Is Having a Separate Scanner & Printer or Having a Three-in-One Better?

Multifunction printers, or MFPs, combine the capabilities of a printer, scanner, copier and a fax machine into a single piece of hardware. In their earliest incarnations, these devices sometimes earned the nickname “hydra” after the nine-headed snake slain by Hercules in classical myth. Today’s MFPs can find a home in small offices that want to limit the number of computer peripherals and other pieces of office technology they require.

Duty Cycle

MFPs often target workloads that require fewer demands on hardware, in contrast to the large colour copiers whose multifunctional abilities these desktop devices replicate. For instance, cheaper models frequently do not have an automated document feeder, which can make scanning documents with several pages easier. You can use several ink cartridges to meet high output demands because many of these devices rely on inkjet mechanics for their prints and copies. Finally, low volume MFPs won’t set any speed records, which could be a concern in a workplace with lots of people.


You would have a difficult time finding all three of its technologies in separate hardware devices for the price of one MFP. However, if you want high performance from one or more of these features, an MFP might not be able to meet your needs. Compromises are unavoidably made by manufacturers in order to produce three-in-one products at competitive pricing. You might discover that an MFP falls short for your demands and a standalone, single-purpose equipment makes a better fit for graphic-arts scanning quality, high-volume printing, or scanning.


You only need to buy one set of consumables because an MFP uses one set of inks or toner to deliver the output of a combined printer and copier. You cannot, however, reduce your supplier expenses in half. In fact, you’re likely to put more demands on an MFP than you would on either of the output devices it replaces unless you rely extensively on documents that don’t require physical output, such as email messages, electronic invoicing in PDF format, and digital documentation.



With MFPs, the advantage of combining capabilities is counterbalanced by the disadvantage of combining downtime. Your scanner and copier will also be lost if the printer on an MFP breaks down. You need a contingency plan to cover your bases in the event of downtime unless you’re willing to replace the entire unit if one of its functions fails, or live without all of the benefits it offers while the device is being serviced.
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