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67. Quality of all-in-one printers improving

By Mark Alberstat

There is a certain attraction to buying one item that has many functions. The Swiss Army company has become legendary in its pursuit of multi-function knives. In the computer industry a lot of companies will focus in on one product and become known as the best manufacturer of that particular type of peripheral or add-on. This is slowly changing, however, with the advent of the all-in-one printers and the way their quality has improved over the past few years.

All-in-one printers combine the functions of a printer, copier, fax, scanner and sometimes, digital camera-card reader, all in one. The price range of these printers is as wide as the options and models available.

Not many years ago, all-in-one printers were seen as cutting edge in technology convergence but at the low-end in the quality of each of the different functions. Today, that story is different. With companies such as Canon, Epson and Lexmark competing for this lucrative sector of the market, their products have gotten better and the prices have become more competitive.

The biggest drawback of one of these printers is that if it breaks or becomes damaged and has to be sent out for service, you not only lose your printer but your fax, scanner and copier are also gone. These printers are also larger than most desktop inkjet printers. Although not a lot larger, they do take up more space than the traditional barrel-type inkjet printer, and on a small computer table space may be a mitigating factor. On the other side of this coin, these machines eliminate the need for several different peripherals spread around the workstation.

Before buying a printer, or any device, for your computer, make sure it is compatible. Not only compatible with the operating system but also with how it connects to your machine. If the peripheral only connects through a USB port and you have an older machine, it may not have the proper port in back.

A nice feature some of the higher-end, all-in-ones come with is an area where digital media cards can be plugged in. Canon has created an all-in-one that features ports for different types of cards and has a simple one-touch button which will produce a contact sheet from the images on the card. The contact sheet comes out with an identifier and oval next to each picture. The user can fill in the ovals he or she wants printed, place the contact sheet on the printer's scanning bed and the on-board computer will understand which image to print.

When buying an all-in-one, there are a few features to look for.

Almost all of these printers are inkjet, although there are some lasers. If you intend to print colour photos with your all-in-one, then inkjet is the way to go. Speed is another factor. Most printers should print 12 black and white pages per minute and eight colour pages. The printer's resolution is also important. If you are planning on printing photos, look for 600 x 1200 dpi (dots per inch) or even 2400 x 1200.

The scanner function may also have a variety of options. Most are flatbed scanners that offer more flexibility than the sheet feeder type. If you are planning to scan in slides or transparencies, you will need a transparency negative adapter, and not all models come equipped with them or can be changed over to be one. Also look for a scanner with a 36-bit, or better, depth of colour. This will give you better-looking scans with more colour range.

With these points in mind, buying an all-in-one printer may be something to think about next time you need a new printer, copier, scanner or fax machine.

The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about computing, email If we use your question in a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.


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Originally published 4 September 2005


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