All-in-wonders!

Published Date
01 - Sep - 2007
| Last Updated
01 - Sep - 2007
 
All-in-wonders!
 

Office needs that have to do with paper-printing, scanning, fax printouts, and copying-have solutions primarily in the form of inkjet and laser devices. The other classification is standalone devices vs. MFDs. The latter is not much of a dilemma any more, really: MFDs are here to stay, and with good reason. But in regards to the former-inkjet or laser-you might ask: why a laser MFD test now, when we did an inkjet test two months ago?

It's simple. Inkjet MFDs are good for the SoHo consumer. They are great if your work requires colour prints such as photographs, and if you are on a tight budget. Now as your business grows, your needs grow too, and when your regular daily workload involves high-volume, high-speed printing-and if colour prints are not a daily affair-you need a faster and more cost-effective solution than inkjet MFDs. That's where the lasers come in. These are more expensive than inkjets, but the initial cost is recovered quickly-within a few months of printing.

To give you a good feel for what the market has to offer, in fact, to help you with a purchase decision, we rounded up quite a few laser MFDs and tested them to see if they perform as they promise. (You must go beyond the advertisements!) We reviewed four laser MFDs from Brother, three from Canon, five from HP, and one each from Lexmark and Panasonic.

The MFDs we've tested here range from the very basic to the heavy-duty, and we've also included copier-based MFDs that cost less than Rs 50,000.

From Brother, we have the DCP-7010, MFC-7320, MFC-8460N and MFC-8860DN. We have the Canon MF4122 and MF4150, along with the Lexmark X342n and Panasonic KX-FLB802CX. From the HP stables, we have the M1005 MFP, 3052 All-in-One, 3055 All-in-One, 3390 All-in-One, and the 3392 All-in-One-all of them under HP's LaserJet range of products.

We categorised the MFDs into three classes for your convenience:
Budget MFDs-priced up to Rs 16,000: These are for businesses just starting up and those that cannot afford to put in too much capital into a laser device, yet want a solution that is faster and more cost-effective than an inkjet machine. Small establishments would rather have a device that can do it all-print, scan and copy-than standalone devices, because of limited resources and office space. The MFDs in this category are the Brother DCP-7010, HP LaserJet M1005 MFP, and the Panasonic KX-FLB802CX.

SoHo MFDs-priced between Rs 16,001 and Rs 30,000: The products in this category are for businesses are at the SoHo(Small Office Home Office) stage. Standalone fax functionality assumes some importance here. The Brother MFC-7420, Canon imageCLASS MF4122 and MF4150, HP LaserJet 3052 All-in-One and 3055 All-in-One, and the Lexmark X342n fall in this bracket.

SMB MFDs-priced between Rs 30,001 and Rs 50,000: Look in this category if you are a small or medium business (SMB) that requires very high-volume printing, speed, and also machines that can handle heavy workloads while having the capability of being networked. This bracket is populated by the Brother MFC-8460N and MFC-8860DN, and the HP LaserJet 3390 All-in-One and 3392 All-in-One.

With all the above in mind, read on to find out which products delivered and which didn't, which seem unlikely purchases for you and which seem right.

Budget Laser MFDs (Up to Rs 16,000)


Brother DCP-7010
Decent, we say!
Compact with a footprint of 43.2 x 39.5 cm (which is quite small), the DCP-7010 is a mono laser printer, scanner and copier, but does not feature standalone fax functionality; you need to use it in conjunction with a PC to send faxes.

The printer has a claimed hardware resolution of 2400 x 600 dpi-rather high for an entry-level product. In our tests, this one took 19.1 seconds to warm up, and 10.3 seconds for the first text print. Print quality was average for text in Draft mode, but improved a lot in the best mode.

The scanner resolution is 600 x 2400 at 24-bit colour, and it supports a maximum paper size of A4. The scanner is a bit slow: it took 13.7 seconds for a mono scan, which is on the higher side for a scanner with the WIA driver interface. A full-colour A4 photo scan at 600 dpi takes just under 4 minutes, again very slow. The machine reproduced colours fairly well-we'd say it's good enough for scanning photographs. The OCR test didn't see it fare well, however.

