by August 3, 2004 0 comments



Though multifunction devices have been around for a long time, their popularity has gone up only recently. Today, the market is flooded with so many models that it can be quite confusing to choose the right one for your need. This time round, we looked at MFDs that can be used by small offices as well as workgroups or departments in a large organization. We looked at both monochrome laser as well as inkjet-based MFDs. We received 11models for the shootout, out of which eight were included in the ranking because they fell within the same price/features band. The others were either too cheap or expensive, and have therefore been reviewed separately. Having said that, here’s what we looked for in the MFDs that we received for evaluation. 

How we tested 
We checked all MFDs for their performance, price, and features, and we used the Brown-Gibson model to arrive at the final weightages. All tests were conducted on a machine with an Intel P4 2.8 GHz with 256 RAM, 5400 RPM hard drive, and Win XP loaded. Since an MFD has multiple devices, each device has to be tested separately. That’s why the number of tests we ran went through the roof. Each MFD was put through over 22 different tests, and an equal number of features were also considered, making this shootout the most taxing one we’ve done so far. We tested each function of the MFD for its speed and quality. In all cases, the test settings, such as resolution, color depth, etc were kept the same, so that the results could be comparable. 

Printing
For testing each MFD’s printing capabilities, we took both text and graphics prints. These included the following: 

  • Time to print first page of multi-page document
  • Average print speed
  • Time to print a single page full of text and a small graphic
  • Full-page color graphic (only for inkjet MFDs)
  • Minimum readable font
  • Line art and curves
  • Grayscale and fountain fill

In all cases, we checked the time they took to print them and their quality.

Copying
Here again, we copied a full text page, a text page with small graphic, and a full-page graphic. We measured the time taken for each to determine the MFD’s copying speed and the quality. 

Scanning
Here, we scanned a full-page graphics image at 600 dpi optical resolution. Images from all the scanners were then printed out using another high-end printer that wasn’t a part of the shootout. We also checked for quality of scanned lineart and grayscale images, and the OCR capabilities. For OCR, we used Scansoft’s OmniPage for all scanners. Here, we imported a full-page of text and then checked it for errors.

Faxing
For this, we set up another fax machine, again not a part of the shootout, and then sent and received a full page fax from each MFD in the shootout. We measured the time each MFD took to send and receive it, and then checked it for quality.

Pricing
For price, we considered both the MFD’s cost and the cost of its consumables. These were black and color cartridges for the inkjet-based MFDs and toner for the laser-based ones. Warranty was also taken into account. 

On the features side, there are lots of features to consider in an MFD. Please read the box below on what to look for as far as
features go. 

Anil Chopra, Anindya Roy, Ranjay Majumder

What features to choose in a MFD?




Advantages of buying an MFD are very much known today. They save space, and are easier to manage than buying all those devices (printer, scanner, copier, fax, etc) separately. Their performance levels have gone up and match that of individual devices. Their costs have also come down. For instance, a personal MFD today costs around Rs 5000, which is what one would pay for an inkjet printer. 

When you are planning to buy an MFD for your office, then the key question that comes to mind is cost. One element of cost of course, is whether it would be cheaper to buy the MFD or buy individual elements separately. The other is how much would they cost in the long run? You would for instance, be buying their consumables separately (cartridges, toner, thermal paper, etc). However, in MFDs, a single toner or cartridge is used to print and copy a document, plus you don’t have to buy thermal paper for fax. In addition, you are getting a decent scanner, which can be shared across the network in some cases.

Next, check out the value-added features they’ve provided, such as ADF with duplex option, number of paper sizes supported, capacity and number of paper trays, life cycle of cartridges or toner (how many pages can it print), scanner optical resolution, fax memory (how pages can the fax story) and also check out the control panel buttons and size of the LCD screen. How easily can one manage the MFD from its control panel and how much information does the LCD screen provide.

If you have huge printing requirements and want to share the MFD over Ethernet, then you should go for one with a network port. Besides printing over the network, some MFDs allow you to scan documents over the network and distribute the scanned copies through e-mail. Some MFDs come with flash memory slots, which can read different kinds of memory cards. One can take printouts of photographs directly or transfer them to a PC. This is helpful for media professionals, who need to print photographs from their digital camera. 

