A4 colour laser multifunction devices group test

Introduction

Picking a workhorse printer for a small office can be a tricky job. Do you go for the relative simplicity and cost-effectiveness of a mono laser, or make the jump to colour for better-looking documents but increased costs? And there are other considerations to be made. Do you need wireless networking or will a wired Ethernet connection be ok? Is duplex printing a must for you, or can you cope with single-sided printing? The list goes on.

You could stick to a basic printer, but nowadays the all-in-one device is a much better solution. Combining a copier, fax, printer and scanner in one unit makes sense and recently prices for laser based all-in-one devices have become much more affordable. The costs associated with colour laser printing have also come down to a much more realistic price.

Obviously, the more you get for your money the better: features such as built-in duplexing and wireless networking score highly in this group test. However, the cost of running should also be taken into account. As well as the spec sheet and cost of ownership we’ll be taking a close look at the design and ease-of-use for each all-in-one device. A machine that’s going to fall apart or has bits that might snap off is hardly appropriate for a busy office space.

The most important aspect of our tests revolves around the input and output of each machine. Print quality must be excellent, and copies and scans similarly impressive. Speed will also be of paramount importance: there’s little point in having exceptional print quality if you have to hang around all day waiting for the pages to appear.

The machine that wins the coveted Macworld Editor’s Choice award will combine the best of every aspect of our testing. One thing worth mentioning is that colour laser devices are rarely compact and you’ll need to make sure you have the space to accommodate one. This is especially true if you’re moving up from a thirsty inkjet: the difference in size is marked.

We asked manufacturers to submit a multifunction colour laser that would best suit the small to medium office. There were no specific demands on the specification, but the upper price limit was set at £750 (ex VAT). It’s a testament to the popularity of the colour laser all-in-one market that there are so many options available, each offering something slightly different to the next.

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