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Copier vs. Multifunction Printer

Copiers and multifunction printers provide similar, if not the same, functions. In many cases, the biggest difference between these devices is scale: size, number of features and degree of flexibility. When considering either or both as a hardware addition to your office, evaluate which makes the best choice for your company by looking at how many people your device must serve and how much performance you need.

MFP Functions
Multifunction devices scan, print, copy and — typically but not in all cases — fax, combining the features of up to four pieces of hardware in one. Most of these devices look like small copiers, and fit a large feature set into a relatively small amount of tabletop space. In exchange for that small footprint, MFPs use tall casework and weigh too much for one person to handle. Their speeds and duty cycles suggest they make a better fit as a networked device serving a small office or workgroup rather than a large number of simultaneous users.

MFP Advantages and Disadvantages
Some MFPs only do one thing at a time. For example, while they scan, they can’t print; while they fax, they can’t scan. Others truly multitask, making them better suited to use by multiple people. Despite their many capabilities, they can be jacks of all trades and slightly less than masters of any of them, depending on the scan resolution, print flexibility, copy speed and other performance attributes you require. Inkjet-based MFPs can increase cost of ownership because of the amount of ink they use to serve as copier and printer.

Copier Functions
Today’s copiers range far beyond the label in functionality. Many include all the features of a multifunction color printer on a grander scale and with greater speed, support for more sizes of paper, and finishing options that staple, bind and three-hole punch. Most copiers, especially full-size floor-standing models, use laser-based mechanisms that rely on toner, not ink. At the upper end of the price-and-performance scale, these machines come close to the performance of — or actually qualify as — digital printing presses.

Copier Advantages and Disadvantages
The more functionality you seek in a copier, the larger its price tag. Like big color laser printers, these devices use large-capacity consumable cartridges that can cost as much as the purchase price of some MFPs for a full set of toner colors. Copiers accommodate multiple paper sizes at the same time in separate paper trays or decks, and can mix sizes in a single document. Large copiers can require their own dedicated spaces, especially if you set up humidity control to manage paper handling and reduce misfeeds or jams.

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