The printer features the USB and even the parallel interface (the latter for those with older computers). The MFL-Pro suite-a control centre to take care of jobs such as scanning, faxing, and more-is good, and also bundled is PaperPort 9.0SE (OCR software). The claimed printer duty cycle is 10,000 prints per month, while the toner has a duty cycle of 2,500. The DCP-7010 is decently priced (Rs 11,150); the toner cartridge costs Rs 2,150, meaning the cost per print is 86 paise. We still recommend this MFD because of portability, speed, and overall performance.
Panasonic KX-FLB802CX

A super-value copier

The Panasonic KX-FLB802CX is in a class of its own: it is the only copier-based MFD we tested. Being copier-based, it comes with separate drum and toner cartridges. The advantage of such a device over printer-based MFDs is this: the toner and drum have different duty cycles, and the drum's duty cycle is always more than twice that of the toner. In the case of printer-based laser MFDs, the toner and drum are integrated, and the duty cycle of the single unit is that of the toner-so you have to replace the whole thing even when the drum's duty cycle hasn't been expended. With copier-based laser MFDs, you need to change either the toner or drum as and when its duty cycle is over. This proves to be cost-effective. However, copier-based units have traditionally been more expensive to manufacture. This one breaks the mould, and costs just Rs 15,999.

At 44 x 44.5 cm, this MFD occupies a comparatively large area, but can just about fit beside a PC on a regular desktop. Installing the drum is very easy, but installing the cartridge is not. Input tray capacity is 250 sheets, and there is also a multipurpose tray for additional paper storage.

The printer supports 600 x 600 dpi. The initialisation time of this MFD is just under 20 seconds. For the text document, it took 14.7 seconds to print the first copy and thereafter printed at 16 ppm. It takes a couple of seconds longer to print the first copy of the combi-document, but thereafter prints at just about the same speed as the text print. Text is quite sharp, and inverse text was pretty good, too.

The scanner supports 600 x 1200 dpi, but the driver doesn't support the newer WIA interface-which many modern scanners do, because it is more standardised. The scanner is good at capturing colours and fine details, but is extremely slow, especially at resolutions lower than 600 dpi. Since these are the resolutions at which people most often scan documents and even photographs, the scanner loses out on performance points. It took 27.2 seconds to scan a monochrome document at 200 dpi, while a colour document at 600 dpi took just over 2 minutes-pretty good. The scanner did not fare well in the OCR test, committing 25 mistakes, which is bad.

The first copy took 18.3 seconds. We found the copies rather dark, and as a result, the inverse text was not very legible. Fine print didn't turn out legible, either.

This is the only contender that comes with a handset, which doubles up as a phone if you are using your phone line for fax (as is the case with most SoHo users). It can store up to 170 pages of incoming fax in case it runs out of toner. The hardware junk fax prohibitor filters out faxes from unwanted numbers, using caller ID.

The interface is USB, though there is the option to upgrade to an Ethernet port interface. The MFD comes with Readiris 7 OCR, Remote Control PCFAX to send faxes via the PC, and a Network Scan Module, which helps deploy the machine over a network. The duty cycle of the printer is 10,000, which is the same as that of its drum, while the toner cartridge has a duty cycle of 2,500. Cost per page comes out to be Rs 1.20-a bit on the higher side for a laser MFD. Still, like we said, it's cheap for a copier-based MFD.

HP M1005 MFP

A value product that delivers

The HP M1005 MFP is a printer, scanner, and copier targeted at the entry-level consumer or small SoHo. It is pretty sleek and doesn't take up too much desktop space-just 43.7 x 36.3 cm. It looks good, too, and weighs a manageable 8.5 kg.

The control panel is intuitive with a two-line, 16-character display, but the menu offers a limited set of functions to control. Input tray capacity is 150 sheets, which is fairly good for its class. Output tray capacity is 100-more than sufficient for this category of MFDs. Unlike with many HP drivers, the installation for this one was fast. One Windows restart later, the M1005 was ready to start multi-functioning…

Print resolution is the standard 600 x 600 dpi, and 32 MB of buffer is good enough to handle long print queues. It took only 14.2 seconds to warm up and start printing. The first text print took just under 10 seconds, while the combi-print required 12.8 seconds. Maximum print speed is around 13 ppm for all kinds of documents. The quality of the prints is not much to boast about, especially the graphics. Inverse text, though, is printed better than on more expensive machines.

