Multitalented multifunctions: 5 MFDs tested

But will it do the dishes?

But will it do the dishes?
We take a look at five devices that will print, fax, copy, scan, sort, staple, hole punch... and that's before breakfast. But can you stop those wasteful users from printing in colour?

 Multifunction devices
 
Canon IR C3100
 
Fuji-Xerox C240
 
Ricoh Aficio 2432
 
HP LaserJet 4100 MFP
 
Kyocera KM-3035

 How We Tested
 Colour Specifications
 Monochrome Specifications
 Sample Scenarios
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT
Multifunction devices (MFD), document centres, and copiers are sometimes confused. These devices are categorically different. For example, copiers typically don't come with a fax and are not used as printers. MFDs can print, copy, scan, and fax. Document centres are typically MFDs that use document management software, but "document centre" is a term used predominantly by Fuji Xerox and it's a loose term that can mean a lot of other things as well.

For this review we looked at MFDs: devices that can be attached to a local network that can print, copy, scan, and fax. In all we received five MFDs, three colour capable and two that were only monochrome capable. HP and Kyocera both have new models coming out later in the year that are colour capable, but currently only have monochrome MFDs available.

Duty Cycles
An interesting area of discussion is the way vendors quote duty cycles. For example, one of the vendors claims its device has a duty cycle of 150,000 pages a month which is 1,800,000 pages a year. We have serious doubts that the engine could print that many pages. A more realistic number to use would be 15,000 pages per month or 10 percent of the claimed duty cycle. This will give you a better idea on whether the device is suitable and whether it will comfortably be able to handle your print volumes.

One thing is for certain: get clarification from the vendor in relation to the actual pages per month their device is capable of.

Toner In and Toner Out Option Plans
Toner In means the client pays for toner but the supplier will cover all maintenance, parts, and drums. The service charges are based on the number of prints/copies. Toner Out means the supplier of the MFD will cover all maintenance, parts, drums, and toner. The service charges are based on the number of prints/copies made.

An interesting area we would like to investigate in future is the cost of running a laser printer against a multifunctional device. One vendor we spoke to said the running costs of a printer were much more straightforward to calculate than the running costs of an MFD. Of course the initial cost of an MFD is a lot higher compared to that of a printer, but with the service agreements that are generally offered for MFDs, it may actually work out a lot cheaper to run an MFD over a number of years than it would a printer. There are many scenarios we could run against this and it would be very interesting to find where it would and wouldn't be beneficial to use either.

Colour MFDs

Canon IR C3100

Canon IR C3100
The Canon IR C3100 can print in monochrome at a fast 32ppm but in colour it can only print at 7ppm. It can also copy, scan, and fax in colour.

The C3100 shipped with four paper trays and standard 50-page document feeder to give you a combined capacity of 4750 A4-sized pages. There was no finisher attached to this device but you can get one as an option.

Setup was very simple. Give the device an IP address, then install the drivers from the CDs. We didn't have to install the toners but they're easily installed by pulling down the front cover. We also found this MFD to be the noisiest of the lot, which could be a bit of a distraction in the workplace. The biggest source of noise was the clunking sounds it made when printing in colour.

The C3100 can be configured using a browser. The interface is simple to use, however it needs a fresh new look because the design looks very primitive. You can block users from printing in colour, for example. As an option, you can purchase Canon's NetSpot Accountant that allows an administrator to see who's doing what and then be able to report on it.

The C3100 was very fast at printing plain documents, equally as fast as the Ricoh. Printing in colour was a different story and it was also very slow printing in duplex mode.