Keep your printing requirements in mind when buying an MFD. For example if you have huge text printing and copy requirements, then go for laser- based MFDs. But if you have a requirement of copying color graphics, then go for either inkjets or color laser based. 

Maintenance is another very important criteria that you should look for in MFDs. Now a days few MFDs come with many maintenance feature, such as cleaning toner, cartridges, nozzles, handling paper jams, etc. We considered most of these features while evaluating the MFDs in the shootout.

Brother MFC-8820D 


This was the most feature-rich MFD in its category, scoring way above the rest on that count, and helping it become the Editor’s Choice. It was the only MFD in its category to have a scan resolution of 600X2400. Plus, it could store the maximum number (500 pages) of incoming fax message. This was also the only MFD to offer a feature called secure printing and duplex scanning. Apart from that, it comes with a 50 pages ADF and a 250 page paper tray. Performance wise this printer gave us the fastest text copying speed. We were able to achieve a maximum of 17 ppm with a 30-page document in draft mode. One more thing which we noticed was the faxing quality (send and receive) which was quite impressive though time to fax was the second highest.

HP LaserJet 3030


This is the younger brother of the hp 3380 and it has almost the same features as hp 3380, but has lower specs, such as print speed (rated 15 ppm), duty cycle (7000 pages per month), etc. Nevertheless, these specs are close to some of the other more expensive MFDs in this category. That makes it a very attractive buy, especially due to the price, which makes it the runner up in this category. It has a smaller footprint, making it easy to accommodate even next to a standard workstation. It has all the components which an MFD should have, with a monochrome-laser printer topped with a flatbed scanner with an additional 50 sheet feeder. The control options are the same as the hp 3380. In our test bed, it matched its rated print speed. Print quality was very good. Even though its cost is the lowest amongst all in this category, it’s a great buy in terms of features and performance compared to the rest.

HP LaserJet 3380


This MFD is a solid buy for those who need fast monochrome prints and copies. This is a monochrome laser printer with a flatbed scanner, an ADF mounted for the scanner, a comprehensive front panel for controls and LCD-based menus. The duty cycle is 10,000 pages per month. It has a comprehensive control panel, with keys comfortably distributed among different section such as copy, fax, etc making it very easy to use independent of the PC. The MFD’s printing and copying performance is very good and produced very good text printouts while printing as well copying. It comes with a specified 20 ppm print engine, and we got the same rated speed in our tests as well. Plus, it also took the least time amongst all MFDs to print single pages. The MFD is extremely easy to use. Just unpack it, insert the toner and plug in the power cable, and it’s ready for action. Overall, a good buy for those who need printing and copying at a decent price.

Xerox WorkCentre PE16 MFD


This MFD looks very similar to the one from Samsung, having near about the same weight, footprint and design. One notable feature that we found in the MFD was a special button on the control panel for copying posters, doing an auto-fit of very large documents for copying, two-sided copying, and taking out a mirror copy of a document. On the performance front, its printing speeds match its rated of 17 ppm. One peculiar thing we noted in this MFD was that it pauses for 2-3 seconds after printing around 20-22 pages. We didn’t find this characteristic in any other MFD. The duty cycle of the printer is 10,000 pages per month, which is pretty good. The MFD also comes with good OCR software OmniPage SE and its results were very good. On the fax front, it took the maximum time to receive a fax, nearing to almost a minute. Overall, it is a good product with good performance and bundled software and can be a good buy as it is the cheapest laser MFD ith a duty cycle of 10,000 pages per month.

Samsung All-in-one SCX-4216F 


This MFD has a rated print speed of 16 ppm and was the second cheapest MFD of the lot after the hp 3030 model and has a rated print speed of 16 ppm for A4 documents. The MFD’s documentation doesn’t mention its duty cycle. One unique thing about this MFD is a bundled software called SmarThru, which is capable of sharing your scanner and fax over the network.

So people could be anywhere on the network, and they can use the MFD’s features sitting on their desk. This is not counting the fact that you would still need to find a way of placing your documents for scanning on the MFD. We missed having a network port on the MFD, so you’ll need a PC to share it over the network. On the performance front, it actually gave a higher print speed of 17 ppm than its rated speed. In copying however, it took slightly longer than other MFDs. This was because the MFD’s ADF is slower than others.

