May 27, 2013 0 comments

You begin by clearly jotting down your office requirements — like the number of prints, copies or scans churned out every month. Then compare MFDs with similar duty cycles, and go for one with a slightly higher duty cycle to account for future growth in your work requirements. Additionally, for those who need bulk printing, print speed becomes important. Most of the color MFDs can print, scan files and film reels, copy and fax. Having fax on an MFD can affect the price to some extent. Also, the emphasis these days is more on lesser power consumption, network connectivity and what more can you do with an MFD. We restrict our discussion to MFDs below Rs. 65,000, so that SMBs can benefit more from it.

MFD should make your life easy

If an MFD is difficult to use and operate, despite its rich features, there’s no point buying it. It’s very important for MFDs to have an ergonomic and simple interface and control. The easier it is to operate, the more popular will it be amongst users. Key aspects like position of control buttons, size of the buttons and display have to be factored in. And if the display is touch based, it is going to be easier to operate. Auto-duplex, networking through Ethernet or WiFi, scan to email, etc are some of the recurring questions that influence purchase decisions for both SMEs and enterprises.

What’s the print, scan and copy speed, and quality?

When you are out to buy a color laser MFD, the speed of printing is one of the key considerations. In today’s market, you should opt for a device that does 15 prints per minute in the print and copy mode. You could also consider the cost per page, which can be calculated by the cost of consumables (i.e. toners) used for producing X number of prints/copies. As for scanning, you could consider whether the device has features such as scan to USB, scan to PC, scan to network folder, scan to email, etc. Also, consider the format in which the device will let you save your scans viz. JPG, PDF, TIFF, etc.

A well connected MFD saves time and energy of its users

One of the key features in MFDs is the ability to connect with a customer’s computer network. Once connected to the network a single MFD gets connected to the internet. As a general rule, almost all mid-volume machines and upwards come with full network functionality as a standard. It’ll be ideal to go for a device that offers wireless direct printing, printing right off of a USB device, etc.

Extra features always give extra edge to MFDs

If an MFD can be used as a hotspot, that’s another advantage. Features like scan to PC, print through mobile and email (mobile and cloud printing) or downloading documents online directly into the MFD to print without having to connect with a PC or USB etc. are some of the interesting and useful features that are potential decision changers, as they add to their appeal and overall value. Compact printers consume less office space and so are always admired by SMEs and home users. Energy star or other energy related certification is also a major factor that affects buying decisions as users are a lot more conscious saving power.

How We Tested

In our lab, we do three major tests to measure the printing capabilities of MFDs viz. printing speed, time taken for the first page to print, and quality of prints. The time taken for the first print to get processed is typically longer as some MFDs need to warm-up and buffer the document before they can start printing. For printing speed, we counted the number of prints per minute based on a 40 page print command. For testing the print quality, we printed a full-page color document with photographs and text matter.
To test the copier performance in MFDs, we checked the time taken to copy a full-page of text. The copies were then compared on how true they were to the original documents. The copy speed also correlates to the copy volume with faster devices generally having a larger copy volume.
Scanner testing was done by calculating and comparing the time taken for a scan and the quality of scans. We also considered the scan resolution in optical and interpolated form.
We used our three axis model of performance, price, and features for evaluating all MFDs. We used the Brown-Gibson model to arrive at the weightages for the various parameters that were used for scoring. For testing MFDs, a laptop (with Intel Core i5 processor, 4 GB RAM) and standard ISO pages (ISO_IEC_24712) were used. The same test data was used for all categories i.e. print copy and scan. At a given instance of time, all pages in the file were commanded for print and then time taken for first print out was recorded. After one minute, the printing process was cancelled and pages were counted for PPM (prints per minute). Likewise CPM (copy per minute) was calculated. The same procedure was adapted for duplex printing and copying. Time taken for the scanning of pages was done for a 300 dpi setting. Apart from all this, we checked for other features like mobile & cloud based printing, wireless printing, USB direct printing etc.

HP LaserJet 100 Color MFP M175a
An entry level color MFP that offers high quality prints, copying, and scanning, but the speed could have been better, and cost per page could have been lower.[image_library_tag 098/79098, style=”float: left;” alt=”hp-laserjet-100-color-mfp-m” width=”218″ height=”218″ ,default]

This is a low priced color laser MFP with good quality prints, which make it a reasonably good choice for personal and small office use.

Design and features

As compared to other color laser MFPs in this shootout, this happens to weigh lesser at 16 kilos and has a compact body measuring 441 x 421 x 338 mm. The device offers printing, copying and scanning; but has no support for fax. It is powered by a 600 MHz processor and 128 MB of standard memory which still provides quality output but leaves us asking more in terms of speed of operation.
The user friendly control panel (2-line LCD) is neatly located on a retractable panel which does not consume any extra space. The reason why the control panel doesn’t need more space as compared to other MFPs is because it does not offer fax.
The paper cassette is located at the bottom and it also has one tray at the top. The M175a offers a capacity of loading 150 pages, and 35 sheets for automatic document feeder. The output bin can hold upto 50 pages.
The M175a restricts itself to a PC using the USB cable with no network support (neither wired nor wireless). As a result, the machine gets deprived of using features like eprint or airprint.

