Color MFPs go mainstream
Newest generation of multifunction printers from Ricoh, Sharp, Toshiba, Xerox add office-friendly featuresFollow @infoworld
When Melissa Riofrio and I reviewed a batch of color multifunction office systems about 18 months ago, we were amused by a large curving plastic sign attached to the Xerox WorkCentre Pro C2636, plastered with instructions on the printer’s features. We quickly labeled it the “Purple Cowl.”
But there was a method to Xerox’s purple madness: In many organizations, the company said, the MFP (multifunction printer) was still migrating from the print center to the office floor. The sign’s labels served as a reminder that the WorkCentre could not just make copies, but also print, fax and scan to the network.
Xerox dispensed with the Purple Cowl on its new line of WorkCentres, though. I’m taking that as an indication that MFPs have finally arrived.
As a corollary, the feature set of this class of machines is converging as vendors fill in the check-off items on the lists of capabilities that office users need -- such as formatting complex documents, control over color, and high capacity for big print jobs.
That doesn’t mean all MFPs are the same. In this review of four new systems from Ricoh, Sharp, Toshiba, and Xerox, I found a wide spread in how deeply features are implemented and how easy the printers are to use. I also found significant differences in performance and image quality among the four systems.
The exact price of a color MFP can be hard to pin down, but they certainly aren’t cheap. Three of the four models I examined list for more than $20,000, but I was unable to ascertain street pricing. That’s because when you procure an MFP, it usually comes as part of a lease-to-own package with financing, training, a service agreement, and consumables included.
Because of this flexible pricing, you’ll have to evaluate what your office needs and work the numbers carefully before signing on the dotted line. In some cases, you might do better by negotiating the price for each element, or the dealer may insist on a consolidated cost-per-click charge. Or maybe you should agree to pay a little more on service to pay a little less per impression.
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The basic tools simply let you scan or distribute something in one step. Others store often-used files, such as forms, on the MFP’s internal hard drive, and use the scan capability to fill in data fields and send captured information to a database. Beyond that, you’ll find complex enterprise-oriented workflow and document-sharing systems for which the MFP serves as a port of entry.
Ricoh Aficio MP C4500