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How to Choose the Right Copy Machine for Your Business

A Business News Daily Buyer's Guide

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Office productivity and efficiency has increased over the years as technology has advanced. Instead of needing to have both a printer and a copier to get work done, you just find yourself a solid combination of both, with the addition of other features.

Multifunction printers (MFPs) combine printers and color copiers to simplify the workplace. Along with printing and copying, these machines can fax and scan to locations such as email, USBs and cloud-based services. The more advanced models can be customized with finishing options like stapling, hole-punching and sorting. These MFPs are designed to meet business printing needs while cutting supply costs and increasing workflow. They can be purchased or leased, and an array of accessories is available for most models.

Finding the right copier for your business can be overwhelming. To ease some of the stress, we've created this guide to break down the information you should know before choosing an MFP. We've outlined a variety of MFPs and the key features to look for. 

To see our best picks and reviews for small business copiers, visit our sister site business.com.

The first thing you'll want to consider is whether you would like your machine to print in monochrome only or be able to print in color. Another thing to think about is the size of your office space – you'll want to find a copier that fits nicely without taking up too much workspace. Once you've made a decision, you can start to consider the configuration you want. This will depend on your preferences and budget. 

 

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There is a difference in the costs of a monochrome printer and a color printer. Monochrome printers typically cost less due to the cartridges used. They only use one black cartridge, whereas the color printers require four separate cartridges: black, cyan, yellow and magenta. Supply costs will be lower if you only have to purchase one cartridge at a time rather than four. Also consider the impact on your branding and customers, though – colored images tend to grab attention faster than monochrome images.

Copiers designed for home offices are typically desktop size to conserve space. Designs like these go for as low as $50, but we recommend spending $300 to $700 to ensure you get the best model for your business. Lower-priced desktop copiers are intended for casual individual use and will not meet the needs of most small business owners.

Office copiers are often freestanding or designed to take up a large tabletop and are built to suit the needs of a multi-person office. Copiers like these can typically be networked and include a variety of printing, scanning and faxing capabilities. You can even use different paper types and sizes with the more advanced models. Office printers start at around $1,200, but high-end models can run you $5,000 or more. 

If your business requires high-volume printing, professional-grade graphics and advanced finishing options, you may need a production printer. Production printers offer high resolutions, ranging from 2400 x 1200 dots per inch (dpi) for color copies to 9600 x 600 dpi interpolated with 8-bit color depth for black-and-white prints. Production printers vary greatly in cost depending on specific features, but they typically start around $7,000 for entry-level models and go well above $25,000 for specialty models. 

Before making a decision, it's a good idea to compare models by looking at their key features. This will help you determine which features you need and discover the accessories and software that are available.

Print speed is one of the most crucial specs to look at when you choose a copier. Print speed is often listed on spec sheets as "ppm" for pages per minute. You'll want to find a printer with enough speed to keep your workflow running smoothly. If you don't print in high volumes, a lower speed will be fine for your business. We recommend a minimum of 25 to 30 ppm for microbusinesses and a minimum of 45 to 50 ppm for SMBs with average printing needs.

You'll find the paper capacity (often listed as "tray" or "cassette") of a printer on its spec sheet as well as the sizes of paper it can print on. We recommend finding an A3 or A4 copier for an SMB. A3 machines can use paper of up to 11.7 x 16.5 inches, and A4 machines can use paper up to 8.3 x 11.7 inches. The most common machines will be one of these two types. The best choice depends on the types and sizes of paper you use the most.

Nearly all office printers have built-in scanners, but not every machine has an automatic document feeder or duplex scanning abilities. Document feeders are a must if you plan on scanning a large volume of documents. The duplex feature enables double-sided scanning. You may also want to check the optical resolution of the copier's scanner if you intend on scanning images as well as Word documents. For basic document scanning, 600 pixels is good enough, but for graphics, you'll want at least 4800 pixels. 

Production printers have very different graphics specs from office printers. On production printers, a resolution of 2400 x 2400 dpi is standard, and color management is essential. Office printers that are primarily used for word documents have much lower resolutions. If you're not sure what level of graphics you need, reach out to a representative from the copier brand you're considering and discuss what you'll be using the printer for; they should be able to recommend a model that suits your needs and budget.

