Are you tired of fighting with inkjet cartridges in your multi-function printer? If your print head is always clogging, you are wasting ink on “cleaning,” or you find your ink cartridges drying out before you use them, a multifunction color laser printer just might solve your problems.
A multifunction printer (MFP) is a valuable tool for Small Office or Home Office (SOHO) users. In addition to providing print capabilities, they typically have a single sheet (platen glass) scanner, a sheet feed scanner, copy, and possibly fax machine functions. But, as a printer, creating quality prints is still the primary feature of an MFP.
Most inexpensive MFPs use inkjet technology to print. While they can produce a higher quality image due to extremely high dots per inch (dpi), inkjet printers are a high cost-per-page solution with reliability issues. Prints look great right out of the box, but clogged jets, dried out cartridges, and print alignment issues can quickly degrade output quality. Color laser printers do not suffer from these challenges.
What to Look for in a Color Laser MFP
Color laser printers use a dry toner powder to create prints. Toner can remain in a cartridge for a very long time (years) and still be useful without affecting print quality. This makes color laser MFPs a great option for a small office or home office. Here is what to look for in a great color laser MFP:
- Usability: An MFP has a lot of features so the user interface is important. The ability of the unit to service the SOHO user without being too complex is key.
- Connectivity: It should be possible to connect to the device via Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or USB, and it should support mobile printing from iOS and Android.
- Print Quality: As a color printer, it should be able to print in both black and white and in color at 600dpi or higher.
- Print Features: Capabilities such as supporting various paper sizes, including envelopes and labels, should be standard.
- Duplex Printing: It should support duplex printing so the user can print on both sides of the paper at the same time.
- Scan Quality: The device should also be able to scan at 600dpi or higher.
- Scan Sources: Scanning should be possible from a platen glass surface as well as a sheet feeder that supports at least 50 sheets of paper. The sheet feeder allows for rapid scanning of documents that consist of multiple pages.
- Duplex Scanning: Similar to duplex printing, duplex scanning allows both sides of a double-sided document to be scanned simultaneously. The sheet feeder should support duplex scanning.
- Scan Destinations: It should be possible to output scanned documents directly to an email address, a specific user’s computer, a USB flash drive, or possibly even a specific folder location on the network as a more advanced option.
- Touchscreen Interface: An intuitive touchscreen for easy device configuration and job management is becoming standard. The larger the better.
- Fax Support: If your job or business requires sending or receiving faxes, the machine should support this as well. However, this is becoming an optional requirement.
MFPs with these features will satisfy virtually all of the printing, scanning, copying, or faxing needs of the SOHO user. The following printers satisfy most or all of these features while also being easy to set up and configure.
Best Overall Color Laser MFP: Canon imageClass MF644cdw
The Canon imageClass MF644cdw provides excellent printing, scanning, copying, and fax performance at a price that seriously undercuts the competition. This unit is geared more towards the small team or a single user who needs a lot of features but at a reasonable price. While this MFP is loaded with capabilities, it is not so complicated that a typical user can’t set it up if they follow the well-written instructions.
The only negatives are that it is somewhat noisy and a little on the big side. With four toner cartridges inside, there are limits to how small a color laser MFP can be. This unit is appropriately sized for the feature set. But it may seem large to a user who previously had a more compact inkjet-based MFP. As for printing noise, the Canon should be deployed several feet away from the desk area or it may disturb office calls.
The imageClass MF644cdw is a duplex-capable, 600dpi printer that can print 22 pages per minute. It has a 250 sheet paper tray and targets a usage pattern of about 2,500 pages per month. This MFP can scan documents at 600dpi from either platen glass or the duplex-enabled 50-sheet feeder. Connectivity options include Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and USB while the Canon PRINT app provides scanning, printing, and device management from any IOS or Android mobile device.
