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What, No Microwave?


Enterprise -- In Box

WHAT, NO MICROWAVE?

It slices! It dices! Well...no. But the latest home office machines do just about everything--for well under $1,000. Space-saving multifunction products (MFPs) appeared about three years ago as fax/printers, and computer makers keep adding features: copying, scanning, etc. In July, Brother International launched the first color machine, the $999 MFC-7000FC, which can print from a digital camera or a videocassette recorder with a standard video jack. Of course, MFPs aren't for everybody. Graphic artists, for example, may not be happy with the scanners' low resolution, and print speeds are low. Even so, Dataquest estimates MFP sales will rise 51%, to 1.4 million units, in 1997 and will hit 2.2 million in 1998.EDITED BY EDITH HILL UPDIKEReturn to top

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ONLINE ORIGINAL TABLE: Multifunction Products: A Guide to What's Out There

Print output offers probably the most useful way to distinguish among multifunction products (MFPs) for small offices, since most MFPs--though not all--are designed as fax machines and printers first, with extra goodies like scanning and copying thrown in. Here's a look at the leading manufacturers' current offerings, grouped according to the three types of printing technologies now on the market:

1) thermal transfer, the cheapest output technology used for MFPs, which uses plain paper, ink-ribbon cartridges, and is available only in black-and-white (not to be confused with the cheapest fax-only technology which involves thermal paper)

2) ink-jet, which covers a broad range in price and quality features, including color

3) laser/LED (photoreproductive processes), the fastest, quietest, best-quality and, as a rule, most expensive. But cost comparisons can be tricky: A full comparison should consider not just the purchase price but also the cost of replacement cartridges, which can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer as well as from technology to technology. For example, ink-jet replacement cartridges are generally cheaper than laser toner cartridges but most also have a lower expected yield (500-800 pages per ink-jet cartridge vs. 2,000 or so for laser cartridges).

Additional specifications are available from many of the manufacturers' Web sites listed below and, for a fee, from such independent research firms as Gartner Group's Dataquest unit (www.gartner.com).

By Stephen Davis in New York


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