Buying Guide: Small Office AIOs

By M. David Stone  |  Posted 2006-11-15 Print this article Print

These All-in-Ones are cost- and space-saving solutions for any small office or busy home office that needs a jack-of-all functions printer.

Some people call them multi-function printers (MFPs). Others call them all-in-ones (AIOs)—our preferred term. By either name, theyre the cost- and space-saving solution for any office that needs a printer, copier, and some combination of a scanner, standalone fax machine, e-mail sender, and more. But with every manufacturer free to mix and match the features on this list, the trick is to pick the right mix for your office. And were here to help.

Start by considering whether or not you need color output. Dont make the mistake of looking just at your print output. Even if you never need to print anything in color, consider whether you can benefit from copying in color. Making color copies yourself is a lot cheaper than paying a copy shop to do it for you, which means the extra cost of color can quickly pay for itself.

If you need color, skip over the ink jet choices and go right to color lasers unless you are looking for a personal AIO for just one persons desktop, rather than a shared AIO for the office. Few ink jets can match even the slowest laser for speed—no matter what their ratings claim. And they simply dont print edges on text characters with the kind of crisp, professional look that you can expect from virtually any laser.

Two features youll almost certainly want on any office AIO are a network connection, to let you share the printer easily, and an automatic document feeder (ADF) to scan multipage documents for copying, faxing, or scanning to your PC or e-mail.

Depending on the kind of documents youre likely to scan, you might want to insist on a duplexing ADF, which can scan both sides of each page. And while were on the subject of duplexing, regardless of whether you need duplex scanning or not, also consider whether you need duplex printing. This will typically let you both print on both sides of the page and copy to both sides. Even better, AIOs with both duplex printing and duplex scanning will add copy options that let you create your choice of single- or double-sided copies from either single- or double-sided originals.

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M. David Stone is an award-winning freelance writer and computer industry consultant with special areas of expertise in imaging technologies (including printers, monitors, large-screen displays, projectors, scanners, and digital cameras), storage (both magnetic and optical), and word processing. His 25 years of experience in writing about science and technology includes a nearly 20-year concentration on PC hardware and software. He also has a proven track record of making technical issues easy for non-technical readers to understand, while holding the interest of more knowledgeable readers. Writing credits include eight computer-related books, major contributions to four others, and more than 2,000 articles in national and worldwide computer and general interest publications. His two most recent books are The Underground Guide to Color Printers (Addison-Wesley, 1996) and Troubleshooting Your PC, (Microsoft Press, 2000, with co-author Alfred Poor).

Much of David's current writing is for PC Magazine, where he has been a frequent contributor since 1983 and a contributing editor since 1987. His work includes feature articles, special projects, reviews, and both hardware and software solutions for PC Magazine's Solutions columns. He also contributes to other magazines, including Wired. As Computers Editor at Science Digest from 1984 until the magazine stopped publication, he wrote both a monthly column and additional articles. His newspaper column on computers appeared in the Newark Star Ledger from 1995 through 1997.

Non-computer-related work includes the Project Data Book for NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (written for GE's Astro-Space Division), and magazine articles and AV productions on subjects ranging from cosmology to ape language experiments. David also develops and writes testing scripts for leading computer magazines, including PC Magazine's PC Labs. His scripts have covered a wide range of subjects, including computers, scanners, printers, modems, word processors, fax modems, and communications software. He lives just outside of New York City, and considers himself a New Yorker at heart.


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