The flatbed scanner scans documents of up to A4 size at 1200 x 1200 dpi in 24-bit colour. It took us just 7.3 seconds for the monochrome scan, but it got lethargic during the photo scan, taking over a minute and a half. Scan quality is excellent, though-colour and detail capture was superior to that of most of the MFDs we've tested thus far! This was the only MFD here that was perfect in the OCR test.

The first photocopy took 12.8 seconds, but the quality was below par-a little washed out.

HP does not bundle their software suite with this one: it is a "value" product. But they do supply the impressive Readiris Pro OCR software for PC as well as Mac. The monthly duty cycle of the M1005 is 5,000 prints; understandable, since this is an entry-level MFD. The cartridge has a duty cycle of 2,000 prints and costs Rs 2,961.

Rs 12,999 makes the M1005 an attractive choice if your work won't be hampered by the relatively slow printing speeds and the lack of standalone fax.

How We Tested 
The Test Rig
For all the tests, we used 100 gsm (grams per square metre) A4-size paper from Berga.

Features
We noted features such as printer and scanner resolutions, scanner type and size, presence of a fax unit and ADF (Automatic Document Feeder), input tray capacity, and more. For the copier tests, we noted the MFDs' ability to work as standalone devices, the maximum number of pages that can be printed in multi-copy mode, the facility to reduce or enlarge a copy, and more.

Warm-up Time
All laser MFDs needs to "warm up" when they are first started, only after which they are ready to function. We noted how long each MFD took to warm up.

The Printer Tests
We used a text document to test the raw print speeds of the printers on the MFDs. To test the ability of the MFDs to handle the various aspects of a regular office document (which can have both text and graphics), we created a "combi-document" that has black text interspersed with graphs and images. We used the Draft and best quality settings for the text and combi-document tests. We gauged the speeds by sending the Print command and clocking the time the MFDs took to print the first sheet.

The Scanner Tests
We tested the scanners for speed using an average of five previews of an A4-size image. We did this with the scanner just turned on, so as to incorporate the warm-up time. We imported the same A4-size image at 150 and 600 dpi in Adobe Photoshop CS2, and scanned a full-text document in B&W mode at 200 dpi. We then put the scanners through a test to determine colour differentiating capabilities using the Kodak IT8 card (which has different shades of colour in a gradient). Next, we scanned the resolution chart at 300 dpi-this has five boxes consisting of parallel lines very close to each other, with the boxes arranged in order of density of the lines. This test was, of course, to check whether the scanners could scan and differentiate between the parallel lines, and gave us a measure of the scanners' ability to capture fine detail. Finally, we did an OCR test to check the scanner's ability to differentiate between light and dark areas: we scanned a print article to the trial version of ABBYY Fine Reader Pro 8.0 PE, and counted the wrongly-interpreted letters.

The Copier Tests
We copied the colour combi-document to black-and-white and rated the MFDs on speed and print quality. Here, too, we noted the time it took for the first print, and then noted the number of pages printed in the minute after that to calculate the maximum achievable copies per minute (cpm) while multi-copying.
 


SoHo Laser MFDs (Rs 16,001 to Rs 30,000)

Canon MF4122 and MF4150

Inexpensive units, high running costs

We decided to club these two together because the only thing different about them is that the MF4150 has an ADF, sheet-fed scanner, and fax.
Both MFDs occupy 39 x 43.2 cm-relatively small. Their dashboards feature the same button placement; the MF4150, obviously, also has fax features such as a dialpad and speed-dial buttons to dial stored numbers (up to 100).

Both MFDs are built very well, but as is often the case, the trays seem a little delicate. The input tray has a capacity of 250 sheets; the output tray, 100. There is also a multipurpose tray that holds one sheet of paper-handy for one-off print jobs on media other than what you'd normally keep in the input tray. The ADF of the MF4150 accommodates 35 sheets.

