All-in-one printer/scanner/copier/fax recommendations ?
March 11, 2013 2:59 PM   Subscribe

March 2013 edition ! A non-profit that I volunteer with is looking to buy a new all-in-one machine to do its printing, scanning, copying, and faxing for its office. Non-profit uses windows. Initial budget is $300-500. Other pluses: Dual-sided printing Most of the printing will be in b&w but will occasionally need to print in color (not for photos but for small logos on flyers, etc). What should I recommend to them ? Laser ? Inkjet, no right ? They'd rather not since space is at a premium there.
posted by fizzix to Shopping (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
If at all possible, get a laser. Even if you end up getting a color inkjet all-in-one and a stand-alone b&w laser printer. A quick search shows that you can probably get a color laser all-in-one in that price range.

Laser will be far, far, FAR cheaper per page on ink/toner. Inkjet prints can and do smudge, laser bonds the toner to the page so it won't smudge no matter how much it gets handles. It will great for graphs, logos, and similar graphics, just a little iffy on photos. The ink in an inkjet can dry out, toner is a very fine dry powder so it can sit on a shelf basically forever.

Many laser printers come with "starter cartridges" that don't have a tone of toner in them. Buy a full set right away (one each for black, yellow, cyan, and magenta). Then, replace the one on the shelf once it goes into the printer. You'll be spending more up-front but you'll never have to worry about running out since you'll always have an extra on the shelf and since you don't have to worry about it going bad, you're not wasting money. It will get used eventually.
posted by VTX at 3:31 PM on March 11, 2013

nthing laser, cleaner copies, faster, probably cheaper.

Consider usage, perhaps a sturdy b&w laser and a color all in one ink jet if color and the misc options like scaning are used quite less frequently.
posted by sammyo at 3:52 PM on March 11, 2013

For similar office use, we have a Brother b/w laser multi-function bought through Costco online. They are workhorses and do well for us. Getting a color printer for mostly black and white jobs is a big waste - toner is much more expensive to replace for those machines, and the same is true for ink-jet. We ended up with several Brother b/w multifunction machines and one Brother color laser that's used occasionally when we really need color. If you don't anticipate color being a major need, you could get a secondary machine for color only (inkjet may be preferable due to lower cost) or just order your color projects from a print or copy shop.
posted by quince at 3:58 PM on March 11, 2013

Printers are one of the last computer categories where more money generally means better quality and lower follow up costs.
The more expensive printers are made with better mechanical stability and the toner cartrides are of a higher capacity. Not only ist this cheaper per page but it is also more convenient since you will have to swap ink/toner less often. And since four colors means four separate ink/toner cartdriges, swapping can become quite the hobby depending on your printig volume.
Two axioms:
1. b/w printers are far cheaper to buy and far cheaper to feed
2. If color is available in one machine , everybody prints color.

If you want a crisp and clean look, want reliability and cheap per page prices over the machine's lifetime , get a Lexmark X748 multifunction color laser. (Lexmark used to do small consumer devices and they were horrible and very expensive to maintain. Their business line is different.)

If you do not want to spend so much money, get a brother multifunktion inkjet. Cheap to buy and refills tend to be available cheaply.
Foe that clean printed look I would recommend an additional b/w laser like the others above already did. I favour the Kyocera FS-1370. It has network printing, duplex printing and you can get toner refills cheaply that have a very high capacity. There is more toner in one of those b/w refills than there is in all four cartridges of many a cheap color laser.The Kyoceras have the advantage that they only need toner and no developer drum, that makes them cheap to maintain. The color lasers are horrible though, either they have expensive low capacity toner cartdriges or they break. The more expensive color models might be better but I have no experience with them. I only know the big Lexmarks in that area.
If you want to do cheap bulk color printing the Epson B510 prints the cheapest color pages with its very high capacity ink cartridges. All color lasers are way more expensive per page.