Using Canon high-capacity toner, black cartridges yield up to 3,100 pages at a cost of about 2.6 cents per page, and color cartridges yield up to 2,300 pages at a cost of about 12.4 cents per page.
The 5-inch color touchscreen interface is very large for this segment and is a standout feature of the imageClass MF644cdw. It allows for simple device configuration and job management in the easy-to-reach high-level menus while also providing more advanced configuration at deeper levels. Canon is an imaging company at heart. Their scanning software for the desktop highlights this with rich controls that determine how documents are scanned and where they end up when scanning is complete.
The Canon imageClass MF644cdw is an excellent MFP with full print, scan, copy, and fax capability at a great price. But if you don’t need a fax machine, consider the Canon imageClass MF642cdw. It’s the exact same machine as the MF644cdw sans fax functionality, so you can usually find it for a much better price.
Best Home Office Color Laser MFP: HP Color LaserJet Pro M283fdw
The HP Color LaserJet Pro M283fdw is an MFP with typical HP workhorse reliability but geared more towards the individual home office user. A bit more compact than the Canon, it will perform print, scan, copy, and fax operations for years to come, but just be aware that you’ll be paying extra for that HP name.
The M293fdw prints at 600dpi at speeds of 22 pages per minute. It is also duplex-capable and employs a 250 sheet tray while targeting a usage pattern of about 2,500 pages per month. This MFP also scans at 600dpi from platen glass or the 50-sheet feeder. Unfortunately, the biggest deficiency of this MFP is that duplex scanning is not supported in any mode, so the user can only scan or copy one side of a document at a time.
Connectivity options include Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or USB while the HP Smart app provides the ability to print documents and photos, fax documents, review printer consumables, and adjust printer settings from an easy to use interface on IOS and Android mobile devices. The M293fdw also has a small 2.7-inch color touchscreen that provides a limited but simple to use interface for print, scan, copy, and fax job management as well as basic device configuration.
Using HP high-capacity toner, black cartridges yield up to 3,150 pages at a cost of about 3.0 cents per page, and color cartridges yield up to 2,450 pages at a cost of about 12.2 cents per page.
Best Workgroup Color Laser MFP: HP Color LaserJet Pro M479fdw
If your small office produces a heavier color printing workload but you aren’t ready to step up to a large copier-style multi-function printer/copier solution, the HP Color LaserJet Pro M479fdw will serve your team well. But you can expect to pay quite a bit more for this higher-end MFP.
With a faster 28 page per minute print speed at up to 600dpi with duplex support, prints are generated quickly, minimizing any print job queuing. The paper tray holds 300 sheets out of the box with support for an optional 550-sheet tray so the user can drop in an entire reem of paper when the tray is empty. This MFP can also handle a larger 4,000 per month workload.
The M47479fdw scans documents at 600dpi from platen glass or the 50-sheet, duplex-cable feeder. Connectivity options include Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or USB. For IOS and Android users, HP again provides the HP Smart app to support printing documents and photos, faxing documents, reviewing printer consumables, and adjusting printer settings from any mobile device.
The 4.3-inch color touch screen provides intuitive functions geared more towards a multiuser office and is generally more useful than the single-user oriented 2.7-inch screen of the M293fdw. In addition to print, scan, and copy functions, a fully functional and easy-to-use fax machine interface is also available on the touch screen.
Using HP high-capacity toner, black cartridges on this MFP yield up to 7,500 pages at a cost of about 2.3 cents per page, while color cartridges yield up to 6,000 pages at a cost of about 11.7 cents per page.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a great color laser MFP that will take care of the print, scan, copy, and fax needs of your small office or home office for many years. Lower-cost color laser MFPs aren’t that much more expensive than inkjet-based MFPs and while toner is an expensive consumable, it never goes bad. This means that you get a lot more prints out of a toner cartridge than you do an inkjet cartridge resulting in a lower cost per page.
Once you experience the lower operating cost and easier maintenance of a color laser MFP, you won’t go back to inkjet!
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