The printer resolution of these MFDs is the lowest 600 x 600 dpi, but as you'll find out, that fact does not affect performance. These can't print as fast as any of the Brother MFDs, but their warm up times are markedly lower. The MF4150 takes 15.7 seconds to warm up, and the MF4122 takes just 7.4. This is the fastest warm-up time we've ever recorded for a laser MFD! The first print takes just under 9 seconds. A combi-document will take the same time to print as a text document. In text as well as graphics, the Canon MFDs print better than any of the other MFDs in this test. The only problem was they could not print white text on black (yes, they printed just a black block). This did not change even when we tried printing at the best quality.

The flatbed scanners support A4-size paper, and have an interpolated resolution of 9600 x 9600. The scanners brought up top-notch performance. In the Kodak IT8 card scan test, they were not only able to recognise all 22 shades of grey, but were also able to reproduce all shades of colour better than the other MFDs. The OCR test  results were acceptable. These are the fastest scanners of all the ones we've tested, taking just over 6 seconds to scan a monochrome document and less than 40 seconds for an A4-size colour document.

Even in the copying department, these are two of the best! Fine text in the copies was legible, and shades of grey turned out as close to the original as we'd think possible. They were the fastest to print the first copy, taking under 10 seconds.

Canon provides OmniPage SE OCR and Presto! PageManager to handle your OCR needs. The MFDs have a monthly duty cycle of 10,000 prints. Now here's the sore point: while the toner duty cycle is just 2,000 prints-the lowest of all the ones we tested-the cartridge is not inexpensive either, and costs Rs.3,999. This brings the cost per page to an uncomfortably high 2 rupees.

The MF4122 is available for Rs 17,995, while the MF4150 is priced at Rs.25,995. The prices of the units are not too high, but the running costs make it hard to recommend these, even considering their excellent performance.

Brother MFC-7420

A good office all-rounder

The MFC-7420 is the bigger sibling of the Brother DCP-7010-refer to the Budget Laser MFDs section, earlier in this article. Similar in specifications to the DCP-7010, the extra this one features is fax functionality and an ADF tray that holds 35 sheets of paper.

The design, too, is similar to that of the DCP-7010, except that the 7420 has additional buttons for fax, such as the dialpad and eight one-touch dialling buttons. Even the footprint is the same. It is a bit heavier, though, at 9.45 kg. It is built fairly well, except the flaps don't seem too sturdy. The input tray has a capacity of 250, sufficient for most SoHos, while the output tray holds 100 sheets, again not bad.

The scanner happens to be a bit better than that on the DCP-7010 in colour scanning, but is very similar that one in the other aspects. The result of our OCR test was even worse than with the 7010.

The printer and the scanner specs are the same as those of the DCP-7010. Even the printer performance is similar. This unit has a fax memory of 500 pages.

Copying a page took around 21 seconds the first time, but the sustained ppm is around 20 after that. Pretty good, we should say.

This unit features the USB as well as the parallel port interface, and although it does not come with an Ethernet port, it has that option by means of a separately-purchasable Ethernet Print Server. The bundled software comprises the MFL-Pro suite with PaperPort 9.0SE OCR, and also a utility to set up the unit over a network.

The MFC-7420 has a toner duty cycle of 3,500, making for an economical cost per page of 61 paise. Rs 18,000 for this model is justified because of the fax, ADF, and sheet-fed scanner.
 

HP LaserJet 3052 All-in-One and 3055 All-in-One

Something decent for the mid-range

HP takes care of the mid-range segment in the form of its LaserJet 3052 and 3055 All-in-One MFDs. These are identical in all but one aspect: the 3055 has a fax.

These MFDs occupy 49.7 x 40.6 cm, which is on the higher side, but they weigh just 12.4 kg. The input tray holds 250 sheets, and an additional 10 in the "priority tray." The output tray holds a hundred prints, and the ADF holds 50 sheets.

The control panel is intuitive, with a two-line, 16-character backlit display. The 3055 also has an alphanumeric fax dialling keypad. This keypad is also there on the 3052, which does not have a fax unit, so they are only for input.