To summarize: Either get an initially very expensive multifunction color laser or get a dirt cheap brother multifunction color inkjet + a reasonable b/w laser. (That's my conlcusion afte supporting the printing needs of 100-200 people for a couple of years.) Everything else is pain and suffering. Your milage may vary for a smaller number of printig people.
posted by mmkhd at 6:14 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Copier/printer guy, here. Kyocera b&w and color printers have incredibly low operating costs, but the initial cost of the machine is far in excess of your stated budget. Would definitely recommend a color laser MFP. Inkjet has a low purchase price, but a far higher per-page operating cost than laser, and way too many drawbacks. Forget double-sided printing; even if the inkjet machine is capable of it, you will not be happy with the results (wrinkled, curled, over-saturated paper.)

Given your situation, a real workhorse of a B&W printer + a lighter-duty color MFP would be my recommendation (and mmkhd's suggestion of the Kyocera FS-1370DN is exactly what I would have recommended for a B&W printer), but to fit your budget, you'd have to skimp too much on the quality of both machines. So, for your price range, I'd go with a Brother color MFP. Brother has really stepped up its game recently and has shown significant improvements in quality. Conversely, HP's quality has gone in the toilet over the last few years. I do everything I can to dissuade people from buying HP. "Look, even if you don't buy this from me, do yourself a favor and avoid HP." They're poorly built and have among the highest operating costs in their class.

The suggestions about keeping an extra set of supplies on hand (don't forget a waste toner container, if the machine uses one) are spot-on.

Once you get your color MFP set up, set its copying default to B&W, and then set the print driver defaults on all the computers to B&W. People can still print color if they really need to, but they'll have to purposely select color on each job. This will cut down on unnecessary color usage quite a bit.

One last thing: Compare the operating costs for the supplies, for each machine, before you make a decision. For example, say the four toners are $85 each for a 5,000-page yield per cartridge. That works out to $0.017 (1.7 cents) per color, x 4 colors = $0.068 for a basic color print. Now let's say the next more expensive machine in the lineup uses toners which are $95 each for an 8,000 page yield per cartridge. That works out to $0.012 (1.2 cents) per color, x 4 colors = $0.048 for a basic color print. 2 cents a page might not seem like much, but if you're doing say 1,000 pages a month, that's 20 bucks a month, $240 a year, and suddenly the extra $100 purchase price for the more expensive machine makes a lot more sense. Even if it's slightly over your budget for the equipment price, in some cases, going just one step up in models will cut the operating cost in half.

Samsung's smallest color MFPs which take the CLT-x409S cartridges are crazy expensive to run, the color toners are about 50 bucks for a 1,000 page yield, or around $0.194 (almost twenty cents!!) for a basic color print. Given our previous example of a machine with a basic color print cost of $0.048/print, at 1,000 pages a month, the Samsung would cost $193.96/month for 1,000 prints, and our other machine would cost $48/month for the same, a difference of $148/month. That's almost $1800.00 a year more to feed the Samsung vs. a more efficient printer.

So yeah, do be aware of your budget for the machine cost, but double-check what the operating cost will be, and then investigate a couple more expensive models. While the purchase price might be slightly out of your budget, it could very well be worth it in terms of cost savings over time.
posted by xedrik at 7:14 PM on March 11, 2013 [21 favorites]

Here is an Excel sheet with two models listed, showing cost breakdowns for color and b&w cost-per-page, as well as a 3-year Total Cost of Ownership (machine purchase price + operating costs). Please use or modify the sheet as needed. Often, a machine with a slightly higher purchase price will actually have a lower TCO over 2 or 3 years, due to its lower (sometimes, far lower) cost of operation. It's worth checking out. Good luck!
posted by xedrik at 8:01 PM on March 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Definitely a multi-function laser. I recommend Canon or Brother. The main criteria to look at is cost per page for toner, but bear in mind that you can get reasonable refurbished/refilled toner on eBay or elsewhere for quite a bit less. I think xedrik has covered this quite well. I think the hassle of a second printer for colour is no longer worth the savings if you buy smartly for black cartridge size, but that really depends on how much use the machine will see.

Double-sided, wireless, etc. are all within your price range. If scanning is a significant use, look closely at the functionality as cheaper machines can have fairly awkward workflow. Speed is often a big part of the advertising, but it doesn't really matter much for this size of printer (if you were printing enough for it to make much difference, then you'd be using a bigger machine).
posted by ssg at 12:38 AM on March 12, 2013

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