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What to look for in a multifunction printer/scanner/copier

 HP Envy 4500    Canon Pixma MG3520

Inkjet multifunction printers

Inkjet multifunction printers are a great solution for students looking to have the convenience of copying, scanning, and printing at their fingertips, but do not plan on scanning or copying in bulk. It’s quite nice to have the option to make a quick copy of notes for a classmate or scan in pictures for family and friends to share. Printer companies are quickly including new features and it is useful to review the major options on multifunction printers.

What to look for when buying an inkjet multifunction printer.

Things to consider:

  • Work Load
  • Cost of ownership
  • Speed
  • Duplexing
  • Media support
  • Print and Scan Resolution
  • Secondary Features
  • Dimensions
  • Connection

Work Load

How many pages do you plan on printing or copying in a week? Would you use your multifunction in an office environment? Do you need the highest quality print possible and on what types of media? If you plan on printing more than 400 pages a month (~15 a weekday), sharing the printer with more than 3 people, and prefer clean crisp laser quality copies, you may want to get a laser multifunction printer. Check out the buyers guide on laser printers to get an idea of the various types of specifications.

Cost of ownership

The inkjet multifunction printer we recommend most for students is the Canon PIXMA MG3520 Color Inkjet/Copier/Scanner for $59.95 (C66048). Black and color ink cartridges are quite affordable for this model. One major way to save money on cartridges is to look at the capacity. Purchasing higher capacity cartridges or buying cartridges in bulk may save money in the long run.


This HP can print up to 6 ppm color and 10 ppm black and white. If you need faster speeds then consider purchasing a laser multifunction.


Duplexing is the ability of the printer to print on both sides of the paper. The Canon PIXMA MG3520 can be set to print on both sides of the paper automatically. Some printers do not have this capability, and other printers can print on both sides of the paper if you purchase a duplexer accessory separately.

Media support

All inkjet multifunction printers hold the basic types of paper formats including letter, legal, and standard envelope sizes. If you plan on printing out on a special paper format it may be best to check with the manufacturer’s information to determine whether or not the printer will be able to work with that size of media. In addition to a flatbed scanner, some printers also have a paper feeder to facilitate in making copies. Make sure to check what types of media you will be printing, copying, and scanning.

Print and Scan Resolution

Print resolution refers to the quality of the print or dots per inch (dpi). The Canon PIXMA MG3520 can print up to 4800 x 1200 dpi.

Scan resolution is important for those that make a lot of high quality copies and scan pictures. The Canon has a 1200 x 2400 dpi scan resolution. Some printers may list a “Resolution Enhanced Scan” measure which is a measure relating to how the standard resolution can be enhanced through the software, such as making the image larger, but it will not necessarily add more detail.

The scan resolution is far more important number as it relates to the quality of the scan.

Secondary Features

Some multifunction printers have built in fax capabilities. If you need fax capabilities in your multifunction it is important to double check whether the model you are looking at has that ability. Some computers already have the ability to fax documents using a built-in phone modem.

Another popular feature of multifunction inkjets are digital photo memory card readers. A memory card reader is convenient for people who have multiple types of memory cards and would like to quickly transfer pictures to their computer. There are many different memory card formats. If your printer has a built in card reader, check your digital camera to determine if your card type is supported.


Some printers load the media from the top, while others load the media in a bottom tray. Multifunction printers also require extra space to open the lid for scanning and copying purposes. If you have space considerations it is important to consider where the printer will be placed and if it will have enough room to load the media. 


Almost no printers come with the proper cables anymore. Make sure you buy the appropriate length and type of cable to reach your printer. Most connect and are set up via USB cables, but some printers may also have an ethernet port to connect to a network. Many printers are now able to connect to your computer wirelessly, too, although some of these require initial setup via the USB cable. A print server may come in handy if you have multiple computers that need to print to a specific printer. If you know that you need to use your multifunction on a network, we recommend buying that capability built-in rather than trying to add functionality later.

What You Get With Higher Models

As you increase the price of the multifunction printer, you are usually getting a faster printing speed and potentially better color images. Like inkjet printers, multifunction printers split their colors up individually into either three or five colors. Normally, the higher the number of individual colors, the truer (closer the printouts are to the actual color of the objects) the color prints. Usually the higher cost of the printer does not lead to a better scanner or copier. If you need a higher quality scanner or copier, you probably want to buy a standalone scanner or copier instead of a multifunction printer.

Have any further questions? Contact the DoIT Tech Store at (608) 264-3648 or email

Keywords:personal departmental multifunction printer scanner copier fax   Doc ID:3099
Owner:Nick R.Group:DoIT Tech Store
Created:2004-07-29 19:00 CDTUpdated:2016-07-06 14:51 CDT
Sites:DoIT Tech Store
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