These MFDs feature high-resolution printers: 1200 x 1200 dpi. The input buffer is 64 MB, which is  sufficient for large print jobs and long queues. The warm-up time we recorded was about 49 seconds. Text is crisp, and the legibility of fine print improves in the best mode, but greyscale graphics are not produced equally well.

The flatbed scanner supports 24-bit scanning at an optical resolution of 1200 x 1200 dpi, and this can be interpolated to up to 19,200 dpi. The drivers support both the WIA and the TWAIN interfaces. They clocked average speeds, and were able to resolve only two of the three blocks in our resolution chart. They did perform fairly well in the OCR test.

The first photocopy took 8.5 seconds-the fastest in this test. The copies were, however, a tad too dark.

These MFDs feature a 33.6 Kbps (about three seconds per page) fax with up to 110 pages of fax memory. The broadcasting and delayed fax features are standard, and you can broadcast to up to 119 locations. The MFDs feature an Ethernet ports as well as USB connectivity.

Both these models come with HP ToolBox FX, which allow you to monitor device status and also manage fax tasks and setup alerts. (Alerts are in the form of e-mail that is sent to you when events such as fax reception occur).

The monthly duty cycle here is 7,000 prints; other MFDs in this price range generally offer more. The cartridge has a duty cycle of 3,000 prints and costs Rs 2,961; cost per page works out to Rs 1.48, which is a bit steep.

The HP LaserJet 3052 and 3055 cost Rs 20,999 and Rs 24,499 respectively, and are almost at par with the Canon MF4122 and MF4150 in terms of speed, but trail the latter a little in terms of print quality.

Lexmark X342n

Très élégant!

Lexmark has paid attention to looks here. This is a rather tall MFD with a grey plastic body, broad at the top and tapering towards the bottom. The bottom is rather narrow, but it still requires a considerable amount of desktop space, with a footprint of 53 x 39.4 cm. Aesthetics have little to do with ruggedness, unfortunately. The hinges and the trays of the X342n are built rather well, but the flaps (especially the extension flap of the ADF tray) are flimsy.

This MFD has one of the largest paper capacities of all those we tested; the input tray holds as many as 550 sheets, while the output tray, 150. The two-line LCD is backlit.

A niggle here-as you go deeper into the menu to make changes and then go back, you are not returned to the previous menu, but rather to the root menu. You therefore can't make many changes at once.

This Lexmark can print at 600 x 600 dpi, and has 32 MB of buffer (which takes care of larger documents and long print queues). It initialises very slowly, taking 48.3 seconds to warm up. Once warmed up, it is rather quick; our first text copy printed in 11.4 seconds, and the rest at around 27 ppm. Our combi-document took a bit longer for the first copy in Draft mode: 17.9 seconds. It took a much longer 32.1 seconds in the best quality mode. The rest of the copies of the combi-document were printed even faster than 30 ppm in Draft mode-this was the first MFD of the lot to achieve this.

Text quality was generally good. The faint portions of the concentric pattern in Draft mode weren't perfect, but were fine in the best quality mode.

In addition to the sheet-fed scanner, there is a Legal-size flatbed scanner capable of scanning at 600 x 600 dpi. Scanner scores were below average here; the machine was able to differentiate between shades of grey, but failed to differentiate well between different colour shades in the mid-range colours of the Kodak IT8 chart. In our OCR test, it made way too many errors, and even failed to recognise bold and large fonts.

The first photocopy took 11.9 seconds, and the rest were produced in 4.4 seconds each. Text quality was good, but the graphics looked washed out.

The Lexmark X342n has a USB as well as an Ethernet port. It comes with Presto! PageManager which is an OCR software. Lexmark provides a high-yield 6,000 page duty cycle cartridge, which costs Rs 4,500, meaning a rather affordable 75 paise per page. Priced at Rs 23,900, this Lexmark seems to be a good buy on every front.
 

SMB Laser MFDs (Rs 30,001 to Rs 50,000)

HP LaserJet 3390 All-in-One and 3392 All-in-One
Heavyweight performers
These two are for heavy workloads, and are therefore more expensive than most of the other MFDs we've tested here. They are almost identical, with just a few differences.

