If you are considering buying an MFD, read on, because by the time you are through, you will be in a position to make an informed buying decision.
An MFD or a Multifunction Device is omnipresent in today's offices. The good thing about an MFD is that it is one device, which can do it all - print, scan, copy and fax, thus eliminating the need to have several different devices for these functions. MFDs save on expensive office desk space too. They also increase the productivity of your workforce simply by taking away the need to make trips between different devices, as everything is at your disposal at one place.
Similarly, the cost of maintenance is also significantly lower. The downside to MFDs is that there may be an increased downtime because, if one of the components, such as the scanner malfunctions, then you will not be able to use the copier as well as the fax-sending function. However, you will be able to still print as well as receive faxes.
MFDs are available in two flavors - Inkjet and Laser, and Lasers are further divided into monochrome and color. Inkjet MFDs are less expensive as compared to Laser MFDs due to the inherent lower cost of production, but Lasers tend to be more cost effective when the volumes are high and also they are comparatively more rugged and heavy duty.
Therefore, if you are a SoHo, you can choose between Inkjet and entry-level Lasers. If you are an SMB or an enterprise, heavier duty Laser MFDs should be your choice. If you work in the photography or multimedia field, then an Inkjet photo-MFD should be your choice, because color Lasers do not even come close to the color printing quality of Inkjets. Color MFDs are good for offices, which need to print presentations such as documents with graphs, since an excellent photo quality is not what is expected in this case.
Though MFDs are primarily targeted at offices, they are finding a new level of acceptance and usage at homes as well. The major cause of this happening is the plummeting costs - an entry-level MFD today costs as much as a printer was priced just a couple of years ago. Having one such inexpensive MFD at home will save you a trip to the photocopy centre or even to the local cybercafe to get a quick print.
Here some features that you need to pay attention to and will help you decide better about your purchase (for both Inkjet as well as Laser MFDs).
The larger the buffer memory the better will an MFD perform; as far as printing is concerned. Larger buffer allows the printer to accept large documents and images directly into the buffer, without the need to spool it in the PC, thus increasing the printing speed.
ADF (Automatic Document Feeder):
ADF allows you to scan or copy a stack of documents without you having to be present near the MFD to manually keep feeding them one by one. Not of much use for a home or SoHo user, this is a feature that is of importance for larger offices.
Duplex printing is a printer feature that lets you print to both sides of the paper, without having to manually feed the paper back into the MFD. Since this saves time, it increases productivity, but increases the cost of the unit. Again, this is of more importance in larger offices.
Paper tray capacity:
The paper capacity of the tray should ideally be more than 100 for an office; a smaller capacity will do if it is for home use. Additional trays are also available to be attached to some MFDs, so check if this feature is available if your business is a rapidly expanding one.
Speed and resolution:
You must find out the PPM or pages per minute that the MFD is capable of printing. This is very important, more so for businesses, where time saved is money earned. PPM and resolutions is different for Printing, scanning, copying and faxing, so pay attention to them. These are claimed values and are never really achievable, but these are indicative of the performance.
Duty cycle (for Laser MFDs):
The number of pages that the printer can print in a month at default quality settings is known as the monthly duty cycle of the printer, while the toner duty cycle is the total number of pages that the toner can print. You should obviously look for a higher duty cycle.
Generally the more expensive ones, network MFDs are should be preferred only if you want an MFD to cater to many users (more than 10) on a large network. For smaller networks, any standard MFD can be configured for network printing as long as it is connected to a computer on the network.
The most commonly accepted printer media size is A4 and it is good enough for home as well as office. For CAD professionals, larger media size is required and therefore warrants a larger and more expensive device supporting such a media size. In certain offices such as legal departments, Legal size is more accepted and therefore a scanner with such size should be chosen, again these are more expensive.
Save some money by getting an MFD sans fax if this feature is not going to be used at all. You can always use the PC fax feature instead, as it works just as good as long as the PC to which the MFD is connected is powered on.
Power consumption: Laser MFDs usually consume power that is usually larger than 300 W. This is an important thing to note as this increases the running cost of the MFD. Inkjets consume a lot less power.
Check the type of warranty offered. Laser MFDs are large and heavy; lugging them around is not feasible, so make sure your model is covered by an on-site warranty. Check with other customers about the reliability and effectiveness of the support of a brand before you go for it. It is often seen that some brands have a stronger support in specific regions of the country and this could be too vital to be missed.
The bundled software is one neglected point that you should pay attention to. Some come with OCR software, which saves you the cost of purchasing a third party OCR. Some come with utilities, which guide you to easily configure the MFD on the network.
Some MFDs come with Mac and Linux drivers, so make sure that the MFD you wish to buy comes with these if you happen use one of these alternative operating systems.
For a business that grows, the MFD should also be able to scale accordingly. Some of the upgrade options that you should be looking for are; additional memory, paper tray, etc. These will extend the functionality of the device.
Copier-based or printer-based Laser MFD?
Choose a printer engine-based MFD if you print more and copy less. Likewise, go for a copier engine-based MFD if you print less and copy more. The advantage of copier-based MFD over printer-based MFD is that it consists of separate toner and drum, allowing you to replace them individually. As they get spent, the toner is always the first to go, saving you money. In contrast to this, in a printer-based MFD, there is a single module of integrated toner and drum that has to be replaced even if any one (toner or drum) of them gets spent. This incurs higher expenses, but the costs of these MFDs are generally lower than copier-based MFDs.
Understand your requirements: Ponder over whether you really need an MFD or would rather be better off with a printer. If the nature of your work is such that you rarely need to scan, OCR, or fax, then it is better to invest in a printer rather than an MFD.