Printers and scanners may still be the pride and joy of their makers for a few more months, but these devices are on their way out. The drop in sales proves it. This is the fault of a new breed of device: the multifunction inkjet. Why buy separate scanners and printers when you can get both functions in a single product? The question is all the more relevant since many of these devices also have a document feeder, a memory card reader, a color fax, etc.
This first comparative test of inkjet technology devices covers four manufacturers. These are the main players in the conventional printer market, bar none: Epson. We were not able to get hold of their new CC-550L which recently came out in Japan but is mostly unavailable in the rest of the world. The other three leaders, Canon, HP and Lexmark, are currently represented on the market. They are all well aware that the printer market is on its way out and that they now need to corner the all-in-one sector. This is what has attracted the newcomer, Brother, which has developed its own inkjet technology and, like Canon, offers a model with separate cartridges.
HP has an interesting analysis. According to them, to understand why these products are taking off, all you need to do is compare the graphics system (printing and scanning) to the hi-fi system, where originally sound components (cassette player, turntable, tuner, etc.) were separate devices, just as with the printer and scanner today. The traditional hi-fi system is now being taken over by the mini-system, although separate systems still exist, usually in the top of the range. The same should apply to standalone printers in the future: only very specialized models, such as those for very high resolution photo work, will be able to survive the onslaught of multifunctional models.
For the time being, the multifunctional devices on the market are fast, but their integrated print motors are all from the previous generation. The Canon MPC400 is built on the famous S630, which has since been replaced by the S750. The HP PSC 950 is based on the Deskjet 970cxi, and the Lexmark X83 is based on the Z42. The current trend is thus a choice: either a separate, high-tech printer, or else an all-in-one which uses the previous generation's system.