Choosing the right Multi-Function Printer

I’m all about dat Ink, bout dat ink, no trouble.

Buying a new Multi-Function printer seems like a simple enough task, but before you plop down your money here are some key elements that all printers share you need to educate yourself on:

The Specs

It begins and ends with the Specifications.  These are the nitty gritty for printers, single function or multi-function.  Understanding these will help you a tremendous amount when choosing a multi-function.

Duty Cycle

The maximum number of pages the printer can handle before errors start to occur.

DPI (Dots Per Inch)

Dots Per Inch are a printer’s choice when it comes to the output of photographs, graphics or the written word onto paper; the standard is 600dpi. Pixels often get confused with DPI, while Pixels do have some relevance with print outs, they are not necessarily the same as DPI. The differences between the two are best left for another time.

PPM (Pages Per Minute)

The maximum number of pages printed per minute. There is usually a “First page prints in XYZ seconds” that follows this spec. This spec is really a personal choice and tied to the amount of memory the printer has; how fast do you need that page to print?


There are two distinctions here:

  • Input (Scanning, Faxing, Copying)
    When Scanning, faxing or copying the resolution is usually a range of 300dpi for faxing to 2400dpi for scanning. Some models will allow you to define the resolution; others will only allow you to define the resolution for scanning.
  • Output (Printing and Copying)
    When Printing or copying the resolution is NOT definable, in most cases it is 600dpi while less expensive models may max out at 300dpi. There are 1200dpi and 2400dpi Printers out there but they are extremely expensive and usually for commercial use, not an office.

Recommend Monthly Usage

The number of pages the printer is best suited for and usually a range. This is typically a sub-set of the Duty Cycle spec. and should be looked at first as it is a more realistic number for the printer to handle.


All printers have a certain amount of memory and as with desktops/laptops/tablets, the more memory…the better. Why?  Because this usually will effect how quickly a printer will print the first page.  For the type of printers we’re looking at here the amount of memory is usually fixed.

Maintenance Costs

Color or Monochrome?  Laser or Inkjet?  The specs will be relatively about the same.  Where they begin to differ is maintenance costs, i.e. the ink.  While color is a great option keep in mind that you now have 4 different inks to buy.  Typically Laser cartridges have the ability to print more before they need to be replaced compared to Inkjet cartridges; particularly the black cartridges which is what you’ll end up using most.

Which one is best?

Which offers more bang for the buck?  The price for either Color/Monochrome, Inkjet/Laser is about the same so it really depends on what you plan to use your printer for the most.  If you don’t plan on printing a lot of color documents or pictures, Monochrome is probably best.  If you plan on printing your own brochures, fliers, etc. then Color will be your choice.