 Build quality is very good, and the 3390 and the 3392 are as rugged as you'd want them to be for regular office work. The footprint is 49.5 x 40 cm; these are the heaviest MFDs of the lot, with the 3390 and 3392 weighing 17.8 and 21.8 kg respectively. They're certainly not meant to be moved around once set up!

While the 3390 has an input tray that holds 250 sheets, the 3392 can accommodate 500, thanks to its two trays. You can opt to augment the 3390's capacity to 500 by adding an optional tray. Both MFDs have an output tray capacity of 125 sheets. The ADF has a maximum capacity of 50 pages.

The control panel features alphanumeric buttons and menu and cancel controls. There are three discrete sections for fax, scan, and copy controls. Sixteen one-touch dialling buttons are also present allowing you to speed dial stored numbers.

The supported print resolution is 1200 x 1200 dpi-the highest we have in this test; these two MFDs also support duplex printing. The 3390 has a 64 MB input buffer, while the 3392 has 128 MB. And if this weren't enough, there is the provision to add a 100-pin DIMM module to get a maximum input buffer of 192 MB! The 3392 also features a convenient electric stapler so you can quickly staple together as many as 20 sheets.

We saw high warm-up times in these cases: around 44 seconds. Print quality is about average in Draft mode, but very good in the best mode. We should also mention that these printers produce very clean prints-no carbon splattered anywhere.

The A4-size flatbed scanner supports 1200 x 1200 dpi (optical) and an interpolated resolution of up to 19,200 dpi. The scanner supports both the WIA and the TWAIN interfaces. We saw average speeds at regular resolutions, but it was faster as the resolution and colour depth was raised. Captured colour quality is also not bad, but there were a few too many errors in our OCR test.

Featured here is a 33.6 Kbps fax with up to 250 pages of fax memory. The broadcasting and delayed fax features are standard, and you can broadcast to up to 119 locations. In addition to the RJ-11, there is an Ethernet port as well as USB connectivity, but there's no parallel port. Take note of this if you have an older system.

HP bundles along the HP ToolBox FX, using which you can monitor device status and also manage fax tasks and set up e-mail alerts-this means you'll receive an e-mail when an event, such as a fax reception, occurs. HP provides Readiris Pro 11 for Windows, a premium OCR software, and also Readiris Pro 11.5 for Mac.

The monthly duty cycle of these MFDs is 10,000 prints. We did expect a higher duty cycle, though, because these two MFDs are in the high-end category and also expensive. The cartridge has a duty cycle of 3,000 prints and costs Rs 3,025; cost per page works out to just over a rupee. While we'll admit that the print quality is in a class of its own, the running cost is on the higher side.The HP LaserJet 3390 and 3392 are priced at Rs 36,999 and Rs 46,999 respectively. Get one of these only if print quality and speed is of prime importance and if running costs don't matter much.

Brother MFC-8460N and MFC-8860DN

In the heavy-duty league

Meant to handle the most rigorous of office tasks, these two models from Brother are very similar on all fronts. They have the same footprint of 53.1 x 45 cm, meaning they're a bit too large for most desktops. They even have very similar dashboards; the MFC-8860DN just has one additional button for Duplex (this is signified by the D in the model name): the MFC-8860DN has an inbuilt duplexer that lets you print on both sides of a page. The 50-page ADF also duplexes, allowing you to scan and fax both sides of a page. You can opt to copy both single- and double-sided originals to your choice of single- or double-sided copies using the front panel menu and button. These feature a five-line backlit LCD that provides a lot of information.

Built very ruggedly, these weigh a little over 16.5 kg, making them the heaviest in this test. The input tray holds 250 sheets, while the output tray supports 150 sheets-more than adequate, we'd say. They also have a multipurpose paper tray with a capacity of 50 sheets.

The printer, fax, and scanner specifications are exactly the same for the two. The printer supports a high hardware resolution of 1200 x 1200, and comes with 32 MB of buffer memory, expandable to 544 MB. Printing is very fast with text documents, and even with our combi-document, the first page takes 12 seconds instead of under 10 seconds for the text document-hardly a difference. Text is not sharp at Draft quality, but it is flawless at best quality. We saw fine text reproduced with good detailing in high quality mode.