Installation and performance

Setting up the MFP is a breeze with the Smart Install feature. All you need to do is plug in the USB cable to your computer, and then follow the installation instructions on screen.
The performance offered is not the best in the category. The time taken to print the first color page is about 28 sec and that for black and white is 17 sec. In terms of pages per minute (ppm), the device can process about 4 pages in color, and 15 pages in black and white, where the maximum resolution set was 600 dpi for both modes. This is not impressive for a printer in this category. However, we found that the device’s low speed is compensated by the print quality as the text is sharp & color graphics are detailed.
The MFP isn’t meant for large volume printing, as the performance clearly points towards recurring cost of consumables. The test results of the copier are identical to the results of the printer. You can have a maximum of 99 copies at a time with a flexibility of 25%-400% in reduction & enlargement. As for scanning, the device took 14 seconds to scan and save in good quality. The output can be saved in PDF, JPEG, TIFF, Bitmap and PNG formats.

Bottomline: This MFP is best suited for those who do not require frequent prints. But those who decide to buy it wont be let down in quality of prints, copies or scans.

 

Price: Rs. 32,299
Key Specs: 3-in-1 MFP (copy, print, scan), 35 sheets ADF, 150 sheets input capacity, 50 sheets output capacity, USB connectivity, 600 MHz processor, 128 MB memory, Duty Cycle-20,000 pages, Weight- 16 Kg
Pros: Excellent print quality, compact in size
Cons: Low print speed, no wired/wireless/USB direct connectivity
Write to: pcquest@cybermedia.co.in for more info.

 

Xerox Workcentre 6015NI
A multi-purpose color MFP with exceptional print quality and features for home and small workgroups in offices[image_library_tag 099/79099, alt=”xerox-workcentre-6015ni” ,default]

The 6015NI is a four-function MFP that can print, copy, scan and fax. The device looks elegant in its white color body and blue shades around the control panel and the output tray. Its angular-curved edges add to the aesthetics and the build of the device is solid. At 15 kilos, the device is compact enough to not demand too much space for it to rest on, and can be easily shifted from one location to another. The control panel is located at the front with a fairly large bitmapped, monochrome LCD screen. The panel itself is comprehensive and well laid-out with a numerical keyboard and a dedicated button for switching between print, scan, fax and copy modes.
It has a 160-sheet paper cassette with a bypass tray and a 100-page output tray. The automatic document feeder (ADF) has a capacity of only 10 sheets, which is low as compared to other MFPs in this category. The device also does not offer an automatic duplexer — a feature that can save time, paper and costs.
The machine can be connected through all three connectivity options viz. USB, ethernet, and wireless, so it can be easily shared within the members of a workgroup.

Installation and performance

The installation process is easy and you can choose an installation option that best suits your environment. While installing, the wizard will guide you through the whole process through short instructional videos. The 6015NI doesn’t support mobile or cloud printing features, which are sort of a norm these days for an office.
We found the print speed to be impressive with 19 seconds taken for the first color print. Subsequently, you get as many as 12 prints in a minute. As for black and white, it took about 16 seconds for the first print and 15 prints in a minute. The quality of prints is top class with crisp text and rich, natural & distinct color graphics.
We were not particularly impressed with its copier though. It took 38 seconds for the first color copy with just 7 copies in a minute. Similarly for black and white copies, it took 23 seconds for the first copy and 11 copies in a minute. The device clocks 12 seconds to completely scan and save a good quality scan to a PC. You can directly email a scan or save it on a network folder or even a removable drive. The scans can be saved in PDF, JPEG, TIFF, Bitmap and PNG formats.

Bottomline: The MFP comes at a reasonable price, has decent printing speed and impressive output quality. The various features it offers makes it worthy of considering for your next purchase, especially if the requirement is for workgroups and small offices looking for a color, laser MFP. However, we do recommend to check if the recurring cost of the device suits your budget.

 

Price: Rs. 42,263
Key Specs: 4-in-1 MFP (copy, print, scan, fax), 10 sheets ADF, 160 sheets input capacity, 100 sheets output capacity, USB connectivity, 295 MHz processor, 128 MB memory, Duty Cycle-30,000 pages, 15 Kg
Pros: Print quality, wired/wireless connectivity
Cons: Copying speed, No duplex support
Write to: pcquest@cybermedia.co.in for more info.

 

HP LaserJet Pro 300 Color MFP M375nw
The M375nw color laser MFP offers fast speed, good output quality, and suitable paper capacity for light to moderate-duty printing in a micro or small office

[image_library_tag 100/79100, alt=”hp-laserjet-pro-300-color-m” ,default]

The HP Laserjet Pro 300 Color MFP M375nw delivers on most of the basic requirements that a color laser MFP is meant to provide-fast speed and a full set of MFP features. This alone makes it a potentially good candidate for a micro or small office with light to medium print needs. Moreover, it goes beyond the basics with extras that include a color touch-screen control panel and Wi-Fi Direct, which makes it easy to connect from a smart phone, tablet, or laptop.

