Despite the decade old quest by businesses all over the world to move to a paperless office, photocopiers (or digital copiers as they are often called) are well and truly an essential player of businesses of any size. The arrival of affordable multifunction printers (MFPs) helped establish photocopying as a defacto standard feature of any office.
By combining printing and scanning functionality in one device and slashing the cost of producing printouts using inkjet or laser technologies, MFPs have brought photocopying to the masses. At the same time, they have made significant improvements both in terms of quality, value for money and onboard features.
From usage tracking to improve security, auto duplex, mobile and wireless printing or digital touchscreen display, there’s now a flurry of options available on the market, for the occasional print out and mailing all the way to digital agencies.
What to consider when buying a photocopier?
Below are five points to consider when putting together your checklist
1. Can the photocopier your business is considering handle the capacity needed?
Photocopiers in the shape of multi-function printer come in all shapes and sizes. Many are aimed at the domestic market. Look closely at the stated capacity and match this to your business' workload.
2. How important is quality of scanning and printing?
Many of the latest photocopiers using advanced print technologies that were, up until a short time ago, only found in high-end printers. If possible, look at samples of print and scanned output before making your choice. Many vendors now offer the option of sending samples by post.
3. Is fax capability needed?
Fax is far from a dead communications medium, with many large businesses still needing it. Look at the fax capability of the MFP, which today is likely to use the cloud as well as direct dial to another fax machine.
4. Will your company need to manage sensitive information?
Access to the features of a photocopier should be controlled with PIN numbers or passwords. Also, ensure that the MFP only prints the required copies to ensure data security. And think about whether the USB port should be disabled to mitigate any risk.
5. Does your business require remote printing?
With the rise of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), printing from mobile devices is fast and efficient. Look closely at the apps that will use the photocopier to ensure these connect securely. An MFP can be a cost-effective asset that a business can build its workflow around.
With digital copiers now coming with a number of configurations, it's critical to assess your business' needs and match them to the right one.
What is the price of a digital copier?
The cost of acquiring a printer can be dwarfed by the cost of purchasing the consumables - the toner or ink, but also the paper, the drum, transfer/fuser kit - and the cost of the warranty plans or after sale services. And because you are likely to have one copier embedded within a group in an office or in a business, downtime can prove costly and counterproductive.
Enlisting the help of a managed print service provider (MPS) can simplify the technicalities associated with operating a copier, especially in bigger businesses, as they take care of the lifecycle of the printer including its disposal at the end of life. Like a car lease, you will usually not own the printer after the lease ends (up to five years) and can usually pay a fixed fee for the printer plus an agreed cost per page.
The best copiers
Below are the top 10 digital copiers that target small and midsized businesses and generally enterprises below 1,000 employees based on the manufacturer specifications sheet and the suggested retail price at the time of writing.
1. Canon i-Sensys MF735Cx
Fast and fully-featured laser AOI
Category: 4-in-1 colour inkjet printer | Print speed: 27ppm | Paper sizes: up to A4 | Paper capacity: 250 | Weight: 26.5kg
Canon is aiming this mid-priced device at the small to medium sized business by loading it with key features and giving it a fast photocopy speed. There’s room for 250 sheets of paper in the main tray, plus 50 more in the multipurpose tray. It makes a fine photocopier with dual-sided scanning and duplex printing and makes it easy to print and scan via the cloud thanks to Canon’s helpful companion app for iOS/Android devices.
Read the full review: Canon i-Sensys MF735Cx
2. Xerox WorkCentre 6515
Sophisticated laser photocopying, at a price
Category: 4-in-1 colour inkjet printer | Print speed: 28ppm | Paper sizes: up to A4 | Paper capacity: 300 | Weight: 30/7kg
By Xerox standards, this is a modest machine, but it has an impressive specification that will meet the demands of any small to medium sized business. Xerox makes faster printers than this, but the consistent quality of colour and mono prints here is impressive and its photocopying skills are among the best of any four-in-one we’ve tested. The intuitive touchscreen interface is another plus point that gives easy access to a wealth of features such as dual-sided scanning and a broad selection of security features. This feels like a premium product and it’s well supported by modular upgrades.
Read the full review: Xerox WorkCentre 6515
3. Lexmark MB2236adw
A scaled down photocopier for the SMB
Category: colour laser multifunction device | Print speed: 23ppm | Paper sizes: up to A4 | Paper capacity: 251 | Weight: 26.8kg
It might look a little top heavy, but this all-in-one A4 photocopier feels well made and offers plenty of features for the footprint that it takes up. Duplex scanning from the ADF and rapid automatic photocopying are performed flawlessly, while the print quality in both colour and mono is excellent. Duplex printing is not the fastest, but a wealth of security features and an easy interface more than makes up for the shortfall.