MFD Test Results

MFD
Test Results
Laser-based
  Copy Scan                   
Print
                 
Fax
Print
Model Full
page
text

 

Full
page
text with small
graphics
Full
page
graphics

 

Full
page
graphics
at 600
dpi
First
page
of multi
part
document
Multi-page
document
Full
page text
with
small
document
Minimum
readable
font
Send
full page
text
with
small
graphic
Receive
full
page
text
with
small
graphic
Full
page
color
graphic
  sec. sec. sec. min:sec sec. PPM Sec Pt.
size
sec. sec. sec.
brother
MFC-8820D MFD
7 13 15 3:55 14 17 4 2 27 22 NA
hp
Laserjet 3380 MFD
8 18 18 2:37 11 21 3 4 25 19 NA
hp
Laserjet 3030 MFD
7 17 18 2:44 12 15 4 4 50 16 NA
Samsung
All-in-one SCX-4216F
9 15 22 5:42 13 17 4 2 22 20 NA
Xerox
WorkCentre PE16
9 16 21 5:42 13 15 2 4 26 53 NA
Inkjet-based
EPSON
STYLUS CX5300
22.1 47.5 165 2:08 11 11 13 4 NA NA 575
brother
MFC-3820CN MFD
22.8 26.3 57.3 3:00 19 7 18 2 40 50 203
Canon
image CLASS MP 730
16.2 60 115 4:25 14 11 7 4 24 24 165

Canon image CLASS MP730


There are several reasons for this inkjet-based MFD to be on the top spot in its category. For
one, it has a high print speed of 11 ppm, which incidentally was the same speed we got for the EPSON MFD in this category. It also took the least amount of time to print a full-page color graphic, and the quality was not compromised either. The MFD also has some other value-additions like a memory card slots, which can read all popular Flash memory card formats. This can be useful for printing photos directly from a digital camera’s memory card without needing to first transfer it to a PC. It also has a good set of software such as Easy PhotoPrint, 3D PhotoPrint, Easy Web Print, OmniPage and Presto PageManager. Like others in its category this MFD also has three separate color cartridges for cyan, magenta, and yellow. This gives you the benefit that you only need to replace the cartridge that’s empty. So, this is an MFD which has all the desired qualities to make it the winner in this category.

Brother MFC-3820CN


This Inkjet-based MFD has a feature-rich control panel and also has a memory card reader slot
like the Canon. Its control panel has 31 buttons, which are self-explanatory for each function (color copy, fax, and color scan). Beside these, it has a special ‘photo capture’ button that allows you to print photographs from the memory slot. This was also the only MFD in the shootout to come with a network port. On the performance front, the MFD did very well after Canon. It took 203 seconds to print a full page graphic, which is faster than EPSON MFD, but slower than Canon. The MFD was able achieve 7 ppm print speed, while printing an A4 size text document in draft mode. It’s not as fast in sending faxes as the Canon, taking 40 seconds to send a full sheet as against 24 seconds by the Canon
MFD.

EPSON STYLUS CX5300


The EPSON STYLUS CX5300 includes an Inkjet color printer, color scanner and color copier, but doesn’t have fax capabilities. This unit is meant for small office users wanting good photo quality printing. It has limited buttons on its control panel, compared to other MFDs in the shootout. There is no separate buttons available for adjusting the quality (lighter, darker mode) of the copier. So the user has to go through the entire menu to adjust it. The key feature that we found in this unit is the type of ink used in printing. It uses DURABrite Ink, which is a pigment-based ink, and gives you water-resistant prints. At the performance side, CX5300 performed very well in all fronts. It gave us an average print speed of 11 ppm to print multiple text pages in draft mode, which is equal to the Canon MFD. On the scanning front also, the MFD performed better than other inkjet MFDs. It took only 2 mins and 8 secs to scan a full-page graphic at 600 dpi resolution. Overall, a 
ood choice if you’re not looking for fax functionality in your MFD.

