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Multifunction printer buying guide: Compare inkjet and laser printers

We'll give you all the information you need to help decide on a printer that's right for you.

Updated

MultiFunction Printer

Quick facts about multifunction printers

  • Multifunction printers can scan, copy, fax and print a wide variety of documents and images.
  • They can help you save space at home by offering combined services and reducing the number of devices you may need.
  • Prices range from less than $100 up to $1,000 or more depending on the type of device and its technical capabilities.

Types of multifunction printers

There are two mane types of printers: inkjet and laser.

  • Multifunction inkjet printers. The most common multifunction printers are inkjet printers. Basic inkjet models are generally the most affordable multi-purpose devices and offer sufficient quality for everyday use. Inkjet printers can also produce exceptional detail when printing images and colours. These devices require you to buy replaceable ink cartridges every so often, depending on what you're printing, how frequently you use the printer and at what quality you opt to print.
  • Multifunction laser printers. These devices differ to inkjet printers in that they use toner cartridges, a fine powder substance that's often more expensive but longer lasting than its ink-based counterpart. It's helpful to note that some multifunction inkjet printers don't require cartridges at all. Some come equipped with refillable tanks that offer greater affordability and fewer trips to the store. Additionally, some printers offer up to one year's worth of free ink when you buy. This can have a big effect on the value of your purchase, so it's important to take this into consideration.

Costs

The price of a new multifunction printer will vary depending on the brand, model and technical specifications. Not all devices offer the same list of services, although most are similar in terms of functionality. For example, some multifunction printers don't provide fax capabilities, since fewer people send and receive faxes due to the Internet.

Multifunction printers range in cost from as low as $90 to over $1,200. The sweet spot seems to be between $150 and $300, but this does not take into account individual requirements.

How to compare multifunction printers

The different features of multifunction printers that determine quality, capability, cost and longevity include the following:

Printing capabilities

This remains the primary function of these devices and so considering what it is you will be printing, how often you'll be printing and your particular needs and desires is essential. For example, photographers may need specific size prints and special paper and not all multifunction printers are capable of conforming to these requirements. Office employees or individuals that work from home may need to print documents at a high rate of speed. A laser printer may be useful for those that need to mark or highlight sheets as they're printed.

Scanning

A scanner can quickly transfer documents or images to your computer, allowing you to save, edit and send them on to your network of contacts. Be aware of the types of things you'll be scanning and ensure that the multifunction printer you purchase has sufficient capabilities. Scanner resolution is a key indicator for quality. For example, 600dpi is appropriate for most of your documents and images/photos, while you will need higher resolutions for large printing jobs.

Wireless, Wi-Fi, wired connections and USB ports

Check to see if the printer you're buying offers wireless connections to other devices, such as your laptop or phone. This will allow you to print without cords or a wired connection. Wi-Fi is commonplace on most devices these days, but it's not guaranteed. Some people prefer the confidence of a wired connection. If you're likely to print from an external hard drive or USB stick, check that the multifunction printer you're purchasing comes equipped with these ports.

Faxing

Be aware that not all new multifunction printers come equipped with fax capabilities. Being able to send and receive a fax is convenient when your Internet connection goes down since you send faxes via the phone lines. However, the person you're sharing documents with must also have a fax for this process to be successful.

Copying

The copy function allows you to duplicate paper pages you feed into your printer. There are two types of copiers, monochrome and colour. Colour copiers are often more expensive, so it's helpful to determine whether you'll need this capability or be able to rely on scanning.

Automatic duplexing

Printers with automatic duplexing are able to print on both sides of a piece of paper without any need for you to touch the page during the process. Manual duplex printers can also print on both sides of a piece of paper but you need to feed the page back through the machine.

Automatic document feeding

Some multifunction printers include document feeding stations, where you can load large, multi-page documents for copying or scanning. This can save lots of time and hassle.

Size

Multifunction printers are generally larger than standard printers, but because they're able to perform a variety of tasks, they can go a long way to conserving space and reducing clutter.

Ink and toner cartridges and refills

These are supplemental items that you will need to replace regularly and can differ in cost, size and price depending on your quality requirements and your printer's unique specifications.

Where to buy printers online

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