All-in-one printers: efficient and useful, often unnecessary.

Katherine Boehret at WSJ.com has a breakdown of three all-in-one printers that starts off with a promising, "All-in-one machines that print, copy and scan are becoming much more compact and affordable, and most important, easier to use.

ZDNet Canon ImageClassKatherine Boehret at WSJ.com has a breakdown of three all-in-one printers that starts off with a promising, "All-in-one machines that print, copy and scan are becoming much more compact and affordable, and most important, easier to use."

And that may be true, indeed -- but are they any more worth it?

In her column, Boehret tested the performance of three all-in-ones that cost around $100: Eastman Kodak's new $130 ESP 3 All-in-One Printer, Canon's $100 PIXMA MP470 and Hewlett-Packard's $100 HP Photosmart C4280. All are "geared toward home users so they don't include the ability to fax, and they print great quality photos."

Yet every time I find myself using one of these machines, I feel left wanting more. It's kind of like Olive Garden's Sampler Italiano -- sometimes I'd like calamari, stuffed mushrooms and fried mozzarella all at once. But other times, I really just want a couple more stuffed mushrooms.

Eating references aside, I think all-in-ones are a great introductory product. But considering the price of ink these days, I feel my money is better spent buying just what I need -- which, in an office like mine, means a fast laser printer and a great scanner.

Sure, once in a blue moon I'd love to print out a photo at my own convenience -- but I'd rather not take the hit on pricey ink every day for that isolated need. And the fact that the three machines Boehret reviewed are all under $100 means that there's only so many resources to go around for the price.

On the other hand, I have plenty of friends that love their multifunction machines.

Tell me, readers: what do you think: are all-in-ones "all that" or "all crap"? Tell us in TalkBack. (In the meantime, here are some of ZDNet's most recently reviewed multipurpose printers -- including the Canon and HP listed above.)