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

Check out our round-ups of the best inkjet printers for small businesses, best photo printers and best inkjet printers.

Find Australian printer reviews including multifunction printers, photo printers and inkjet printers from companies like Canon, Epson, Brother, HP and Dell.

What is a multifunction device?

A multifunction device (MFD) — also known as a multifunction printer — lets you print, scan, photocopy, fax, and more. Most multifunctions will let you to carry out more than one of these tasks simultaneously.

There are two main types of multifunction: laser printers (which can be colour or black and white) and inkjet printers (which are only available in colour). Multifunction printers range in price from under $50 to over $5000, and are available with a variety of features and networking options. The design and the quality of printing also vary; some expensive MFDs don't necessarily provide better print quality compared to cheaper multifunctions.

In the home, you would look to a multifunction printer to save money and space, particularly if you want to fax, scan, print and copy on a regular basis. Though standalone printers, scanners and faxes are still available, many (if not all) of their features are available on multifunction devices. The amalgamation of several devices into one unit along with the addition of large LCD panels, networking options, and direct printing features (such as PictBridge) make multifunctions the best choice for many households.

In a business environment, high-end standalone laser printers can often be a better choice as they offer better quality results, faster speeds, and similar networking capabilities to multifunctions. However, MFDs can be valuable to businesses of all sizes, as they reduce the amount of space taken up by standalone printers, photocopiers and fax machines, and often their features can be accessed across a network. This allows businesses to increase productivity, streamline tasks and potentially decrease costs (for example, only leasing one unit instead of three.)

As you are effectively buying three or more devices in one, there are many factors to consider when purchasing a multifunction device. This guide will help you think about different features you may want in such a device, and suggest some important points to consider before making your purchase.

Downsides

Multifunction devices are commonly perceived to have several downsides. For instance, many people think that although a multifunction can perform multiple tasks, the quality of those individual tasks is compromised. Fortunately, this isn't the case. Though you'll likely spend more for a multifunction device than you would for an individual unit, multifunction devices can still match the quality of their standalone counterparts. However, be aware that high-end monochrome laser printers offer more advanced quality settings (lines-per-inch density settings, for example) that aren't available on multifunction devices. These standalone units are used for printing that requires the utmost accuracy rather than for standard office use.

Security can be a concern when an MFD is networked and used to scan and store sensitive documents. However, technology has improved vastly in the last five years and security features and standards have been enhanced. Most lower-end multifunction devices can be easily set up and secured using accompanying software or a Web interface; some higher-end network multifunction devices will require professional configuration to ensure their security.

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GoodGearGuide Staff

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