Product Canon IR C3100
Price AU$19,550 as tested; from AU$13,585
Vendor Canon
Phone 02 9805 2600
Web www.canon.com.au/imagerunner
 
Interoperability
Wide range of operating systems, hardware platforms, and networking protocols supported.
Futureproofing
Large paper capacity, large range of finshers available, large HDD.
ROI
Priced only slightly higher than the mono-only Kyocera.
Service
Thirty-day warranty, service contracts available.
Rating
 Multifunction devices
 
Canon IR C3100
 
Fuji-Xerox C240
 
Ricoh Aficio 2432
 
HP LaserJet 4100 MFP
 
Kyocera KM-3035

 How We Tested
 Colour Specifications
 Monochrome Specifications
 Sample Scenarios
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT

Fuji-Xerox Document Centre C240

Fuji-Xerox Document Centre C240
The Fuji Xerox C240 is well suited to medium-sized workgroups. It can print at 24ppm in monochrome and 20ppm in colour. It can copy in monochrome and colour, scan in colour, and fax in colour.

The C240 shipped with four paper trays that can hold a total of 2090 sheets of paper. All were able to house A3 and A4 paper. Also attached was a finisher that could do stapling.

Setup was generally straightforward. After giving the C240 an IP address, we installed the PCL and PS drivers on a network PC. The C240 has a built-in Web server so you can enter its IP address in a browser and configure the device from there. The Web interface was simple to use and you can administer most things from there. However if you want to know how much toner is remaining in each cartridge, you have to go to the device.

The C240 also comes with the Auditron, which allows for password protected access to the device, and enables the administrator to track jobs. The Auditron will enable you to lock down certain users from misusing the colour printing by restricting the number of colour printouts they can do per month. Or you can completely shut users out from printing in colour. None of the other MFDs feature a quota-based system for users. Also supplied to us was Paper Port, which allows you to scan and open documents in your desktop applications.

The C240 wasn't the fastest at printing but it produced the best quality. If you want it to print faster, you could go up to the next Fuji Xerox model, which does just that. The Ricoh was a fraction better than the C240 at printing text. But the Fuji Xerox really stood out at printing photos. The other colour MFDs didn't even come close. It was exceptional and quite possibly the best we have seen come out of an MFD.

Product Fuji-Xerox C240
Price AU$20,328 as tested; from AU$17,963
Vendor Fuji-Xerox
Phone 02 9856 5000
Web www.fujixerox.com.au
 
Interoperability
Wide range of operating systems, hardware platforms, and networking protocols supported.
Futureproofing
Paper capacity is a little on the low side.
ROI
½
Running costs pretty similar to that of Canon and Ricoh. Well-priced, config price includes finisher.
Service
Service included as part of maintenance program.
Rating
 Multifunction devices
 
Canon IR C3100
 
Fuji-Xerox C240
 
Ricoh Aficio 2432
 
HP LaserJet 4100 MFP
 
Kyocera KM-3035

 How We Tested
 Colour Specifications
 Monochrome Specifications
 Sample Scenarios
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT

Ricoh Aficio 2432C

Ricoh Aficio 2432C
The Aficio 2432 was not much different to the Aficio 1232 we reviewed about a year ago. It still prints at 32ppm in monochrome but is now twice as fast printing in colour. The Aficio 2432 prints, copies, and scans in colour, and faxes in monochrome. Like the Fuji Xerox, the Ricoh is best suited to mid-sized workgroups.

The Aficio 2432 shipped with three paper trays each able to hold up to 500 sheets of paper. The top tray can only hold A4 paper while the bottom two trays can hold up to A3 paper. There is provision for a 2000-sheet paper tray that can be swapped with the third bottom tray to increase the total paper capacity to 3100 sheets. You can also add finishers, additional trays, and bins.

Setup was very straightforward. Like the other two colour-capable MFDs tested, the Ricoh just needed a single IP and away it went. Typing in its IP address in a browser revealed an impressive Web-based interface. It was very well designed and easy to use.

Unfortunately, the Ricoh doesn't ship with any management software that will allow you to keep a lid on the number of colour pages users print. You can enable and disable a user from printing colour, but if you want to have more control than that, you have to purchase a third-party application.

The Aficio 2432 was equal fastest in monochrome printing, while in colour it was clearly the fastest especially when printing in duplex mode. In copying there wasn't much of a difference between it and the Fuji Xerox. Print quality was generally very good, especially in plain black text, but it let itself down in printing photos. Even after tweaking the driver settings we were still unable to get near the photo quality of the Fuji Xerox.

