Multi-function Machine Buying Guide for the Home Office

So you’ve decided to buy a multi-function, or all-in-one machine for your home office.

Maybe your desk is so cluttered with gadgets and machinery you can’t see the surface anymore. Maybe you’re looking for a way to print your own digital photos or scan family albums. Perhaps it was just the monthly cost of online fax services or Kinkos that finally convinced you to get a fax machine of your own. Whatever the reason, affordable multi-function office machines have finally arrived. Now it’s just a matter of choosing which one is right for you.

The Small Business vs. The Home Office

How the fax technology has survived the Information Age is something of a mystery. In an age when we can send text messages on our phone, email books for free, and listen to music from gadgets the size of a stick of gum, it seems inconceivable that the fax machine would still have a home in modern business. But facts are a hard thing to shake. If you’re in business, you need a fax machine, so don’t even bother looking at a multi-function machine without one. Also, if you can afford it, and won’t be needing to print or copy in color, purchase a laser all-in-one. Otherwise, expect slow printing from any ink jet multi-function, or use your multi-function for special printing projects and own a small dedicated laser printer on the side.

If you’re purchasing a multi-function for your home office, you have more flexibility. Perhaps you don’t need a fax machine, quick printing, or high quality printing if you’re mostly going to use it to whip off those MapQuest directions before leaving the house. Even so, this article is going to assume you’re looking for a machine that can support a money-making venture for one or two people in addition to serving personal and family use. Here are the contenders:

The Canon Pixma MP830
Selling for under $300, the Canon Pixma MP830 is an impressive machine. Photo printing with laser-quality results, advanced copying features, and two paper trays, its brimming with consumer-friendly features. You can fax, you can scan, you can print, you can copy. You can even make double-sided copies. It’s attractive too. The downside is the shortsightedness of the machine. While Canon was busy loading up their printer with 2’5″ color LCD displays and bundled software, they forgot to include forward thinking technology like wireless network compatibility which is especially handy for home offices, where space is at a premium.

The Brother MFC-640CW
Selling for just over $200, Brother’s WiFi capable machine does just about everything for you but cut your sandwiches. In addition to being an acceptable printer, it has a flatbed scanner, color copier, photo reader, fax machine, telephone, answering machine, and integrated message center. All this, in a sleek black package that takes up less room than a tower computer on its side. If you don’t need the telephone, you might consider an upgrade to the Brother MFC-820CW with the 2.5″ color LCD monitor for just a few bucks more. Setting up the wireless network might be a chore, in spite of the included set-up wizard, but getting the machine itself to work is easily accomplished in less than ten minutes. Considering the overall price and feature-set, Brother’s MFC-640CW or MFC-820CW are probably the best bet for home office use.

HP Officejet 5610
But if Brother is still a little pricey for you, consider the HP Officejet 5610. Selling for less than $150, this multifunction makes the list for her feature-rich budget consciousness. She prints, copies, scans and faxes, but print quality is said to be on the low side. This is truly for home use, with easy set up and default features which will please most consumers even if they annoy those who wish for custom options. It also uses older, more economical ink cartridges than other brands. If you’re looking for all the features for the lowest price, HP’s Officejet 5610 could be for you.

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