Panafax UF-770i suffers from difficult installation routines

Pros and
cons:
+ Can save long-distance charges in some cases
+ High-quality fax machine
– Difficult to configure using standard documentation
– Cannot handle e-mail attachments





Panasonic’s Panafax UF-770i gives more than just the fax.


The high-end fax machine can transmit not only over ordinary phone lines but also via
the Internet, circumventing long-distance charges. But there are a few glitches.


For one thing, it’s not really free unless the UF-770i transmits to another of its
kind over the Internet. For sending to ordinary fax machines, it falls back on standard
phone lines. A standard phone jack and a 10Base-T network card are at the back of the
unit.


The UF-770i must be assigned an e-mail address to receive Internet faxes. It captures
and prints e-mail sent to the address just like a normal fax sent over telephone lines. In
theory, if you disliked reading text on your computer screen, you could route all your
e-mail to the fax machine and receive it neatly printed.


But standard fax machines don’t have e-mail addresses, so you must buy a UF-770i
or compatible Internet fax machine for each location to enjoy free faxing.


As a backup, you can also fax documents to anyone who has an e-mail address. The
recipient will need a TIFF viewer, which Panasonic provides free on its Web site.


Even with those limitations, the fax machine would be worth its considerable weight if
it were not so difficult to set up. The GCN Lab staff spent three days getting it to work
properly on the lab network.


Documentation was substandard, to say the least, and the process of configuring the
mail server to work with the fax machine was convoluted. Even Panasonic’s technical
support line could give only partial information.


The UF-770i does not accept a standard e-mail address, so in the domain gcnlab.com, we
could not set up the fax address as fax@gcnlab.com. The setup manual was fairly good at
describing how to set up the hardware but virtually silent on how to configure the mail
server.


Panasonic’s tech support staff advised that the fax machine needed its own domain.
I assumed they meant the fax needed its own top-level domain, something I did not want to
give it.


What the UF-770i actually needed was a subdomain. Once configured as
fax@ifax.gcnlab.com, it came online. Setting up the mail server was largely trial and
error, though.


Finally, I happened to glance at the accompanying press materials, which contained a
step-by-step description with pictures—something that was not in the documentation.


The UF-770i cannot read mail attachments and will garble plain-text or other
attachments. You must send the entire message in the e-mail body.


On a whim, I tried sending a fax from the UF-770i to an invalid e-mail address, knowing
it would bounce back. After a few seconds, a message told me the fax did not go through,
but then the UF-770i tried to print its TIFF file, which came out as four pages of black
lines. Ironically, it could not recognize its own file.


As
a fax machine over ordinary phone lines, the UF-770i works just fine. It prints receipts
when messages are received or sent, so you can verify when they were transmitted.


Commonly used numbers or e-mail addresses can be stored for repeated use, which is
helpful because the machine uses an alphabetical keypad instead of a standard QWERTY
keyboard.


Although the idea of free faxing is terrific, installers without technical savvy will
have a difficult time. And even then, the technology has a way to go. Panasonic should
include a floppy disk for configuring a mail server to work with the fax machine. A
graphical interface would be helpful on the server side.


Considering the installation difficulty plus the machine’s substantial $1,969
price, you would have to send a lot of Internet faxes to justify choosing this model over
a standard $300 fax machine.


On Panasonic’s General Services Administration Information Technology Schedule
contract, you can pay an extra, and worthwhile, $96 for installation of the UF-770i.
 

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

inside gcn

  • artificial intelligence (vs148/Shutterstock.com)

    Government leans into machine learning

Reader Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above