Product Ricoh 2432C
Price AU$19,470 tested; from AU$11,000
Vendor Ricoh
Phone 02 8977 1111
Web www.ricoh.com.au
 
Interoperability

Wide range of operating systems, hardware platforms, and networking protocols supported.
Futureproofing
Fastest at printing both in colour and mono.
ROI
Running costs pretty similar to that of Canon and Fuji Xerox; finisher not included.
Service
Up to five years in service contract.
Rating
 Multifunction devices
 
Canon IR C3100
 
Fuji-Xerox C240
 
Ricoh Aficio 2432
 
HP LaserJet 4100 MFP
 
Kyocera KM-3035

 How We Tested
 Colour Specifications
 Monochrome Specifications
 Sample Scenarios
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT

Monochrome MFDs

HP LaserJet 4100mfp

HP LaserJet 4100mfp
The HP LaserJet 4100mfp wouldn't be able to meet the demands of a mid- to large-sized workgroup. And to our surprise, HP doesn't currently have a large workgroup MFD that prints in colour. The closest is the 9100 which is an inkjet-based MFD.

An interesting feature of this MFD is its capability of scanning in colour, even though it can only print in black and white. Most vendors seem to wonder what's the use of scanning in colour when you can't print in colour? On the other hand, most of the vendor marketing people we spoke to seem oblivious to the fact that many customers still don't want a colour printer.

The 4100mfp is suitable for small workgroups. It can print in mono at 24ppm and has a print resolution of 600dpi. The 4100 has a 600-sheet input capacity and a 300-sheet output capacity. There is also provision for up to two additional 500-sheet input trays and a 30-sheet automatic document feeder.

To our amusement, HP claims the recommended usage is 150,000 pages per month. We feel this figure is very far fetched.

The HP 4100 was quite fast at printing, with quite good print quality; as good as the Canon in some areas.

Product HP 4100mfp
Price AU$4999
Vendor HP
Phone 13 13 47
Web www.hp.com.au
 
Interoperability
Wide range of operating systems, hardware platforms, and networking
protocols supported.
Futureproofing
Small paper capacity, only an A4-sized flatbed.
ROI
Least expensive, least able to cope with mid-sized workgroups.
Service
One-year next day onsite warranty.
Rating
 Multifunction devices
 
Canon IR C3100
 
Fuji-Xerox C240
 
Ricoh Aficio 2432
 
HP LaserJet 4100 MFP
 
Kyocera KM-3035

 How We Tested
 Colour Specifications
 Monochrome Specifications
 Sample Scenarios
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT

Kyocera KM-3035

Kyocera KM-3035
The Kyocera KM-3035 is suitable for a busy workgroup. It prints and scans in monochrome. It can also copy and fax, and has some finishing options available.

The KM-3035 is just as big as the colour-capable MFDs we looked at. It has a very fast print engine capable of 30ppm, and it has a much larger paper capacity compared to the HP4100.

It ships standard with two 500-sheet paper trays and a 200-sheet multi purpose tray. We received the KM-3035 with a 3000-page additional tray that pushes the total paper capacity to 4200 pages.

The installation of this device was slightly quirky. For instance, you have to give this device two IP addresses: one for the scanner and one for the printer. It obviously comes with two NICs, so you have to plug two network cables to the back of the device.

We also ran into a problem with the print drivers. We were not able to print more than one copy of the same document. We eventually used a Windows XP PC as we didn't have time to work out why it wasn't working from a Windows 2000 PC.

There are plenty of options you can buy for this device, starting with an internal finisher, saddle and hole punch finisher, and a position finisher.

The KM-3035 was very fast at printing in monochrome. We were most impressed in how fast its first page came out. Copy speed was also amazing with copies coming out in less than four seconds. In the quality department the KM-3035 was on par with the HP in most tests. It was slightly better at printing photos.

