Multifunction printers reviewed


There’s a been a seismic shift in home printing within the last couple of years, with single function printers slowly making way for multifunction models that incorporate scanners, photocopiers and even fax machines in their make-up. That’s great news for printer makers as it enables them to keep prices up, while at the same time offering value for money.

It’s also no doubt due to consumer demand. More of us are working from home, and some are digitally archiving old photos, but most us simply don’t have enough desk space for separate printers, scanners, and photocopiers.

Accompanying this shift has been the steady growth of wireless printing. Lexmark led the way, with its X4550 AIO and the Z1420 in August 2007, but it’s now becoming commonplace – four of the models in this group test have wireless functionality.

What we’re really concerned with here, though, is whether the old adage about being a jack-of-all-trades and master of none is true. Can these devices truly excel when it comes to document and particularly A4 photo printing? After all, there’s no point being an all-in-one if you can’t get the basics right – and given that these two functions are likely to be the most commonly used ones, that is our focus here.

All of which neatly brings us to our six contenders. The Canon Pixma MP610, Epson Stylus RX585, HP Photosmart C4380, Kodak EasyShare ESP 5, Lexmark X4650 and Lexmark X4875 are all mid-range models with an estimated retail price of £130-£150 (although you can often find them cheaper online, or as the result of in-store promotions).

Canon, Epson, HP and Lexmark are firmly-established brands with a long history in home printing, but their dominance is being threatened by Kodak. Its latest MFPs are keenly priced, with equally low-priced peripherals such as paper and ink – something that flies in the face of conventional wisdom. The big question is does the Kodak ESP-5 have what it takes to unseat its rivals?

What we’ll be looking at, then, are four main areas: design and ease of use, print speeds, print quality and cost per print taking into account ink page yields and the cost of the associated cartridges. We’ll also be looking to see how robust photo prints are, and to determine which MFP is likely to bring you the most satisfaction in the long run.

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