Multi-Function Devices Specifications

Multi-Function
Devices Specifications
Model Price   Vendor Printer Scanner Copier Fax Available
functions on control panel
Software
(other than drivers)
Notable
features
Paper
tray capacity
 Memory
(MB)
Inter-face OS
support
  MFD Consumables
Toner cartridge/Ink cartridge (Black/Color)
Warranty
(years)
  Max
res
Supported
paper sizes
Auto
duplexprinting
Cartridge
(black/color)/Toner life(Pages)
Maintenance
features
Optical
resolution Hor    
Ver Color
depth (bits)
Resolution Modem
Speed (kbps)
Broadcast
from control panel
storage  memory (pages) Color
Fax
Max  Res Fax Scanner Copier     Input Output Installed Max    
Laser
based
brother
MFC-8820D
41000 2500 1 Godrej
& Boyce, Mumbai, Tel: 55961609, E-mail: nad@godrej.com
600×2400 Legal,
A4, Executive, A6, B5, B6
Yes 3300 None 600 2400 48/24 1200 600 33.6 yes 500 NA NA Speed
dial
None Quality,
contrast adjust, tray selection, duplex, sort
None Secure
Printing, duplex scanning
250 NA 32 128 USB
2.0, parallel
Windows,
Mac
hp
LaserJet 3380
46999 2953 2
onsite
Hewlett-Packard
India, Gurgaon, Tel:9628123123, E-mail: seema.dawar@hp.com
1200×1200 Letter,
Legal, A2, Index card, US postcard, A4, B5
No 2500 Cleaning
mode
600 600 24 600 600 33.6 No 250 NA 300×300 Speed
dial, Volume, Phonebook, Res control
Single
button scan
Contrast
adjust, quality, zoom, copy collection
ReadIris
Pro 8
None 250 125 32 96 parallel,
USB
Windows,
Mac
hp
LaserJet 3030
24999 3296 1
onsite
Hewlett-Packard
India, Gurgaon, Tel:9628123123, E-mail: seema.dawar@hp.com
1200×1200 Letter,
Legal, A2, Index card, US postcard, A4, B5
No 2000 Cleaning
mode
600 600 24 600 600 33.6 No 110 NA 300×300 Speed
dial, Volume, Phonebook, Res control
Single
scan button
Contrast
adjust, quality, zoom
ReadIris
Pro 8
None 150 125 32 NA parallel,
USB
Windows,
Mac
Samsung
All-in-one SCX-4216F
45000 4999 1 Samsung
India, New Delhi. Tel: 51511234, E-mail: farrukh@samsungindia.com
600×600 Letter,A4,A5,
B5, Executive
No 3000 Clean
drum, toner leve lindicator, clear memory
600 600 24 600 600 33.6 Yes 320 Send
only
300×300 Broadcast,
Res control, phonebook
None Quality,
contrast adjust, zoom, special
None Network
scan with s/w with Smar thru
250 150 16 NA parallel,
USB 1.1
Windows,
Mac
Xerox
WorkCentre PE16
40000 4060 1 Xerox
Modicorp, Gurgaon, Tel: 2561930, E-mail: Kuldeep.Malhotra@ind.xerox.com
600×600 A5,
B5, Executive, A4, Legal
No 2000 clean
drum, toner level indicator,clear memory
600 600 24 600 600 33.6 Yes 320 Send
only
300×300 Broadcast,
Res control, phonebook
None Quality,
contrast, zoom, special#
OmniPage
SE
None 250 150 16 NA parallel,
USB 1.1
Windows
Inkjet
based
Epson
Stylus CX5300
15295 1430/635×3 1
limited
Epson
India, Bangalore.  Tel:30515000,
E-mail: vasu@eid.epson.co.in
5760×1440** Letter,
A4, Executive, Legal
No 1240/420/420
/420##
view
ink level, head/nozzle clean]
1200 2400 48 NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA Single
button scan
NA Epson
Photo Quicker, ArcSoft Photo Impression, Abby FineReader
None 70 NA 12.3 NA USB Windows
brother
MFC-3820CN
27600 910/530×3 1 Godrej
& Boyce, Mumbai, Tel: 55961609,  E-mail: nad@godrej.com
4800×1200 A4,
Letter
No 500/400 None 600 2400 36/24 600 600 33.6 Yes

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