Multifunction printers, the Swiss Army knives of office products, let you print, copy, fax and scan from a single device-without sacrificing reliability, versatility, convenience or speed. (We're just waiting for the one that makes coffee.)
Product review engineers from the CRN Test Center recently evaluated three multifunction products that would be a good fit for growing businesses: the Brother MFC-8500, the Hewlett-Packard LaserJet 3330mfp and the Samsung SF-531P series. Each is priced under $800, and all print at 15 pages per minute.
For a high-quality multifunction printer with low hardware and consumable price tags, we suggest the Brother MFC-8500, available for $399 (all prices street). The Brother product includes both USB and parallel ports and can work with almost all Micro-soft Windows and Apple Macintosh applications. Toner cartridges can be replaced quickly and are relatively inexpensive, at $30 to $50 apiece. As this article went to press, Brother announced a new, lower-priced option, the MFC-4420c. It has an estimated street price of only $250, but we weren't able to test it for this article.
The CRN Test Center ran into some driver problems when installing the MFC-8500 software on a computer running Windows XP. The printer software had to be uninstalled and then reinstalled. Following this effort, though, the unit worked without a hitch.
Large workgroups requiring a robust printing workhorse might opt for the $699 HP LaserJet 3330mfp instead. It has the biggest footprint of the three printers reviewed, but it's easy to set up and configure. Test Center engineers weren't limited at all when using this machine. For example, the copier can do manual double-sided copying and scanning.
The HP 3330mfp can easily be made network-ready when combined with a print server-the only multifunction printer reviewed offering this option. Testers had just one gripe: It has a parallel port and a USB port, but HP doesn't include cables for either connection.
If you're looking for a compact device, the Samsung SF-531P has the smallest footprint of the bunch. It costs $299, and its compact size, multifunction performance and print quality make it a fine selection for offices with space constraints. We also liked the fact that businesses can make copies on the SF-531P without having to connect it to a PC. The Samsung SF-531P will be replaced by the SF-555P (also $299) in a few months.
Vincent A. Randazzese is assistant technical editor for the CRN Test Center, the technology testing facility of CRN, a technology and solutions newspaper.