Both these MFDs have large Legal-size flatbed scanners in addition to the sheet-fed scanner option. The scanner resolution is 600 x 2400 dpi (optical) at 24-bit colour depth. The scanner is fast, taking under 9 seconds to scan a monochrome document, and 100 seconds for a colour document. We saw colours and fine details captured beautifully. Both units performed very well indeed in our OCR test.

The dashboard sports the one-touch dialling option for up to 40 fax numbers. These MFDs have plenty of fax memory, 600 pages. A handset would have been a welcome addition, but neither of these two models even have the option to add one.

The first document copy took us 12 seconds, and it reached a speed of 30 ppm thereafter. The copies we saw were good, but shades of grey-and also some finer details-weren't perfect.

In addition to the USB and parallel port interfaces, these two also feature the fast 10/100 Ethernet interface. Bundled is the MFL-Pro Suite, which allows you to send faxes using your PC if you do not want to use the standalone fax exclusively. PaperPort 9.0SE adequately takes care of your OCR needs.

A bundled Driver Deployment Wizard helps you set up these as network MFDs. Like the other Brother MFDs, these ship with drivers for Mac in addition to those for Windows.

The MFC-8460N and MFC-8860DN have a toner duty cycle of 3,500; the toner cartridge costs just Rs 2,150, meaning an economical 61 paise per page. With a printer duty cycle of 20,000 pages per month, the MFC-8460N and the MFC-8860DN-which cost Rs 33,750 and 41,650 respectively-are more suited for larger businesses, of the order of an enterprise.

At The Podium
Taking into account all essential aspects-features, overall performance, price, and running costs-we can state our recommendations by saying which products won our awards.

In the Budget category, the Brother DCP-7010 and the HP LaserJet M1005 MFP fought it out for Gold. While the DCP-7010 offers great value as well as speed and performance, the M1005 has one of the best scanners in this test. We award the Brother DCP-7010 the Digit Best Buy Gold in this category for its better print quality and its unmatched cpp of 86 paise.

Nothing came close to the Brother MFC-7420 in terms of features in the SoHo category. It prints very fast and produces decent output. Monthly printer duty cycle is a healthy 10,000 prints. Fax-modem memroy is as large as 500 pages, and cpp is just 61 paise-all meaning a Digit Best Buy Gold in this category!

The Canon imageCLASS MF4122 excels in print quality. The MFD with the lowest warm-up time in the entire test, it did not disappoint in speed. The scanner is very good in terms of capturing colour and detail, and it was fairly accurate in our OCR tests as well. Based on this, it receives the Digit Best Buy Silver.

Now for the SMB category: the Brother-MFC-8860DN and MFC-8460N not only support a memory upgrade to 544 MB, but also a very large monthly duty cycle of 20,000 prints. These are fast performers, and print quality is decent. These are the only MFDs in this category with a Legal-size flatbed scanner. They feature all three interfaces-USB, Ethernet, and parallel port. Complementing all this is excellent speed and a cpp of just 61 paise. We award the Brother MFC-8860DN the Digit Best Buy Gold, and trailing a bit on features, the Brother MFC-8460N wins the Digit Best Buy Silver.

A Few Concluding Notes
If you mostly print large text documents, we believe you should choose a mono laser MFD. If you need to print colour photographs, there are colour laser MFDs, but are expensive; a colour inkjet makes more sense. Also consider the running costs: the average laser MFD consumes a lot of electricity-some heavy-duty ones can even go past the 1000 W mark.

The HP machines performed well; they produced the cleanest of all the prints, but their pricing was the problem.

We should also mention that HP MFDs have come up with little things that make for a better MFD-such as the inbuilt electronic stapler and the superb OCR application from IRIS. Also, the wide availability of their products and services across the length and breadth of the country-an important factor for any consumer-needs to be borne in mind.

The above could have led to the higher pricing, but HP's products did walk the talk.

We return to what we stated at the outset. If you're worrying about whether it's wise to go with an MFD rather than multiple devices, we say an MFD these days is more likely than not to prove reliable. 

 

Jayesh LimayeJayesh Limaye