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What is an all-in-one (AIO) printer and should you buy one?

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Printers have come a long way since all they could do was print. Now they can also scan and fax documents. The question is whether you need the additional functionality and is it worth the cost.

What is a multifunction printer?

If you’ve been looking for a new printer recently, you’ve probably come across the term “all-in-one” (AIO) or multifunction printer. At first glance, the value proposition is clear: You’re getting a printer that can do more than just print, but are these additional features really useful or even good?

The truth is, you get what you pay for. You won’t get a top-of-the-line scanner built into an all-in-one printer. But that may not be a problem. For example, if you’re only scanning some of your documents for safekeeping, you don’t need a high-end scanner that can create a high-resolution image.

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There is also the slight downside that while it may have a specific function available as part of the AIO, it may not fully function without additional equipment. Sending faxes , for example , you may need to have a computer connected to the AIO for it to work properly. Then again, once you start looking for high-end models, they have built-in fax functionality without the need for an external PC.

As you can see, it is not always straightforward.

What to consider when buying an AIO printer

Functionality should always come first and foremost, especially if this looking for these additional features. Going a step deeper, you should also consider What want to use your AIO and if there are specific features that could make your life easier. For example, do you take many photos stored in one SD card ? Look for a multifunction printer with an SD card slot so you don’t have to use a PC as an intermediary.

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Second, and somewhat obvious, it is important to choose a printer that suits your needs, as that is the main device you are buying. Do you have good resolution and color profile ? Do you need to go laser or inkjet? How many pages do you need to print and how much will it cost? All of these should play an important role in how you make your choice.

Finally, you will want to see connectivity and compatibility. Some AIO printers can only be connected via cable or to one computer at a time, and if you’re in a multi-computer environment, that could be a problem. Similarly, if you want to print from your phone directly, you need an AIO that can be run from an application.

Are AIO Printers Worth It?

The biggest issue with AIO printers is cost versus quality.

As mentioned above, you’re ultimately going to get a worse set of devices in one for a lower price, unless you’re willing to spend money to get a high-end AIO. At the higher end, you are considering spending another $ 200 to $ 300 or more on your printer. At that point, it might be better to buy dedicated devices for each of the things you want to do rather than buying them as part of a bundle.

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The balance is figuring out how much you’re willing to spend and what quality and features you’re ready to settle for. If you can spend $ 150 and get an AIO that suits your needs and is okay with quality, then you should.

Aside from the cost versus quality issue, the only other issue is that if one part of the AIO breaks, it is likely being deprived of the others as it gets fixed. It’s like putting all your eggs in one basket – if one egg breaks, you’ll have to stop and clean the rest as well.

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