Our Top Pick for 2017: Epson WorkForce Pro WF-R4640
Read our full review.
The all-in-one laser printer, sometimes called a laser multi-function printer, has become a key piece of equipment for offices all over the nation. However, there are many different companies selling laser MFPs, and each of them has quite a few models on offer. That’s why I set out to find the top buys among these products. I’ll list my gold, silver, and bronze picks, along with my budget pick, and then give you some tips on what to look for when you are buying all-in-one laser printers.
Quick View of Our Best All-in-One Laser Printer:
#1. Epson WorkForce Pro WF-R4640
The WorkForce Pro WF-R4640, which I’ll just call the Workforce, is a monster of a printer. It lists for $1,199.99 on Amazon, which puts it at the higher end of all-in-ones. However, that higher price tag comes with a bevy of features, a high capacity, and rapid printing speed. Aside from the price itself, the WorkForce is so large that it will probably take two people to move safely. That might be cause for concern if you are a home consumer or a sole proprietorship, or if you have a small office.
Let’s start with the basics. The WorkForce measures 23.5 inches by 34.8 inches by 28.9 inches. It weighs 69 pounds. That bulkiness and weight means it can be hard to lift from the floor, especially when it is still in its original packaging. When it arrives, the WorkForce has a considerable amount of protective tape and filler in the box, so there is no risk of damage in transit. It is a pretty new machine: it came on the market late last year, which is definitely a good thing, because it has very good integration with mobile devices for wireless printing.
Next, the things you need to know are the basic capabilities of the WorkForce. First up is the printing. The WorkForce can print 20 pages per minute, in black and white or color, which is quite fast for laser MFPs, although not the fastest available. The paper capacity is where the WorkForce really stands out. It can hold an astounding 580 sheets of paper in both the front and rear trays. On top of that, the printer comes with a full two years of ink. That is an estimate based on printing around 150 pages a month, and conditions like ink darkness and the local humidity will affect that number, but it’s still a huge quantity of ink. Ink costs are one of the biggest costs of using a printer, so not having to worry about that for a while is a big point in the WorkForce’s favor.
The WorkForce can print, scan, copy, and fax. It also comes with a two-sided auto document feeder to make it easier to use. The WorkForce has a 4.3 inch color touchscreen to control the unit. This is a lot more advanced than the usual set of buttons and switches. Furthermore, the WorkForce is easy to use over wireless networks. It is suitable for use with Wifi, Wifi Direct, iPrint, and AirPrint. It is easy to set up with any wireless network or operating system, so that makes it quite versatile. That is a major advantage for businesses that might have more than one OS in use among their workers and workstations. As I mentioned earlier, you can control the printer from a smartphone or tablet, which is a modern feature that comes in handy in a few situations. It’s rare for businesses to need to print from mobile devices, but sometimes it can save a lot of time.
The WorkForce is my gold pick because of the sheer bulk of its printing power. Let’s face it. Even though these all-in-ones have a lot of functions, printing is always the one that gets the most use. The WorkForce excels at that. Even though there are printers that print faster, the huge paper capacity and ink that comes with the machine means you need to refill it much less frequently than other printers. That is a big advantage. For the most part, people don’t think about their printers that much as long as they work, except when they run out of ink or paper. The WorkForce fits right into your workflow and needs a lot less care and babysitting than its competition. Despite its price and bulkiness, I think this is the best laser MFP on the market right now. Do note that if you are a particularly small business and have no immediate plans to expand, this might be too much capacity for you in the sense that you can get better value with a cheaper and smaller laser MFP.
#2. Canon ImageCLASS MF4350d
The ImageCLASS MF4350d from Canon, or just the MF4350d, is a smaller printer than my gold choice. It lists for a significantly lower price at $749.99. In its array of features, the MF4350d establishes itself as a printer geared to medium and small businesses, with a faster print speed but a lower paper capacity compared to the WorkForce.
