Multifunction – or ‘all-in-one’ – devices are a great idea. Rather than cluttering up your office with separate printer, scanner and copying machines, you can have one compact device that performs all three tasks. This all-in-one approach is especially useful for home users and small businesses that are tight on space – and on money too.
However, in the past, these all-in-one devices were a bit of a compromise. They were typical jacks of all trades, but masters of none, combining printer and scanner in a single unit, but not performing either task particularly well.
That has changed in the past couple of years, and all-in-one printers now offer high-resolution printing and scanning capabilities that are more than adequate to meet the needs of most home and small business users.
And we’re not just talking about printing the occasional Word document or PowerPoint slide. The latest all-in-one models can produce high-quality photo prints, too, suitable either for home users who want to print their holiday snaps or business users – such as estate agents – who need to produce large numbers of good-looking photo-prints.
The models reviewed here cover a wide price range, starting at just £59 for Hewlett Packard’s PhotoSmart C4280, and going up to almost £250 for Canon’s top-of-the-range Pixma MP970.
As far as photo-printing is concerned, the key difference between the various models is the number of colours that they print with. The cheaper models tend to print with just four colours – cyan, magenta, yellow and black (collectively known as ‘CMYK’). However, the more expensive models use six or even seven coloured inks, which allow them to produce subtler shades of colour on elements such as skin-tones in portrait photography. It’s possible to produce very good photo prints using just four inks – as proven by Epson’s Stylus DX8400 – but the best quality photo prints undoubtedly come from the models that use six or seven coloured inks.
There’s an impressive range of additional features on offer too, ranging from film scanning to double-side printing, and even wireless networking. So, whatever your budget there’s a high-quality multifunction device that’s made for you. The only real question is – why can’t they give you a USB cable with the darn things too?