Product Kyocera KM-3035
Price AU$18,050 as tested; from AU$9020
Vendor Kyocera
Phone 1300 658 348
Web http://www.kyoceramita.com.au
 
Interoperability
Wide range of operating systems, hardware platforms, and networking protocols supported.
Futureproofing
½
Very good expansion capabilities.
ROI
½
Low cost per page in monochrome, but short on features for the price.
Service
Ninety-day warranty, up to five years available in service contract.
Rating
½
 Multifunction devices
 
Canon IR C3100
 
Fuji-Xerox C240
 
Ricoh Aficio 2432
 
HP LaserJet 4100 MFP
 
Kyocera KM-3035

 How We Tested
 Colour Specifications
 Monochrome Specifications
 Sample Scenarios
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT

How We Tested

 Multifunction devices
 
Canon IR C3100
 
Fuji-Xerox C240
 
Ricoh Aficio 2432
 
HP LaserJet 4100 MFP
 
Kyocera KM-3035

 How We Tested
 Colour Specifications
 Monochrome Specifications
 Sample Scenarios
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT
Interoperability
Which interfaces and protocols does the device support? Are drivers available for all major OSes?

Futureproofing
Can the memory, hard disk, and paper capacity be expanded? What finishing options are available?

ROI
What is the initial cost and what is the long-term running cost fo the device?

Service
What warranties and service contracts are available? Can you get prompt service at a reasonable price?


We tested all the MFDs from a desktop PC equipped with an Intel Pentium 4 2.6GHz processor and 256MB of RAM running Windows 2000. The printers were tested one at a time and were connected to RMIT's network through a D-Link 10/100 Fast Ethernet Switch.

We ran a series of print speed and quality tests designed to assess the printers' ability to handle different types of content, including:

  • Thirty pages with a single font used to evaluate the printer's maximum real-world throughput (this is the figure you see in the chart below).
  • Twenty pages of complex word processing including 18 different fonts, images, and multiple column styles.
  • Multiple font sizes from 4-point up to 48-point in two font styles: Times New Roman and Gaudy Handtooled.
  • Smooth greyscale gradients, smooth straight, oblique, and radial fine lines, and smooth solid black fills.
  • Smooth colour gradations, ink mixing, fine yellow grid lines on a solid green background, and a photographic JPEG image.
  • Ten double-sided pages.
  • A very large graphic image, to evaluate abilities such as skin tones, sky colour fidelity, accuracy with fine white on colour details, accuracy of dithering (particularly in areas of low contrast), handling of low contrast shadows, and overall colour or greyscale accuracy.
Printer output was assessed for quality by the Test Lab staff, both with the naked eye and also an 8x magnifier. Purity was also judged with the naked eye, assessing how close the output was to the actual screen image. While we acknowledge this is a largely subjective process, especially given the different technologies, we feel that most users would use similar purity criteria.

Fonts were assessed for accuracy of formation, smoothing of radial and oblique edges, and any evidence of toner "spatter", particularly in the white-on-black font test. Smoothness of colour/greyscale gradations and dithering was assessed, as was the accuracy of fine radial and oblique lines.

A full-colour A4 page was used to scan from the MFD to a shared folder on a desktop PC. We also scanned a document from the desktop PC using the TWAIN drivers that were supplied. No scores were recorded here however we noted the overall ease of setup and use.

We recorded the time it took to copy a standard A4 page with plain text and timed this from when we pressed "Start". We also timed how long it took to copy a full-colour A4 photo page at 600dpi.

There were no formal tests undertaken for the faxing component other than having a preview of the software supplied to do faxing.

