Cramming an entire company into the garage isn't unusual anymore. Realizing that, manufacturers have started offering space-sensitive computer equipment. But how useful are these tiny all-in-one products?
Inc. tested three popular brands of machines that perform several office functions, including printing, scanning, and faxing. Two required a companion printer or a fax to make good on their claims of multifunctionality. We connected all three to a home phone line (some models don't work on office phone networks), using a Toshiba 486 laptop computer with 8 megabytes of memory and a 14,400-baud internal modem. For the machines requiring a printer or a fax, we used a Hewlett-Packard DeskJet 540 and a Brother IntelliFax 680.
We scanned four different kinds of printed material -- a newspaper article, a magazine article, a response postcard, and a business letter -- into the computer and then faxed and printed the documents. We timed each function.
|Delrina WinFax Scanner (11.5" by 4.2"), 800-268-6082, $299||Brother Multi-Function Center 4500MI (17.9" by 16.9"), 800-284-4357, $1,900||Trio FaxConverter (2" by 3"), 919-846-4990, $79|
|Connects to:||a computer modem and a printer to act as a scanner and fax machine||a computer modem to act as a printer, fax machine, and scanner||a computer modem and a fax machine to act as a scanner and printer|
|Works with a Mac?||No||As a printer only||Yes|
|Hardware installation time:||3 minutes||30 minutes||Less than one minute|
|Software installation time:||17 minutes||8 minutes||15 minutes|
|Scan time:||One minute||8 minutes||3 minutes|
|Scans immediately to screen?||Yes||No||No|
|Print time:||15 minutes||4 minutes||6 minutes|
|Fax time from machine:||9 minutes||3 minutes||Not applicable|
|Fax time from computer:||15 minutes||3 minutes||5 minutes|
|Tech help:||The line was always busy; we couldn't get through.||Toll-free line was repeatedly busy; when we finally got through, we had a 10-minute wait.||After several minutes on hold, we spoke to a patient, knowledgeable person.|
|Comments:||Pages tilt easily while being scanned, but software has an "auto straighten" command.||Fussy feed slot jams easily. Print quality is excellent.||This device was easy to use but required batteries, which weren't included.|
|Summary:||Speedy and reliable, this is a sturdy scanner/fax to buy if you already have a printer.||This is a good choice for start-ups setting up from scratch but not for busy offices.||This peewee unit prints to your fax machine, so you must have a plain-paper fax.|