Design and features

The device looks heavy at 28 kilos. So it’s not the kind that can be moved from one location to another. The intuitive control panel is located on the top-right corner of the printer, which comprises of a 3.5″ color touch screen with six dedicated touch buttons.
The M375nw offers all four MFP functions-print, copy, fax and scan. You can choose any of the three modes for connectivity-ethernet, WiFi and USB, which makes it flexible enough to be shared in a workgroup. It can even be connected to from a smartphone. The maximum input capacity of the HP 300 Color MFP M375nw is 250 sheets and for output bin is 150 sheets. Automatic Document Feeder can hold upto 50 sheets at a time which is good for such a device.

Installation and performance

You don’t have to worry about the driver for installation, thanks to the Smart Install feature. Just plug in and you are done. You can then configure the network options through the control panel.
It performed better as compared to other MFPs in the shootout. For prints, the device clocked 18 seconds to print the first page while producing a total of 15 prints in a minute. Interestingly, the results were exactly identical for color as well as black and white pages. Both text and graphical prints are of high quality-crisp, detailed text and consistently smooth color. The M375nw is capable of network, wireless, USB direct and smartphone printing. But there is no automatic duplexing feature.
We found the performance in copying to be much better than HP Laserjet 100 Color MFP M175a and Xerox Workcentre 6015NI. We got speeds of 17 copies per minute for the first page and 16 seconds for both monochrome & color. The scan speed & performance were similar to that of Xerox Workcentre 6015NI. The time taken to scan and save the page to a PC is 13 seconds with outputs in PDF, JPG, PNG & TIFF. You can save your scan to a PC, network folder, USB or even email it.

Bottomline: Even though the price is `52,000, we are certainly impressed by its features, functions, and performance. Definitely, worth a buy.

 

Price: Rs. 52,000
Key Specs: 4-in-1 MFP (copy, print, scan, fax), 50 sheets ADF, 250 sheets input capacity, 150 sheets output capacity, USB connectivity, 600 MHz processor, 192 MB memory, Duty Cycle-30,000 pages, 28 Kg
Pros: Print quality, mobile & cloud printing, USB printing, apps from internet, Touch screen panel
Cons: No Automatic duplexer
Write to: pcquest@cybermedia.co.in for more info.

 

Ricoh Aficio SP C240SF
An MFP designed for SMEs that delivers fast print speeds with good quality but requires more real estate as compared to others in the shootout

[image_library_tag 101/79101, alt=”ricoh-aficio-sp-c240sf” ,default]

This all-in-one laser printer prints 1,000 to 2,500 prints from one set of consumables, and has got all necessary ingredients needed in a small office environment. You get network and USB direct printing with an automatic duplexer that optimizes the page utilization, cost effectiveness and provides a faster throughput.

Design and Features

The Ricoh MFP is the heaviest in MFPs we’ve covered in this shootout, at 30 kilos. The weight coupled with its dimensions of 420 x 493 x 476 mm make it a somewhat static piece of furniture. It has got a substantial build though which gives it a solid, sturdy look. The control panel is on the front slope with a total of 47 buttons, which means you can easily handle all your activities from the panel itself.
This MFP can handle all modes-print, copy, scan & fax-comprehensively in simplex and duplex settings. The maximum input capacity is a whopping 751 sheets (including the 500 sheets of the optional paper tray) and the maximum output capacity is 150 sheets. There is a 35 sheet holder ADF which is very helpful in the auto-duplex mode. The device can only be shared in a workgroup through Ethernet as there are no wireless or cloud-based printing features available.

Installation and performance

You can install this device via USB or Ethernet at your office. The installation of drivers can be easily done with the help of the bundled disk. In our evaluation, we found that the speed of the printer and copier were almost identical in both color and mono modes. For color prints, the C240SF took 16 seconds for the first page and produced a total of 15 pages. The availiablity of Automatic duplexer optimizes the productivity through efficient use of time and pages. However, the copying did take some time — the first copy took about 32 seconds, and we could get only 12 color copies per minute. The performance gets marginally better for monochrome pages with 31 seconds for the first print & 14 pages in a minute. We found that the ink impressions for both monochrome and color were of exceptional quality-crisp and clear text with distinct and natural looking color graphics. The scan quality is good with 12 sec taken to save it. You can choose to save your scans to a PC, on a network folder, a USB disk or even email them. The output can be saved in PDF, JPG, PNG, and TIFF formats.
There is no WiFi support provided but you can use network printing through Ethernet and also can simply walk up to the machine and print using a flash drive.

 

Bottomline: The overall performance of the device is very compelling although there is a slight lag in the copy function. Also, it doesn’t provide wireless printing functionality.

Price: Rs. 50,000
Key Specs: 4-in-1 MFP (copy, print, scan, fax), 35 sheets ADF, 250 sheets input capacity, 150 sheets output capacity, USB connectivity, 256 MB memory, Duty Cycle-25,000 pages, 30 Kg
Pros: Print quality, USB printing, auto-duplexer
Cons: No wireless printing, no cloud printing
Write to: pcquest@cybermedia.co.in for more info.

 

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