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EVERYTHING IN ONE BOX

Well, not really, but when I can buy a colour printer, colour FAX machine, scanner and colour copier in a single device, it almost seems like it.These combination devices, most commonly called an "All...


November 1, 2002
By Pulp & Paper Canada

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Well, not really, but when I can buy a colour printer, colour FAX machine, scanner and colour copier in a single device, it almost seems like it.

These combination devices, most commonly called an “All-in-One” or “Multi-functions” (horrible English) have been around for several years, but I bought my first one, for a family member’s home office, only recently.

These devices cost from about $200 to $800, and are made by most of the major printer manufacturers, including Hewlett Packard, Canon and Epson. We chose the HP V40, since it was the smallest box of the mid-price units, and had pretty well the same specifications as the competitive units.

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Printing

The V-40 uses ink-jet technology and prints up to 2400 dpi, which provides excellent resolution for graphics, whether photographic or CAD-drawn. Prints of graphics are spectacularly better than on our old LaserJet, even when in grey scale. However, text is perhaps still slightly sharper with the LaserJet than with the inkjet.

Performance overall is satisfactory, and quite close to published numbers for speed etc.

Like all color printers, it is necessary to use high quality paper, costing up to $1/sheet (about $25,000/ton — that is the mill I want to own), to print good photographs, but normal text prints perfectly well on standard office paper.

Scanning

The scanner function works just as well as any medium price dedicated scanner.

Like most FAX machines, an automatic document feeder is included, which would not be available on a low price scanner. Since the machine feeds paper through a 9″ wide slot, the maximum paper width for originals is letter-size, or A4. Most scanners and dedicated copy machines are flat-beds, so can copy a small part of any size sheet, and can copy a book without tearing it apart.

Scan speed is typical for this price range of equipment, and quality is excellent.

FAX

The FAX functions are like most FAX machines, with the advantage that color FAXes can be sent. If only a simple FAX is required, then one need only insert the paper and dial the number. For more sophisticated work, the FAX functions can be controlled from the computer screen, using stored numbers and settings. Multiple FAXes can be sent from one pass of the original.

If the receiving machine can recognize colour, then the FAX will be sent in colour, otherwise the traditional black and white will be sent.

One very convenient feature is that the FAX function can be set to automatically reduce FAXes received from legal size originals to letter size.

It is clever enough to distinguish between a FAX and a voice call, so it is practical to receive FAXes on your voice phone line. However, many mill phone systems are digital, which is incompatible with the less expensive FAXes or multifunction printer/FAX combinations.

Copying

The copy functions are really a combination of scan and print. Copies can be in colour or b/w, and can be scaled up by 200% or reduced. Simple copies are one-button affairs, while more complicate choices can be made from the keypad on the printer, or, more easily, on the computer screen.

Serious business use?

Where business or technical printing needs can be satisfied with a moderately-priced inkjet printer, and a simple photocopier, then a multifunction unit makes a lot of sense. As most documents we use today originate in a computer, needs for photocopying have dropped, and of course FAX is going the way of the Dodo, so many offices that needed powerful copiers in the past no longer need them. The multifunction units, when combined with a computer, are superior to most FAX machines, and the ability to send and receive colour FAXes can be quite useful.

The small footprint of the multifunction unit is of course attractive in many offices and, with the low price, it is no longer necessary to share a photocopier amongst a large number of people.

On the other hand, the cost of printing and copying with a multifunction inkjet is much higher per page than with a traditional laser printer of photocopier, which is important when volumes are high (dozens of pages or more per day).

Hidden cost of digital cameras

Digital cameras save money in film and photo processing, since the digital “film” is reusable memory and you print only the few best photographs. However, as we learned this week, the cost of batteries for digital cameras in not trivial. The two rechargeable batteries for our two-year old Cannon S-20 have deteriorated to the point that each gives only about five pictures before needing recharging. The two replacements I bought today cost $60 each, and would have cost $95 at the local photographers.

Cannon uses a proprietary design, which points out the advantages of buying a camera that uses rechargeable AA batteries, or some other popular format, for which competitive supplies are available.

I have taken well over a thousand pictures with the camera, so the battery cost works out at something under 15 cents each (assuming that I maintain two batteries), which is still much less expensive than traditional film.