The lowdown on networked multifunction printers

What are they? Networked multifunction printers offer workgroup print, copy, scan and fax features. Monochrome laser engines drive some of them, which means they print text only in black and white. In most cases, however, both the copier and scanner can provide color output. As MFP technology progresses, color laser print engines are becoming more popular.

How much do they cost? While you can buy a networked MFP for as little as $1,000, expect to pay between $2,000 and $18,000 for units that serve large workgroups and small departments. Very high-end units can cost well over $20,000.

What features should I look for? This depends on your requirements. A serviceable unit priced at $1,000 or more will provide black-and-white print speeds of about 20 pages per minute and come with enough processor and memory to serve up several hundred pages per day. As you go up the performance ladder, you will gain faster print and copy speeds, more memory, a hard drive, auto duplexing, flexible paper tray options and optional finishing features.

Must-know info? For comparative purposes, we've listed base retail prices for the units in this guide. Many high-end MFPs, however, are leased. This can be confusing for buyers because lease contracts are negotiable and based on volume usage. Leases are structured differently, depending on their terms. In sum, you might pay more (or less) for the same MFP than another group because of the differences in your agreements. Mistakes in this area can be costly to the uninitiated.

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