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The Best Small Business Copiers of 2019

By
Kayla Harrison
,
business.com writer
|
Aug 29, 2019
Home
> Technology
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Despite being in the digital age, there are still reasons why businesses should invest in a multifunction printer. Not every customer or partner wants to receive digital records. Also, technology fails at times. Those moments can put your business in a tight spot. It's always a good idea to have hard copies available in case of tech emergencies. A good quality, multifunction printer and copier can produce the documents your business needs efficiently so no time is wasted.

Today's copiers are often referred to as multifunction printers (MFPs) or copiers (MFCs), also known as an all-in-one. These machines copy, print, fax and scan from one machine. Users can quickly print files and create copies from the same device.

Many modern color copiers can track usage to reduce unnecessary printing and copying by employees or customers. Also, many MFPs come with a digital touchscreen display, wireless accessibility and other user-friendly features.

Best Picks

Editor's note: Looking for a copier for your business? Fill out the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners contact you with free information.

Reviews

Read all our reviews of the best copiers below.

Pricing

The prices of copiers varies widely due to the features and accessories available with each model, and the supplies needed to operate the machine. Other issues that affect pricing are service and warranty plans. To ensure that costs are more manageable for small businesses, most manufacturers offer a lease option.

Additional Costs You Should Factor Into Your Copier Budget

In addition to the upfront price of a copier, as a business owner, you should budget for the copier's operating costs, such as paper and ink (toner or inkjet). However, even these costs can be somewhat misleading. For example, inks or even low-cost machines that seem inexpensive and appear like a benefit can cause problems later, such as leaky ink cartridges or slow machines that cause your company to spend additional money to fill those performance gaps. In other words, what may seem affordable on the front end could wind up being incredibly expensive later on.

From an operational perspective, factors like copy speed can help or hinder worker productivity and collaboration. Memory capacity is another factor. The higher the memory capacity, the faster the machine is at processing each job, allowing businesses to print, scan, or copy multiple jobs in a short amount of time.

Color copiers vary widely in the features and accessories that are offered; it's important to pore over the specs sheets to find out if they have what you need. One business may need very specific features because they do a lot of mailings; another business may require vibrant presentation materials. Sophisticated models come with optional binding and finishing accessories that allow you to create small booklets or brochures.

It's just practical business sense to conduct your own cost-benefit analysis before committing to a specific copier. For a copier that will serve as the workhorse for a large number of employees, speed may be the No. 1 deciding factor. For design-centric businesses, such as ad agencies or architectural firms, ink cost and image quality are more important. Or perhaps a color copier won't fulfill your needs, in which case, you might need a wide-format printer.

Ink/Toner

Another item to pay close attention to when shopping for a copier is the type of ink or toner that is used. Typically, CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) is used for print media, instead of technology, which uses RGB (red, green, blue). Printers use varying combinations of CMYK colors with inks to create true-to-life colors for your printed materials.

If you plan on using a printer for collateral materials or items that will be used to convey your brand, it's imperative that you choose a copier that will print accurate, consistent results.

When choosing a copier, consider the functions you need and want followed by how high the demand may be for those functions. You'll also want to determine what your monthly usage will be, what types of projects the copier will be used for and who will use the machine. From there, the copier speed, price (including supply and maintenance expenses) and volume will guide your decision.

Our Methodology

We sought to evaluate digital copiers designed for small and midsize businesses. Our recommendations are based on manufacturer product specs, online reviews and what we have learned from our readers.

In providing our best pick recommendations, we evaluated copying speed, the duty cycle, pricing, usability and connectivity. We also considered accessibility features, paper capacity and security enhancements, which may be more important for certain industries, such as legal and government sectors.

 

What Features Are Critical for You in a Small Business Copier?

Before you take the plunge and buy or lease a specific copy machine, printer, fax and scanner, consider the following:

  • Print and copy speed
  • Paper capacity and duty cycle
  • Connectivity options
  • Ease of use
  • Accessibility features
  • Security features
  • Contract and service agreements

Speed

Speed counts when it comes to copiers and printers. No one wants to wait minutes on end for a printer to spit out a presentation or brochure. And for organizations that have a larger number of employees, a slow printer has a negative ripple effect on productivity across the office. 

Speed is measured in pages per minute (ppm). In our reviews, we have listed the ppm rate of each printer. Many, if not most, copiers today have the same speeds for both black-and-white and color copies. Laser copiers generate a faster output than inkjet. 

Many copiers offer flexible paper choices, allowing you to easily change sizes and feed the size of paper you need through the tray. A related feature that most businesses consider a must is automatic duplexing – where your color copier automatically works to copy (print, scan or fax) two-sided documents. This feature is a major time-saver. Without it, you'll be manually feeding pages into the machine, flipping them, inputting them back into the machine and repeating the process ad nauseam.

Paper Capacity and Duty Cycle

We've also included the monthly duty cycle in each review. The duty cycle is simply the number of pages that your color copier prints each month. Monthly duty cycles may be as low as 10,000 pages or as high as 150,000-plus pages. 

Think of the duty cycle as an indicator of a printer's endurance over time. And like speed, depending on the number of employees you have and projects you typically work on, you'll want to pay close attention to a printer's duty cycle when shopping for a copier.