Whether you should buy an inkjet printer or a laser printer depends, again, on your business's needs. An inkjet printer is the best and most economical option for businesses that don't have a high volume of printing jobs or only print a few pages at a time. It's also the best solution for companies that require colored printing and high-quality images, such as media companies, marketers and real estate firms. Businesses that don't have a lot of space may also prefer an inkjet printer, because they are smaller and more portable than laser printers.

If you have large print jobs that are mostly black text with minimal graphics, you'll get the most bang for your buck with a laser printer. A laser printer offers the convenience of high-volume printing at fast speeds – even low-end laser printers can print up to 20 ppm – so no one is wasting time waiting for documents to print. You'll also get decent output with crisp text and finer lines, but the image quality will be less than stellar.

Although a laser printer generally has a higher price point, it will save you money in the long run. You won't need to purchase and replace toner as often as you would ink cartridges, and you're looking at costs of about 6 to 8 cents per page (including color prints) as opposed to about 10 to 20 cents per page for inkjet printers.

The first thing to know is whether your machine is laser or inkjet. Laser printers use a powdered toner, whereas inkjet printers use liquid ink. It's advisable to consider how much toner or ink will cost you over the operational lifespan of the copier you buy or lease. You can usually find the costs on the company website or specs sheet under "Supplies" or "Accessories." To get an exact quote, you can contact a sales representative. You'll want to find out how many pages you can expect to get out of each cartridge or batch and how much replacements cost. You may also consider third-party ink refills as an option, but make sure their ink is compatible first; some printers only work with their brand's proprietary toner.

Most digital copiers have some type of internal memory that allows them to retain substantial numbers of documents and scans. An internal drive is similar to any other computer hard drive. Specs sheets may note RAM, HDDs, SSDs or standard memory storage for each model. Depending on the size of the machine, the RAM can range from 256MB to 2GB, and the storage space can be 1GB to 1TB. We recommend a higher memory capacity if your business processes a high volume of images or printing jobs. The more memory it has, the faster the machine can process jobs.  

Most of the companies we considered offer copier purchases as well as leasing options. This is a big question for business owners – and one that is not quickly answered. Both methods come with all sorts of pros and cons, including tax incentives, maintenance issues, depreciation and costs. If you're not sure whether leasing or buying is right for your business, check out our buy vs. lease guide.

The average digital copier service agreement encompasses toner, drums, and all parts, maintenance and repairs. These are designed to free up office admins and employees from worrying about toner levels and the long-term performance of the machine. Rollers, cleaning blades and other parts that break or wear out over time are typically covered. Unfortunately, "parts" has a unique definition to each dealer, so you'll want to make sure you have a complete list of parts that are covered before you buy. Maintenance and service agreements can typically be found on the product pages and brochures, but you can also discuss these terms with a representative.

Settling on a copier can be like shopping for a car. It may take some time to find the one that best suits your business, but it's important to learn about all the features they offer and to know which ones you will need. Comparing copiers will help you determine which brand and model is right for you. It may help to narrow it down to about three brands and then determine which can give you the best deal. Here are the major players in the MFP market that you might want to consider.

Brother – Best known for its specialty fabric printers and industrial sewing machines, the Brother company also manufactures and sells multifunction laser copiers for home use, SMBs and large businesses. Small Brother MFPs start at around $130 and typically print 12 ppm, while the all-in-one Brother MFC-J6945DW INKvestment Tank, which we recommend for SMBs, retails for about $350 with a print rate of up to 22 ppm. Read our full review of this printer on business.com. Brother-USA.com

Canon – Canon's small desktop copiers are popular for their attractive design, quality scanners and low entry price. Canon's business-worthy tabletop machines start at around $200, while office copiers run from around $750 to well over $5,000, depending on the configuration and features. Its production printers are popular with businesses that require high-end printing in-house, and the company is known for offering some of the best leases and servicing packages on the market. USA.Canon.com

Epson – Epson makes high-end photo printers and fabric printers as well as business-ready multifunction copiers. Quality runs throughout the Epson line, from its compact series of home office machines to its commercial wide-format and graphics printers. Epson also makes specialized printers for printing signage and art reproductions as well as healthcare labels, dot matrix receipts and more. Its EcoTank printers are an excellent choice for microbusinesses to minimize ink costs. The cartridge-free printers include up to two years of ink in the box and sport refillable vessels that can be filled with inexpensive bottles of ink. Epson.com

