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Comparison: Low-Price Multifunction Devices

Comparison: Low-Price Multifunction Devices
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Since our first comparison of multifunction devices a year ago, the costs of the low-price models have quite simply halved: $200 is now all you need for a combined inkjet color printer, scanner and photocopier.

The multifunction device has all the trumps needed to supplant a separate printer and scanner system: it is space-saving, easy to use and cheaper to buy. In the end, the only devices likely to resist are photo printers in the very top range, A3 or six-color models, and, at the very bottom range, what are now known as throwaways because the cartridges alone cost barely less than the printer itself.

The latest multifunction devices have followed the same technical development curve as printers. The four we tested specify resolutions of 4800 dpi, though the Epson claims 5760 dpi.

Models Tested US price
Canon MultiPass F20 $150
Epson CX 3200 $199
hp psc 1210 $150
Lexmark X5150 $150

And for once, which just goes to show how the market has grown up a bit, prices in the US and Europe are more or less the same. Of course you could fiddle around with a calculator and grumble about conversion rates or taxes of one sort or another, but the manufacturers have accustomed us to a lot worse, so this time we'll let it go.

All these products are recent releases (the Epson CX 3200 came out in late 2002 but has only really become widely available this year) and they all use a set of two monoblock cartridges, one black and the other containing cyan, magenta and yellow ink.

The Tests

We ran tests to assess performance of:

  • The printer : text, compound, monochrome, color, ordinary and draft resolution, motor speed, high definition, color and black and white photos.
  • The scanner : 75, 300, 600, 1200 dpi, with or without descreening, and color charts.
  • The photocopier : color and monochrome documents, photo reproduction and enlargement.

Each test included the quality of the results and the time taken to produce them.

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