Again, starting from the basics, the MF4350d weighs 27.6 pounds and measures 21 inches by 15.4 inches. It is quite manageable for one person to carry and move around, and it fits into a lot of spaces. It does not print color. This is less of a liability than you might think at first– many businesses avoid using in-house printers for color because of the inconvenience and expense of replacing color ink.
The MF4350d can print 23 pages per minute, a strong showing. It also has a 35-page automatic document feeder. The MF4350d can hold 250 pages in its front chamber. That is respectable. This laser MFP is more about printing off short documents quickly than going a long time without needing to be reloaded.
Although it doesn’t print color, the MF4350d does scan color. It gets 9600 dots per inch in scanning resolution, so it will be able to pick up all the detail you need. When faxing, the MF4350d can send documents at speeds up to 33.6 KBps. That is enough for most documents, especially if they are heavy on text. The more images or graphics a document has, the slower it will travel.
As an interface, the MF4350d uses a small black on green screen and an array of buttons. In many printers this kind of interface is confusing, but the MF4350d has a well-organized layout and a good balance of buttons: there’s not so many that you have to spend time looking for what you want, nor so few that you have to struggle to give the printer the commands you need. The buttons are grouped together by function, which helps you locate them.
One interesting feature of this printer is the single drum system. The toner and the drum are one single unit, which you replace at the same time. That cuts down on the amount of office space that you need to dedicate to storing these items. On the other hand, you need to replace both if one gets low, so it can be a little expensive.
The MF4350d has duplex printing and is compatible with a fair number of different networks. You can print from OSX computers without a problem, although it does not support mobile devices. The printer has a limited one-year warranty.
The MF4350d is a very good option for businesses for whom the WorkForce is really too much for your needs, but you still need a printer with some muscle. In that sense, the MF4350d is a jack of all trades. It prints, scans, copies, and faxes quite well, with the lack of color and the smaller paper tray being the few flaws it has. These are not significant considering how easy it is to use and the fact that the printer costs much less than the WorkForce.
#3. Brother DCP-7065DN
My third-place laser MFP is the Brother DCP-7065DN, henceforth the DCP-7065DN. At just $328.59, it’s a much cheaper printer than either my gold or silver picks. The DCP-7065DN is on this list because it delivers very good value while having a few standout features. It is oriented towards smaller offices, but it would function well in a medium-sized business as well, especially as a secondary printer.
The DCP-7065DN weighs 25 pounds, slightly less than my silver pick, and measures 15.9 inches by 15.7 inches by 12.4 inches. That makes it fairly small and easy to fit into odd corners and similar spaces. Note that it can only be shipped inside the US. The DCP-7065DN is a bit of an older model, having arrived on the market in 2011. That means it lacks a few of the advanced features that mark the two picks above it. However, the low price and a few other things make the DCP-7065DN notable on its own.
The printing speed of the DCP-7065DN is its biggest feature. It can reach a blazing fast 27 pages per minute. That’s the fastest of any laser MFP on this list. Like the Canon in the silver spot, the DCP-7065DN has a 250 page capacity for paper in the front tray and a 35 page automatic document feeder. The increased speed means this printer is very good at working with many small jobs, although if you try to send through too many large printing jobs, you will find that it can burn through paper fairly quickly. Of course, the ability to print a 250 page document in significantly less than 10 minutes without needing a paper reload is a big perk.
In terms of its other abilities, the DCP-7065DN is good for the price. It can scan and copy, but not fax. For some people this might be a dealbreaker, but fewer people are using faxes every year. It does not print color, but it does have fairly good networking ability. You can also hook up a computer to it directly using the available USB port. With duplex printing and that big PPM number, you can get through a lot of text in a hurry. The toner cartridge is notable because it has enough toner for 2,600 pages. You won’t need to replace the toner as often on this printer as you would with others.
You do not need a computer to scan with the DCP-7065DN: it has an interface that lets you scan documents and send them directly to an email address from the printer. The networking and scanning software is fairly easy to set up, so it won’t take long before you have the DCP-7065DN integrated into your workflow.
