From the January 1998 issue of Startups

Need the latest in office technology but don't have room in your office--or your budget--for all those different machines? Take advantage of the new streamlining trend by purchasing one of the latest multifunction office machines.

Dubbed MFDs (multifunctional devices), these marvels of modern technology enable you to print, scan, copy and send faxes directly from your computer using one compact unit. Though MFDs are popping up in offices everywhere, the midpriced models are ideal for small- and home-office use. They save space, cut down on clutter and allow homebased and small-business owners to acquire all the accoutrements of a large corporate office--for a fraction of the price. Some MFDs even come with extras such as software packages, color printing and telephone answering machines that can make doing business considerably more convenient.

Four different print processes are available: laser, light emitting diode (LED), thermal transfer and inkjet. Laser printing provides the highest printing quality, LED is near laser quality, and inkjets and thermal transfer are slightly less precise but much less expensive.

Keep this caveat in mind: If one component of your MFD breaks down, the functioning of the entire unit can come to a screeching halt. Many manufacturers offer repair service with extremely quick turnaround time, but you still need to be prepared to face this sort of emergency.

Before you shop for an MFD, make a list of the features you absolutely must have, and establish your price range. At the store, ask for a demonstration of each key feature to check the user-friendliness of the machines that interest you.

Model: Xerox WorkCentre 450c
Phone: (800) TEAM-XRX
Estimated street price (ESP): $549
Extras: software package, color printing
Printer type/ quality: inkjet; 600 dpi monochrome, 300 dpi color (600 dpi color on high-resolution paper)
Print speed: up to 6 pages per minute (ppm) monochrome with optional high-capacity cartridge or 4 ppm without,1 ppm color
Warranty: Xerox Overnight Exchange Service replaces malfunctioning unit on the next business day.

One of the more affordable MFDs available, the Xerox WorkCentre 450c provides high-quality color printing and has an innovative multitasking capability that allows you to perform up to three tasks at once. The WorkCentre 450c can fax and print, scan and print, or scan and fax--without tying up your computer--so you can continue to work.

The software package includes document recognition and communication programs that enhance the Xerox 450c's scanning and PC faxing capabilities. Another plus is that color ink cartridges can be replaced separately as each color runs out, saving you about 40 percent in color ink usage.

Model: Okidata OkiOffice 44
Phone: (800) OKIDATA
ESP: $999
Extras: telephone answering machine interface (you provide the answering machine), software package
Printer type/quality: LED; 600 dpi monochrome
Print speed: 4 ppm
Warranty: 1-year Overnight Exchange Program, 5-year warranty, LED printhead

The Okidata OkiOffice 44 provides an economical alternative to purchasing a laser printer for those who are looking for "better than inkjet" quality results. The included JetSuite software allows you to scan documents for customized copy options. With this software, you can reduce, enlarge, rotate and format your document, then produce copies. The Power Save Mode automatically reduces power usage to less than 20 watts when the unit is inactive.

Model: Hewlett Packard OfficeJet 610
Phone: (800) 752-0900
ESP: $599
Extras: software package, color printing
Printer type/quality: inkjet; 600 dpi monochrome, 300 dpi color
Print speed: 5 ppm monochrome, 2 ppm color
Warranty: The 1-year Express Repair returns unit within three to five business days.

The Hewlett Packard OfficeJet 610 features ColorSmart technology, which automatically selects the best settings for photo images, text and graphics. The software package includes Corel Print & Photo House Select 2.0. This software helps you create color fliers, banners, newsletters and calendars.

Model: Brother MFC-7000FC
Phone: (800) 521-2846
ESP: $999
Extras: color printing, software package, Video Capture, message center, telephone
Printer type/quality: inkjet; 720 dpi monochrome, 720 dpi color
Print speed: 5 ppm monochrome, 3 ppm color
Warranty: 1-year replacement warranty

The Brother MFC-7000FC's Video Capture is by far its most unique feature, allowing you to capture video frames directly from your VCR, television, video camera, digital camera or laser-disc player. Using a standard NTSC video-input jack, you can copy the video frame directly or capture the frame on your computer and print, fax, copy or save the image in a file. The included software will help you retouch and manipulate the video images for use in newsletters and visual aids.

The MFC-7000FC also has the highest printing, scanning and copying resolution of the inkjets featured.

Model: Mita MIP-650
Phone: (800) ABC-MITA
ESP: $699
Extras: distinctive ring detection, built-in telephone handset
Printer type/quality: laser; 600 dpi
Print speed: 6 ppm
Warranty: 1-year warranty and technical support

The Mita MIP-650 offers laser printing with time-saving communications features. The MIP-650's Quick Scan feature allows you to scan documents into memory through a 30-sheet automatic document feeder, eliminating the need to wait for each page of your fax to transmit before returning to work. Ideal for home offices with only one phone line, voice and fax features can be used on the same phone line, thanks to the built-in fax/telephone switching and distinctive ring detection.

Model: Sharp UX-1400
Phone: (800) BE-SHARP
ESP: $479
Extras: telephone and answering system
Printer type/quality: thermal transfer; 200 dpi monochrome
Print speed: 2 ppm
Warranty: 90 days parts and labor

The multifunction software package included with the Sharp UX-1400 offers a convenient filing-cabinet feature that helps organize incoming and outgoing faxes, while a unique image-annotation feature allows you to place "sticky notes" on documents and highlight important areas in color for easy referencing.

The telephone's caller ID function, which works in conjunction with your local phone company's caller ID service, shows the name and number of each caller and automatically stores your last 20 incoming calls. With the unit's all-digital telephone answering system, you have the option of answering incoming calls or sending them to the digital answering system that features four voice mailboxes and up to 24 minutes of recording time.