Colour MFD Specifications

Colour
Model Canon imageRUNNER iR C3100 Fuji Xerox Document Centre 240 CPS Ricoh Aficio 2232C
Vendor Canon Fuji Xerox Ricoh
Web www.canon.com.au www.fujixerox.com.au www.ricoh.com.au
Phone 02 9805 2600 02 9856 5000 02 8977 1111
Price inc GST AU$13,585 base configuration, AU$19,550 as tested AU$17,963 base configuration, AU$20,328 as tested AU$11,000 base configuration, AU$19,470 as tested
Warranty 30 days (may be extended through service contract) All maintenance included in service contract Up to 5 years
Faxing
Fax Mono Colour and mono Mono
Fax speed 33.6Kbps 33.6Kbps N/A
Printing and copying
Colour/mono 4/4 4/4 4/4
Resolution (dpi) 600 x 9600 (interpolated) Mono 1200 x 1200, Colour 600 x 600 1200 x 1200
Speed (ppm) 7 colour, 31 mono 13 colour, 24 mono 24 colour, 32 mono
Memory 756MB 512MB 512MB/768MB max
Paper sizes supported A5 to A3 A5 to A3 A5 to A3
Paper capacity (A4) 1150/4750 max 2090 1100/3100 max
Scanning
Colour/mono 4/4 4/4 4/4
Optical resolution (dpi) 600 x 600dpi 600 x 600dpi 600 x 600dpi
Consumables      
High-capacity black cartridge RRP (inc gst) Included in maintenance contract AU$121 N/A
Colour cartridge RRP (inc gst) Included in maintenance contract AU$269.50 N/A
Estimated cost per page: 5% black coverage 1.5c (on maintenance contract) 1.4c Varies depending on individual circumstances
Estimated cost per page: 15% colour coverage 18c (on maintenance contract) 24c (on maintenance agreement) Varies depending on individual circumstances
Estimated black toner life: 5% coverage N/A 27,000 sheets 19,000 prints
Estimated colour toner life: 15% coverage (5% C, 5% M, 5% Y) N/A 15,000 sheets 10,000 prints
Other      
Hard drive 40GB 10GB 80GB
Power consumption 1185W max N/A 1440W max
Warm-up time (seconds) 360 52 101
Weight (kg) 127.7kg as tested 174 kg 120 kg
 

Monochrome MFD Specifications

Monochrome
Model HP 4100mpf Kyocera KM-3035 Print Scan
Vendor HP Kyocera
Web www.hp.com.au www.kyoceramita.com.au
Phone 13 13 47 1300 658 348
Price inc GST AU$4999 AU$9,020 base configuration, AU$18,050 as tested
Warranty 1 year next day onsite 90 days (up to 5 years on service contract)
Faxing
Fax Mono Mono
Fax speed 14.4Kbps 33.6Kbps
Printing and copying
Colour/mono 8/4 8/4
Resolution (dpi) 600 x 600 600 x 600
Speed (ppm) 24 mono 35 mono
Memory 64MB/256MB max 64MB/572MB max
Paper sizes supported Up to A4 A6R-A3
Paper capacity (A4) 600/1600 max 4200 max
Scanning
Colour/mono 4/4 8/4
Optical resolution (dpi) 600 x 600dpi 600 x 600dpi
Consumables    
High-capacity black cartridge RRP (inc gst) N/A AU$249.70
Colour cartridge RRP (inc gst) N/A N/A
Estimated cost per page: 5% black coverage N/A 1c
Estimated cost per page: 15% colour coverage N/A N/A
Estimated black toner life: 5% coverage 6000 pages/10,000 pages 40,800
Estimated colour toner life: 15% coverage (5% C, 5% M, 5% Y) NA NA
Other    
Hard drive 5.1GB 20GB
Power consumption 476W max 1150W max
Warm-up time (seconds) 12 25
Weight (kg) 31.7kg Approx 100 kg
 

Sample Scenario 1

 Multifunction devices
 
Canon IR C3100
 
Fuji-Xerox C240
 
Ricoh Aficio 2432
 
HP LaserJet 4100 MFP
 
Kyocera KM-3035

 How We Tested
 Colour Specifications
 Monochrome Specifications
 Sample Scenarios
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT
Company: Jonesy's Old-Fashioned Tart Bakery
This company wants to install MFDs on each floor to centralise monochrome printing and copying, colour scanning, and faxing.
Approximate budget: Upfront cost isn't a big issue, but the company wants to minimise long-term running costs.
Requires: Eight MFDs capable of at least 20ppm mono printing, and colour scanning.
Concerns: The ease of using functions such as scanning and faxing will also be carefully considered. Double-sided printing is a must.
Best solution: The Kyocera was definitely the better of the two monochrome MFDs we looked at. It was faster than the HP in all tests, could house more paper, and would be cheaper to run.