This is a printer that costs less than half of what my silver pick costs, and it prints notably faster. Of course, it doesn’t have much in the way of bells and whistles, but if all you need is something that can print and won’t break the bank, this is a very solid choice.
#4. Canon imageCLASS D530
Canon makes my list again with the imageClass D530. The D530 is currently available for just a hundred bucks. It has a lot of the features and attributes of other printers on this list at a small fraction of the price.
The D530 is another 25 pound printer. It measures 17.2 inches by 15.4 inches by 12 inches, so it is comparable in size to other printers of its class. It can print, copy, and scan, and it also supports duplex printing.
It has the usual 250 page capacity tray, but it lacks an automatic document feeder of any kind. The D530 does, however, boast a 26 page per minute printing speed, which makes it among the best. You can elect to print 2 pages of a document on one side of paper, or even 4 on one side: that helps you save paper if you have a document that is clear enough to be legible at that size. The D530 has an ID card copy mode so that you can put images of both sides of identification cards on one sheet of paper.
The D530 has the Energy Star award because it consumes 3 watts during standby mode, which drops to 1.2 watts in energy saver mode. It is rated for 10,000 pages per month.
The bottom line for the D530 is that it is very cheap and prints quickly, but doesn’t do much else. It can scan fairly well and warms up for copying quickly, but there’s no faxing and no feeder tray. If this was a $300 printer, it would be hard to call it a good buy. On the other hand, at just $100, this turns into a purchase for the discerning manager of a small company. You can get all the capacity you need for a smaller business for a very low price. It is quick and easy to use, so there will not be any prolonged setup period. If you want a cheap printer that will still give you a lot of functionality, this is the one you want.
Paper capacity is a very important feature, because it determines how often you need to reload the printer. While most printers boast about how easy it is to add new paper to their trays, in reality adding more paper is just about always time-consuming and annoying. The larger the capacity is, the less often you need to do this. Of course, a bigger capacity usually means the printer is bigger and heavier. You don’t want to get more capacity than you need, because that will cost more and take up more space.
Print and Scan Speed
The quicker your documents print and scan, the less time you need to spend standing in front of the printer waiting for it to be done. There are actually two components to this speed. The first one is pages per minute, which all printers mention in their description and is pretty straightforward. The second is how long it takes for the printer to wake up from sleep or standby mode. If you haven’t printed recently, your printer will need to wake up when you send it a new job. This might add several seconds to the beginning of the print task, so don’t forget to take it into account.
You want a printer that will fit into your wireless network. Some networks are more complex than others. The most common complication is needing the ability to handle both Windows and OSX. The better the printer is at networking, the easier it is to set up and the fewer problems you will encounter. You want a printer where you can take care of the setup once and never have to worry about it again. Being able to send scans to emails on the network is a nice feature, as is the ability to handle a large network with lots of user computers sending it print jobs.
Reliability refers to how often a printer breaks down and need some kind of repair. You want a printer that can go as long as possible without needing any service. Fixing a printer yourself takes a lot of time and effort, and many printers don’t entitle you to technical support in the form of repairmen from the manufacturer who will come to fix them. Reliability also means the printer gets a consistent number of pages from its ink and toner. All of this is not just about the times when a printer breaks down completely, but extends to the inconvenience of paper jams and resource replacement. Anything that forces you to stop using the printer until you fix it gets in the way of your productivity.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
One of the common threads through this list has been the fact that you want a printer that you do not need to think about. In other words, it just works: you can do what you need to do without worrying about the printer getting in your way. That’s why I selected high-capacity and reliable printers. Another thing I keep mentioning is the importance of knowing your needs. My gold pick can hold over 500 pages and comes loaded with tons of features. It is also three times heavier than the other printers and costs over a thousand dollars. There is no need to buy more printer than is necessary. Take the time to actually measure the usage your printer gets in, say, a month. That will tell you much about how much speed you need, how many pages you print a day, and so on. Finally, keep in mind that printing is usually the most important task you’ll need your laser MFP for, and faxing the least important. That should inform the way you shop for printers.