The Whole Enchilada
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All of me (sing it with us!), why not take all of me? Yes, we have a reason to sing: You can have your copier and print documents, too. Assuming your cluttered desk would buckle under the weight of a separate copier, fax machine and scanner, a multifunction machine might be just what you need.
Any of the six all-in-ones we look at here could handle the needs of you and a few employees. If your business is growing like a weed, however, you might want dedicated machines for high-volume duties. Otherwise, all-in-ones use less space and cost less than separate pieces. Before you start, know what you're looking for: a laser all-in-one or a flatbed all-in-one.
The two lasers we included are the Canon L6000 and the Brother MFC-4350. You'll get the cheaper upkeep costs and crispness of a laser printer, but you won't get the lovely color output of an inkjet like the Epson Stylus Scan 2000. The rarer flatbed scanner multifunctions like the Hewlett-Packard are preferable if you plan to scan anything that won't fit through a sheet-fed scanner, such as books, business cards or your face. Sheet-feds are handy because they automatically handle more than one sheet at a time for faxing and copying.
HP PSC 500
The imaginatively named Hewlett-Packard HP PSC 500 Printer/Scanner/Copier is a flatbed entry. What it's missing is the fax function, so you'll have to seek out fax software for your computer. It clocks in at $100 more than the Epson on the next page, but the flatbed scanner feature is what you're paying for. It only prints at up to 600 x 600 dpi, but the print speed is a zippy 9 ppm in black. A parallel-only interface leaves Mac users out in the cold. If you need photo-quality prints, consider the Epson. If you need to scan odd things, consider the HP 500. If you need both, too bad. You'll have to look elsewhere.
Model: HP PSC 500 Printer/ Scanner/ Copier
Street Price: $399
The Parellel Port Brother MFC-4350 puts out 600 x 600 dpi laser prints. At 200, its sheet tray has twice the capacity of the Canon L6000 on the next page (fewer refill trips). The MFC-4350 can also handle Caller ID so you can keep an eye out for the jerks who send junk faxes for vacations and "special offers." The 6 ppm print speed is right on par with the Canon. Even the street price is in line. At that rate, let the little things help your decision. For example, the Canon's toner cartridge and drum are together, costing $90 to replace. The MFC-4350, on the other hand, has a separate drum unit ($130) and toner cartridge ($25).
Street Price: $350
The Canon L6000 is one of our two laser all-in-ones. It incorporates a sheet-fed scanner for up to 600 dpi grayscale scans and can receive faxes while printing or scanning. The printing resolution is 600 x 600 dpi, not as high as most of our inkjets, and the print (and fax and copy) speed maxes out at 6 ppm. For your OCR needs, Xerox TextBridge software is included. Compare the parallel interface L6000 with the similar Brother MFC-4350.
Model: MultiPASS L6000
Street Price: $399
Epson Stylus Scan 2000
First of our inkjet contestants, the Epson Stylus Scan 2000 features a sheet-fed scanner and prints as high as a photo-quality 1,440 x 720 dpi. A stand-alone copy feature lets you make copies without twiddling your thumbs as you wait for your computer to start up. Adobe PhotoDeluxe is included so you can make use of the photo-quality print capabilities. As with our two laser multifunctions, the Epson maxes out at a slightly pokey 6 ppm color. A USB connection and cross-platform compatibility are big bonuses.
Model: Stylus Scan 2000
Street Price: $299
Another sheet-fed scanner, the Compaq A1000, prints at a respectable 1,200 x 1,200 dpi for 8 ppm in black. Better dpi than the HP, but not as good as the Epson. Faster than the Epson, but not as fast as the HP. Its $299 price is right in the middle, too. The A100 allows you to fax to multiple phone numbers and e-mail addresses at the same time. Connection is through a USB port, but the software only supports Windows 98.
Street Price: $299
Xerox WorkCentre 490cx
The specs on the Xerox WorkCentre 490cx are close to the Compaq A1000. The print resolution is up to 600 x 600 dpi with a print speed of 10 ppm in black. The fax part can store 20 one-touch dials and 50 speed dials. The Xerox sports a 200-page memory for outgoing or incoming faxes, and this one outputs 5 ppm in black at 600 x 300 dpi and a reduction and enlargement range of 25 to 200 percent. An optional Photo Print Cartridge ($38) is available for making photo-quality prints.
Model: Workcenter 490CX
Street Price: $349