Tired of fighting with inkjet cartridges in your multifunction printer? If your printhead keeps getting clogged, you waste ink ̵
A multifunction printer (MFP) is a valuable resource for small office or home office (SOHO) users. In addition to offering printing capabilities, they usually have a single sheet scanner (glass plate), sheet feeder scanner, copying and possibly fax machine functions. But as a printer, quality printing is still the most important feature of an MFP.
Most inexpensive MFPs use inkjet technology to print. Although 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 away, but clogged jets, dried out cartridges, and alignment issues can quickly degrade output quality. Color laser printers do not face these challenges.
What to look for in a color laser MFP
Color laser printers use a dry toner powder to make prints. Toner can stay in a cartridge for a very long time (years) and still be useful without affecting print quality. This makes color laser MFPs an excellent option for a small or home office. Here’s what to look for with a great color laser MFP:
- Usability: An MFP has many functions, so the user interface is important. The unit’s ability to serve the SOHO user without being overly complex is essential.
- Connectivity: It must be possible to connect to the device via Wi-Fi, Ethernet or USB, and it must support mobile printing from iOS and Android.
- Print quality: As a color printer, it must be able to print in both black and white and color at 600 dpi or higher.
- Print functions: Features such as supporting various paper sizes, including envelopes and labels, should be standard.
- Double-sided printing: It must support duplex printing so that the user can print on both sides of the paper at the same time.
- Scan quality: The device must also be able to scan at 600dpi or higher.
- Scan sources: Scanning must be possible from a glass platen and from a paper feeder that supports a minimum of 50 sheets of paper. The sheet feeder allows you to quickly scan multi-page documents.
- Double-sided scanning: As with duplex printing, duplex scanning allows you to scan both sides of a duplex document at the same time. The paper feeder must 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 stick, 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 becomes standard. The bigger the better.
- Fax support: If your job or company needs to send or receive faxes, the machine must support it too. However, this becomes an optional requirement.
MFPs with these features meet virtually any SOHO user’s print, scan, copy or fax needs. The following printers fulfill most or all of these features while being easy to install and configure.
Best Overall Color Laser MFP: Canon imageClass MF644cdw
The Canon imageClass MF644cdw offers excellent print, scan, copy and fax performance at a price that seriously undermines competition. This unit is more aimed at the small team or a single user who needs a lot of features, but at a reasonable price. While this MFP is packed with features, it is not so complicated that an average user cannot install it if he follows the well-written instructions.
The only downsides are that it is somewhat noisy and a bit on the large side. With four toner cartridges in it, there are limits to how small a color laser MFP can be. This device is the correct size for the feature set. But it may seem great to a user who previously had a more compact inkjet-based MFP. Regarding print noise, the Canon must be placed a few meters from the desk, otherwise it could disturb office calls.
The imageClass MF644cdw is a duplex compatible 600dpi printer capable of printing 22 pages per minute. It has a 250-sheet paper tray and aims at a usage pattern of approximately 2,500 pages per month. This MFP can scan documents at 600 dpi from the scanner glass or through the 50-sheet duplex feeder. Connectivity options include Wi-Fi, Ethernet and USB, while the Canon PRINT app offers scanning, printing and device management from any iOS or Android mobile device.
Using Canon high-capacity toner, black cartridges deliver up to 3,100 pages at a cost of approximately 2.6 cents per page, and color cartridges deliver up to 2,300 pages at a cost of approximately 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 easy device configuration and task management in the easy-to-reach high-level menus, while also offering more advanced configuration at deeper levels. Canon is an image processing company through and through. Their desktop scanning software emphasizes this with comprehensive 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 capabilities at a great price. But if you don’t need a fax machine, consider the Canon imageClass MF642cdw. It’s the exact same device as the MF644cdw with no fax functionality, so you can usually find it for a much better price.
Best color laser MFP for home office: HP Color LaserJet Pro M283fdw
The HP Color LaserJet Pro M283fdw is an MFP with typical HP reliability, but more focused on the individual home office user. It’s a bit more compact than the Canon and can print, scan, copy and fax for years to come, but keep in mind you’ll pay extra for that HP name.
The M293fdw prints at 600 dpi at speeds of 22 pages per minute. It is also capable of double-sided printing and has a 250-sheet tray while aiming for a usage pattern of approximately 2,500 pages per month. This MFP also scans at 600 dpi from the scanner glass or the 50-sheet input tray. Unfortunately, the biggest shortcoming of this MFP is that it does not support duplex scanning 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, view printer consumables, and adjust printer settings from an easy-to-use interface on iOS and Android mobile appliances. The M293fdw also has a small 2.7-inch color touchscreen that provides a limited but easy-to-use interface for managing print, scan, copy, fax jobs and basic device configuration.
With HP high-yield toner, black cartridges produce up to 3,150 pages at a cost of about 3.0 cents per page, and color cartridges produce up to 2,450 pages at a cost of about 12.2 cents per page.
Best color laser MFP for workgroup: HP Color LaserJet Pro M479fdw
If your small office is producing a heavier color workload, but you’re not ready to move to a large copy-style multifunction 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 advanced MFP.
With a faster print speed of 28 pages per minute up to 600 dpi with duplex support, prints are generated quickly, minimizing print job queues. The paper tray can hold 300 sheets out of the box with support for an optional 550-sheet tray, allowing the user to drop an entire stack of paper when the tray is empty. This MFP can also handle a larger workload of 4,000 per month.
The M47479fdw scans documents at 600 dpi from the scanner glass or the 50-sheet duplex cable feeder. Connectivity options include Wi-Fi, Ethernet or USB. For iOS and Android users, HP again offers the HP Smart app to support printing documents and photos, faxing documents, viewing printer consumables, and adjusting printer settings from any mobile device.
The 4.3-inch color touchscreen offers intuitive features that are more like a multi-user office and is generally more useful than the M293fdw’s single-user 2.7-inch display. In addition to print, scan and copy functions, a fully functional and easy-to-use fax machine interface is also available on the touchscreen.
With HP high-capacity toner, black cartridges on this MFP deliver up to 7,500 pages at a cost of about 2.3 cents per page, while color cartridges deliver up to 6,000 pages at a cost of about 11.7 cents per page.
You not to have to spend a lot of money on a great color laser MFP that will supply the printing, scanning, copying and faxing needs of your small office or home office for years to come. Cheaper color laser MFPs are not that much more expensive than inkjet MFPs, and while toner is an expensive consumable, it never goes bad. This means that you get far more prints from a toner cartridge than with an inkjet cartridge, resulting in a lower cost per page.
Once you experience the lower running costs and easier maintenance of a color laser MFP, you won’t go back to inkjet!