Consumer Printers Keep On Marching
The sheer number of offerings in all of these categories forced us to focus our coverage on the best-selling printers from the aforementioned categories. A comprehensive survey of MFCs indicates they number over 60, out of more than 560 printers available for the home and home office markets. By selecting the best-selling and most-popular items in that group, we cover only about 20% of all MFCs in this guide. As you read about the entries in these buyer's guides, please dig into the often-numerous other products that all vendors mentioned typically offer (you'll find more from HP and Lexmark than from Brother, Dell, Epson and Canon, but many more overall than we cover here).
MFCs continue to support our belief that astonishing levels of capability are available at modest prices. MFC inkjet printers (all of which support color nowadays) typically sit in the mid-price range of this market and offer the same kinds of page-output speeds, resolutions and paper handling capabilities that you find in color inkjet-only printers. All of these printers can print digital photographs with varying degrees of success, where you will obtain the best results if you crank up their resolution, employ optional higher color counts where available and supply them with photographic paper. When it comes to faxing and printing, you must also consider scanning resolution in terms of optical DPI as well as so-called enhanced resolution, which uses color image analytics to boost the putative resolution for images scanned (each color or hue recognized typically multiplies overall physical resolution). MFCs must also be rated in terms of the number of pages they can copy and fax per minute, in addition to print output rates. Table 1 summarizes representative ranges of values for these various characteristics (all of which are also included in the features matrix that lets you compare all the printers in this guide inside a single frame).
|PPM.c||<10||>30||14-16||Pages per minute rates printer output speed, which is usually lower for color (c) output|
|PPM.b||<20||>40||20-24||Pages per minute rates printer output speed, which is usually higher for black and white (b) output|
|Resolution.b||300||1200||600||Monochrome resolution normally the same for horizontal and vertical; translates into 300x300, 1200x1200, ...|
|Resolution.c||1200x1200||5760x1440||4800x1200||Color resolution is typically greater in the horizontal dimension than the vertical one|
|Scanres.o||600x600||4800x1200||2400x1200||Scanning resolution often resembles color print resolution, but not always|
|Scanres.e||19200x19200||19200x19200||19200x19200||Enhanced resolution tends to be the same for all MFC printers|
|Colors||CMY/RGB||6-color schemes optional on several printers||CMYb/RGBb||Three primary colors (RGB) or their complements (CMY) are needed to print color, many color inkjets add black (b) to reduce color ink consumption, some include additional colors (best for photos and complex colors)|
|Paper handling||LL||LLA4pe+||LLpe*||All printers handle legal and letter size paper, high end units add numerous photo and envelope sizes (pe+), mid-range units offer basic photo (3x5, 4x6) and envelope support (pe*)|
|Fax PPM||10||20||10||Price and fax output rate appear strongly related|
|Copy PPM||Row 9 - Cell 1||30||21-30||Copy output rates vary across a wide range|
Table 1: Common value ranges for MFC inkjet features and functions
The low end of the MFC market appears to start between $75-$85, though some models are available for as little as $50 (added costs for fax and scan hardware and circuitry probably influence prices at the low end more than anywhere else, where absolute hardware and construction costs exert their highest influence). Indeed, the best compromises between cost and capability appear in the $100-$230 price range. As with color inkjet-only printers, the functionality of these always-useful and occasionally essential computer peripherals is awesome. In terms of bang for the buck, printers offer more capability for less money than do many other computer peripherals or office equipment, and MFCs appear in much the same light when compared to other non-MFC printers.
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