More Than Just the Fax: Multifunction office devices are now affordable

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Do you have a home office where a sleepy cat competes for desktop space with your computer?s mouse? Office real estate can be a precious commodity, and it doesn?t help if your workspace is cluttered with such hardware as a phone, fax machine, printer and scanner. All-in-one devices that combine these functions have been around for years but many of them recently gained a welcome new feature: They?re less expensive than ever.

Print-Fax-Scan
For less than $150, you can replace your laser or inkjet printer, fax machine and scanner with a multifunction device that handles all of these tasks. While such devices were expensive and prone to breakdowns a few years ago, today?s machines offers a high level of reliability and are easy to set up. Some units have manual flatbed scanners that allow you to scan one sheet at a time; others have time-saving automatic document feeders that let you place a stack of papers in the unit and walk away while it scans or faxes all of them.

Hewlett Packard Co.?s HP Officejet 5610 All-in-One inkjet unit (list price $149.99), for example, can be found in warehouse stores for less than $135, although it offers a 25-page automatic document feeder, a built-in fax machine and a letter-size scanner with an optical resolution of 1200 by 2400 dots per inch (dpi). The unit?s printer produces up to 20 black-and-white pages per minute or 13 color pages per minute. Buttons on the front panel let you make copies, send a fax or start a scan without going to your PC first. The unit can make borderless four- by six-inch prints and can use HP?s special photo-ink cartridges.

Camera Works
Two steps up the inkjet line is the HP Officejet 7210 All-in-One ($299.99), which has a 50-page automatic document feeder, a 2400 by 4800 dpi scanner and an Ethernet port, which means you can connect it to an office network and share it with multiple users. Also built in to the Officejet 7210 are slots for many of the memory card formats used with digital cameras. These formats include CompactFlash, SmartMedia, Sony Memory Stick, Secure Digital, MultiMedia Card and xD-Picture Card. It also has a PictBridge cable socket that allows you to wire your digital camera directly into the printer and print photos directly from the camera.

Wireless Network-Cum-Voice Mail
Brother International Corp.?s line of multifunction devices includes the new Brother MFC-640cw that the company bills as the first color multifunction device with wireless networking. The $199.99 unit has a built-in Wi-Fi networking adapter, enabling it to link wirelessly to the Wi-Fi networks that exist in many homes and offices. For example, if your notebook computer has Wi-Fi networking built in, you can print to the MFC-640cw as long as you?re within 300 feet of the device. With a Wi-Fi wireless connection you can place the printer where you like as long as there is an AC power outlet nearby. The unit also has a standard Ethernet port that allows you to connect it to a standard wired network as well.

The MFC-640cw also has a speakerphone with a handset and a digital answering system that holds up to 29 minutes of voice mail. You can save up to 80 speed-dial entries and the unit can store up to 480 fax pages in memory?a good feature to have should you run out of paper while faxes are still coming in. You can also scan faxes into memory and have the same fax sent to multiple recipients. The MFC-640cw has a 10-sheet automatic document feeder and can produce up to 20 black-and-white prints per minute or up to 15 color prints per minute. Its scanner offers a resolution of 600 by 2400 dpi and the unit has memory card slots for the CompactFlash, SmartMedia, Sony Memory Stick, xD-Picture Card, MultiMedia Card and Secure Digital card formats.

More expensive black-and-white and color laser multifunction devices with fast print engines and larger paper-handling capacities are available from HP and Brother, as well as from Canon Inc., Dell Inc., Seiko Epson Corp., Lexmark International Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., to name a few.