Every business, no matter the size, needs the basics of an office all-in-one: a fax machine, copier, printer and scanner. Why spend thousands to buy stand-alones separately when you can get the complete package in one device? Office all-in-ones, also known as multi-function machines, are great for home office use and small businesses alike.
If you need the highest quality, or plan to use the scanner, printer and copier heavily, then an all-in-one is probably not right for you. These machines are designed for moderate small business use, and might not stand up to high volume.
What to buy
Before settling on an all-in-one, consider how it will be used, the expected volume for each function (fax, scan, print, copy) and whether you may need separate machines.
How much is it?
All-in-ones vary in price depending on whether you buy a laser or an ink jet version. The less expensive ink jets cost an average of $150 to $300. Laser versions average $400 and up, but are usually faster, quieter and have better resolution.
Three must-have features for an all-in-one are: a flatbed, color printing/copying capability and speed. Flatbeds make it possible to scan printed materials including text, photos or other images. Color is great for making flyers and brochures. Speed, which is determined by pages per minute (ppm), is essential for big print jobs.
Setting up shop
Typically, you will need three cords to start: one USB cable for the computer, one to the phone jack for faxing and one for power. You will also need to use a set-up CD, which will install necessary drivers and scanner software on your computer.
- When deciding on resolution for your printer, 600x600 dpi (dots per inch) is standard for laser types; 1200x1200 dpi is standard for ink jet versions.
- Some all-in-ones are network-ready right out of the box. They can be used with several computers over a network, and there is no need for a USB cord.
- Keep an eye out for all-in-ones that offer extra features for digital-camera users. This bonus allows you to print photos directly from a media card.
- You can add RAM (memory) to laser printers to print large files faster.