HP – HP's affordable multifunctional copiers are popular because they come in a variety of configurations and sport one of the best touchscreen interfaces of any printer brand on the market. HP's all-in-one home printers start at around $40 and print 7.5 to 10 ppm depending on the model. Its SMB printers range from $120 to $1,000 and can print 20 to 50 ppm. HP also offers enterprise printers for about $2,000 to $6,750 and can print 30 to 75 pages per minute. HP's all-in-one printers can print, copy, scan, and fax documents. HP also owns Samsung's copier division, which in recent years has become known for beautifully designed machines with fast scanning and printing capabilities. HP machines are best suited for standard SMB needs, not for high-volume or production printing. Read our review on business.com. Store.HP.com

Konica Minolta – Konica Minolta offers a full range of copiers, including multifunction office systems and large production printers, which are known for their ability to handle high print volumes. Its high-end professional models are capable of outputs up to 105 ppm in monochrome print, while most midrange models offer 30 to 60 ppm. The company's newest line, the Bizhub i-Series, is built to increase office productivity and accessibility with its wireless connectivity, voice control, and security features. The i-Series uses Konica Minolta's Simitri HD polymerized toner to guarantee high-quality printing and reduce the printers' impact on the environment. Read our full review of the Konica Minolta Bizhub i-Series on business.com. KonicaMinolta.com

Kyocera – Like some other copier companies on this list, Kyocera offers comprehensive document workflow solutions, with specialty services for education, government, healthcare, legal, manufacturing and enterprise organizations. Kyocera's business-focused multifunction copy machines are known for their durability and ability to handle a high volume of work. The machines are designed to be accessible and easy to use. With features like a touchscreen control panel, mobile accessibility and embossed marks (buttons you can recognize by touch), these printers are built with users in mind. Americas.Kyocera.com

Lexmark – Lexmark makes multifunction copiers and offers industry-specific managed services, as well as unique features like Pantone color matching, which is ideal for brand consistency. Lexmark's enterprise and SMB printers are its star products. It has machines for teams of all sizes, with features to meet their needs. Small workgroup printers have a dual-core processor and 2.5GB of memory for faster, more efficient production. Lexmark machines come standard with Wi-Fi connectivity, security features and an excellent touchscreen interface, which makes them popular with users of every ilk. Lexmark.com

Ricoh – Ricoh is the largest copier manufacturer in the world. It makes and sells its own copiers and printers under the Ricoh name and owns and operates several other well-known copier companies, including Savin, Hitachi, Lanier and InfoPrint Solutions Company (formerly the IBM Printing Systems Division), but the quality varies greatly by the brand name. Ricoh's own branded office printers are known for their quality, versatility, capacity, speed, graphics, and comprehensive document workflow solutions and managed print services. Ricoh is a better match for established SMBs than microbusinesses or home offices. Read our review of the Ricoh IM C4500 on business.com. Ricoh-USA.com

Sharp – Best known for televisions and monitors, Sharp is also in the printing business. It primarily sells office and production printers rather than home office or personal-use machines. Sharp copiers increase workflow efficiency through a 10.1-inch touchscreen panel that allows a user to edit documents and rearrange files with the drag of a finger. Sharp copiers' reliability, user-friendly interfaces and functionality right out of the box make them a good choice for small business owners who may not have an in-house IT team. Sharp-world.com

Xerox – Xerox's multifunction printers are reliable and offer features to meet the needs of an SMB. They have an easy-to-use interface, mobile accessibility, and environmentally friendly features, such as energy-saving modes. Its MFPs have excellent color quality due to the Xerox Color Correction Technology. Businesses will find them easy to use and appreciate the excellent customer service Xerox offers for all product inquiries. The Xerox WorkCentre 6515, recommended for small or home businesses, is compact and inexpensive. Read our full review of this copier at business.com. Office.Xerox.com

Additional reporting by Mona Bushnell.

Kayla Harrison

Kayla Harrison is a current Writing Arts graduate student at Rowan University and editor at The Urban Howl. She began freelancing during her junior year of college and fell in love with it. You can learn more on her blog, insearchofthewritedirection.weebly.com.