipment problem that does not affect these specific, shared technologies, then you'll still be able to use one function even when another is malfunctioning.
Q: What's the difference between a flatbed and sheet–fed multifunction machine?
A: A flatbed multifunction machine allows for the copying and scanning of bound documents, such as books and presentations. A sheet–fed scanner can only scan and copy individual (loose) pieces of paper.
Q: What is PC faxing?
A: PC faxing is a feature of 5–in–1 multifunction machines. PC faxing enables you to send a file (with or without a cover letter) directly from your computer to a recipient's fax machine. This saves on ink and paper.
Q: How should I maintain and service my multifunction machine?
A: The first cleaning step to take is preventative: you should regularly dust your machine (on the outside only!), either by using a dry cloth or canned air. The second step is to clean the feeding rollers, since they're used by the printer, copier, and fax. Keeping the feeding rollers clean will reduce the frequency of paper jams. Follow these steps to clean lint and gunk from feeding rollers:
Q: What kind of paper should I use in my multifunction machine?
A: For best results when printing, copying, faxing, or scanning, use paper that meets the following specifications:
|Machine||Recommended paper weight||Recommended brightness|
|Inkjet multifunction||20–24 lbs.||90–94|
|Laser multifunction||24 lbs.||92–96|