4. Brother MFC-L8690CDW
Prompt printing and copying in a multitalented MFD
Category: 4-in-1 colour laser MFD | Print speed: 31ppm | Paper sizes: up to A4 | Paper capacity: 300 | Weight: 27.9kg
Brother has endowed this hefty laser printer with all the features a small business might need. It can hold 300 sheets of paper and turn out mono or colour pages at the rate of 31 per minute. There’s a fax facility and electronic document feed for automated tasks. It also makes wireless printing from a mobile device, or scanning documents to the cloud very easy using its built in Wi-Fi and a slick iOS/Android companion app. Both Google Cloud Print and AirPrint are covered.
Read the full review: Brother MFC-L8690CDW
5. HP LaserJet Pro MFP M227fdw
First class laser printing and photocopying
Category: 4-in-1 mono laser printer | Print speed: 28ppm | Paper sizes: up to A4 | Paper capacity: 300 | Weight: 16.9kg
If you have the space for it, this multifunction device will serve a small business well thanks to its useful 35-sheet automatic document feeder and automated photocopying skills. This is a mono machine and it’s not the fastest laser on the block, but it’s quicker than any inkjet and offers an attractive blend of features and performance.
Read the full review: HP LaserJet Pro MFP M227fdw
6. Xerox VersaLink C405
Substantial laser photocopier for heavy workloads
Category: 4-in-1 colour laser MFD | Print speed: 35ppm | Paper sizes: up to A4 | Paper capacity: 550 | Weight: 33kg
If you can find room in your office for this sizable four-in-one laser device, it will almost certainly meet your printing, scanning and copying requirements. It has a high capacity for toner and paper, with room for 550 sheets in the main paper tray and another 150 in its multipurpose tray. It photocopies and prints very quickly and the large touchscreen interface is the most sophisticated you will find on the front of any printer.
Read the full review: Xerox VersaLink C405
7. Epson EcoTank ET-M2140
A refillable ink tank cuts the print cost of this photocopier
Category: 3-in-1 mono inkjet printer | Print speed: 20ppm | Paper sizes: up to A4 | Paper capacity: 250 | Weight: 6.4kg
This three-in-one multifunction device might seem expensive for an inkjet, but as with its other cartridge-free solutions, Epson includes a generous amount of ink. The bottle of black ink in the box is good for 11,000 photocopies and Epson recons you’ll make savings of around 90% compared with cartridges. You can fit 250 pages in the main paper tray, scan at high resolution and print crisp duplex pages with a very quick first page out time. The fairly large LCD screen makes it easier to use and the distinctive design picked up a Red Dot award.
8. Oki MC873
Talented A3 MFP with a clever touchscreen
Category: 4-in-1 colour laser MFD | Print speed: 35ppm | Paper sizes: up to A3 | Paper capacity: 400 | Weight: 64kg
If you’re looking for a multifunction device that can serve a large workgroup and carry out a variety of print-related tasks, Oki’s multi-talented MFP will not disappoint. It’s not small, but that’s because it is designed to handle A3-size documents and hold up to 400 sheets of paper. You can buy additional modules to hold even more if necessary. It prints quickly and and the large, intuitive touchscreen is designed to save your staff time spent standing beside it. It’s expensive, but if you print a lot and you need all of the features, this MFD will take care of it.
9. Xerox VersaLink C7020
Top-end A3 printing with tablet-style control
Category: 4-in-1 colour laser MFD | Print speed: 20ppm | Paper sizes: up to A3 | Paper capacity: 620 | Weight: 92kg
This is a serious multifunction device built to take care of heavy print loads in the small to medium-sized office. It can hold 620 sheets of paper and there are upgrades available to expand this. It prints quickly in duplex mode and can copy a stack of 110 sheets in its automatic document feeder. It’s a big machine and you can load up the drawer with A3 paper as well as A4. It is also built to last and the sophisticated touchscreen makes it very easy and secure for workers to operate it at the machine.
10. HP Officejet Pro 8720
Big inkjet photocopier for the small business
Category: colour inkjet 4-in-one MFD | Print speed: 24ppm | Paper sizes: up to A4 | Paper capacity: 250 | Weight: 15kg
HP’s unusual design is novel way of offering print scan, copy and fax facilities in a busy small office. Unlike most inkjet printers, the paper ejects away from you into a 150-sheet output tray. It takes up more room, but allows HP to include a large 250-sheet input tray (expandable to 500-sheets) with room for a 50-sheet automatic document feeder on top of the flatbed scanner. It serves as a prompt and reliable photocopier with useful features like auto duplexing, Wi-Fi and NFC built in. A large touchscreen makes it easy to use too.
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