Connectivity

In today's world of multiple devices and the cloud, the more options your digital copier offers for connections, the better. 

USB connection is still standard, but modern machines offer mobile connectivity and options for users to connect to their cloud drives, such as Box or Microsoft OneDrive. These options give users one-touch accessibility to print files that are stored anywhere, from almost any device. 

Wireless printing, allowing a user to print directly from their tablet or smartphone, is also important. Many copiers are equipped with the ability to scan directly to a cloud-based service. This can benefit businesses that receive a lot of paper documents and want to save them in an online drive or application for future reference or access.

Copiers Are Offering More 'Green' Features

Printer manufacturers have also been hard at work on designing products that are sustainable and environmentally friendly. Energy use (and costs) are an important factor for many business buyers. Some copiers come equipped with energy save modes and are made of recycled plastic. Many manufacturers offer recycling programs for toner cartridges and other accessories or supplies.

Ease of Use

Employees come from a range of technical backgrounds. As such, ease of use is an important factor in a color copier. It must be intuitive and convenient to use. This presents itself in many forms, such as touchscreens that mimic the interface of a smartphone and workflow solutions like scanning that are easy to navigate. 

Ease of use also applies to the system setup and initial user training. Avoid copiers that require extensive setup – plug-and-play functionality is important. Some copier manufacturers offer online manuals for their machines and how-to-videos that show you how to replace parts or accessories.

Mobility

Don't overlook the size and weight of the copier. Consider where you will place the copier. Will it be a central location easily accessible to all employees, or will it be accessible to only a few individuals? In addition, how important is portability? For smaller copiers, weight is an important factor if you plan to place it on a desk or if it's meant to be portable.

Accessibility

To make the workplace more accessible to those with disabilities, many copier manufacturers have included features like embossed marks, motion sensors, touchscreens with easy-to-use applications and voice control. Some copiers with voice control can link with Amazon's Alexa and allow users to use voice commands to complete print or copy jobs, making it easier for all users to operate. 

Security

In the age of the cloud and internet of things, security has become very important. Many copiers now come standard with password controls, centralized print policy controls and user-level access to restrict who can use the copier. 

Copiers are no longer viewed as a mundane office accessory; rather, they are now viewed as another endpoint vulnerable to the same threats as laptops and mobile phones.

Contracts and Service

You can purchase your printer outright (a capital expense) or lease it (typically an operating expense). Leasing in the printing world is known as "managed print." Copiers can be expensive, and technology advances at a rapid pace, which means newer models are being released with higher-quality technology (and at higher costs). For these reasons, leasing has become more popular. It's what many businesses consider a safe option, allowing them to experience all of the benefits that newer models offer with affordable monthly payments. 

Capital leases give you the advantage of calling your copier a business asset; operating leases deem your copier an (operating) expense. It's also a way to bundle your expenses and more easily control your costs. When you use managed print services, everything – printer, ink or toner, paper, maintenance – is bundled into one monthly price. Leases typically last three to five years. 

However, there are some issues to consider with a lease if you don't take the typical managed print services route. Your copier may require regular maintenance, and you lose some of the benefits of a regular maintenance schedule. On the upside, leasing equipment typically doesn't require a significant down payment. 

If you purchase a copier outright, you don't pay interest. Owning a copier, like owning a car, allows you to keep it for as long as you feel is reasonable, which may result in savings if you own it for a long time and don't feel like you need upgrades every few years. You can also avoid being stuck in a contract. When you purchase outright, you can deduct your copier expense. You're also completely in charge of maintenance, when you upgrade (or don't upgrade) and so on. 

The decision to purchase or lease a copier depends on your cash flow situation and which option benefits you the most in terms of maintenance and service, features, accessories, and supplies. 

Additional reporting by Joanna Furlong.

Common Color Copier Questions & Answers

Have a color copier question of your own?
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What information do you look for from a printer's website when researching a print vendor?

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The professional print companies I have used, when working for a design team for a corporation, have always been local. It's very important to be able to visit the facility, deal with the employees face to face, and of course their equipment. Being able to physically show your printer what you want as a finished product is key. I spent a lot of time creating comps on our Xerox machines and then driving to the shop to show the printers what I want. As a designer, it's really important to be able...

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I look for relationship, reliability, flexibility, and timeliness to delivery - long before price. Cheapest price does not always mean business. What are your core values, what is important to you to provide to your customers, etc...I ask this because, for example...as a consultant, coach - with tons of us out there, I could deliver on my core values and go inexpensive..but that is devaluing my work, and customers will see that - therefore it works against me - it certainly doesn't work for...

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Hi Alice, Printing labels is trivial in many programming languages, including Java and C which would run on a Mac. There are however a number of variables to be taken into consideration, pertaining to the layout, data source and interface to the printer's driver. I see that Etsy has an option, that you may already be aware of, for printing USPS labels purchased from them at : https://www.etsy.com/help/article/3148 By the way, I checked out your store there, cool jewels.

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I like to highlight this: 1. Clarify startup business ideas - to sell 3D printers or to use 3D printers to provide services or to rent 3D printers or to run other business but using 3D printers to enhance the results. 2. I suppose you wanted to use 3D printers to provide services - this is the most capital intensive model. Different targeted customers required different types of 3D printers and material investment will be onerous if the mixture of customers are not correct. 3. 3D business...

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