Sample Scenario 2

Company: Respect for Laws Institute This company wants to install MFDs for mid-to-large-sized workgroups that can do colour printing and copying, colour scanning, and faxing.
Approximate budget: Upfront cost isn't a big issue, but the company wants to minimise long-term running costs.
Requires: Two MFDs, capable of at least 20ppm mono printing, colour printing, and colour scanning.
Concerns: Again, running costs will be the biggest issue.
Best solution: The Ricoh was speedy at double-sided and colour printing; scanning and faxing were very easy. Ricoh won't let us print a single cost per page, because they say it varies with your circumstances, but the figures the company quoted us were extremely competitive.

Look out for...

  • Colour or monochrome. Do you want a monochrome only or colour MFD? If you want colour, can you prevent some users from printing in colour?
  • Print speed. Should be based upon the number of users that will be using the MFD as well as the average number of pages printed per month.
  • Print quality. Most printers print at 600 x 600dpi but some offer printing resolutions equivalent to printing at 2400dpi. You are unlikely to notice the difference in most applications, but where very fine detail is required, this may be an issue.
  • Scan. Look at the ways the MFD can scan (scan to e-mail, scan to desktop PC, etc). What formats can the scans be captured at (PDF, TIF, JPG)? Can it scan in colour? Look at the size of the scan bed as well as the scanning resolution.
  • Copy. Do you need to copy in colour?
  • Finishers. What finishers are available: staplers, sorters, hole punchers, etc.
  • Total cost of ownership. Look at the initial cost as well as the cost of replacing toners and other consumables. Some vendors now offer a flat price per page printed, rather than charging for consumables.
  • Paper capacity. Check to see the number of pages it can hold and the paper sizes it supports.
  • Expansion potential. What's the maximum amount of memory the MFD can hold? What is the size of the hard disk?
  • Software management. Can you restrict users from printing in colour? Can you monitor and configure the printer over the network using a Web browser?

T&B Editor's choice
Editor's Choice: Fuji Xerox C240;
Highly Commended: Ricoh Aficio 2432C

The Fuji-Xerox wins our Editors' Choice award again, almost one year after it won our last MFD review. It won for the same reasons as last year: it performed well in every area. There were some areas, like in the speed tests, where it wasn't the fastest, but its management capabilities were particularly impressive, such as the ability to impose colour-page quotas on each user. The Ricoh was a close second, also with terrific features but let down slightly by its print quality.

 Multifunction devices
 
Canon IR C3100
 
Fuji-Xerox C240
 
Ricoh Aficio 2432
 
HP LaserJet 4100 MFP
 
Kyocera KM-3035

 How We Tested
 Colour Specifications
 Monochrome Specifications
 Sample Scenarios
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT

About RMIT IT Test Labs

RMIT IT Test Labs

 Multifunction devices
 
Canon IR C3100
 
Fuji-Xerox C240
 
Ricoh Aficio 2432
 
HP LaserJet 4100 MFP
 
Kyocera KM-3035

 How We Tested
 Colour Specifications
 Monochrome Specifications
 Sample Scenarios
 Editor's choice
 About RMIT
RMIT IT Test Labs is an independent testing institution based in Melbourne, Victoria, performing IT product testing for clients such as IBM, Coles-Myer, and a wide variety of government bodies. In the Labs' testing for T&B, they are in direct contact with the clients supplying products and the magazine is responsible for the full cost of the testing. The findings are the Labs' own--only the specifications of the products to be tested are provided by the magazine. For more information on RMIT, please contact the Lab Manager, Steven Turvey.