How to Choose Between Multifunction and Dedicated Printers

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How to Choose Between Multifunction and Dedicated Printers

In the early days of the computer revolution, picking up a printer was easy. A consumer entered a store and selected between two or three models, all of which only printed documents in black ink. Back then faxes were still sent by dedicated fax machines, scanners were just coming onto the market, and terms like 'cloud printing' did not yet exist. Consumers who take a journey into electronic stores, or a jaunt through eBay looking for a printer, are in for a bit of a shock.

Not only has printer technology grown in leaps and bounds, so too have the numerous choices between models. Buying a printer today means ultimately making a selection between buying a dedicated model that only prints documents, and a multifunction model that scans, copies, and faxes. Multifunction printers are typically more expensive than their dedicated counterparts, but this does not always make them better machines. A buyer must decide what functions, speed, and overall quality level, are important in a printer.

Printer Functions

A dedicated printer is able to print documents, and if that is all the consumer needs, then a dedicated printer is the obvious choice. However, printers are able to do more than just print. Often called multifunction printers, or all-in-one printers, these are the mainstay of many busy offices. They give users the opportunity to fax, print, and copy all from one convenient location. Cloud printing, which is a function that enables a mobile device to print off of a printer, is found on both dedicated and multifunction printers.


A scanner takes a document, or image, and scans it into a readable file where it can then be saved onto a computer or hard drive. The most common scanner size is large enough to fit average letterhead paper. Some scanners, such as those used as libraries and museums, are larger so an open book could be placed flat on the screen.


A copier works much like a scanner does, but instead of saving the image digitally, a copier prints it out. Copiers are popular in offices, schools, and print shops. The largest models can copy hundreds of pages a minute.


Fax machines ruled supreme in the days before everyone had the Internet, but now they have been largely supplanted by email. A fax machine takes a document and transmits the data through a phone line to another fax machine that then prints it out. Faxes are still used by some companies, largely for transmitting signed documents.

Cloud Printing

Cloud printing enables a mobile device, like a phone or a tablet computer, to transmit and print to a printer. This technology is either accomplished using BlueTooth or Wi-Fi capabilities. While the focus is on mobile technology, it is also handy to have at home when the user does not have a spare printer cable.

Choosing Functions

With all of these different functions available, it can be difficult for a customer to determine if he or she really needs the technology, or simply wants to purchase an all-in-one printer because it looks good. Multifunction printers are typically more expensive than single function ones, and sometimes the print quality is subpar in exchange for additional features.

Businesses typically require a multifunction printer because it cuts down on having to purchase a separate copier. Large professional models come with the ability to print, scan, and copy all at the same time, and many also include faxing options as well. If a company rarely sends faxes, then there is no need to pay more for a printer that faxes. Furthermore, while these professional models are expensive, they are high quality. The difference between a single office printer, and a multifunction one based on the quality of the prints alone is negligible.

Options For Homeowners

Homeowners, however, have different needs. Most homeowners use their printers for printing out photographs, invitations, or even flyers for a garage sale. They do not need all of the capabilities of multifunction printer, though they are certainly handy to have around especially if someone works from home. One area homeowners must be careful of is to ensure that the print function does not suffer from the added parts. For example, many multifunctional printers are sold at prices competitive with dedicated printers, but the print quality on the multifunctional model is mostly subpar. For homeowners who use their printers for creating photographs, this is a big concern.

Assessing Printers

Consumers need to be able to assess how well a printer works to see if they are getting a good deal or not through purchasing either a dedicated, or multi-functional version. Regardless of all the extra functions, printers fall into one of two types: inkjet or laser.


Replacement Part

Printing Speed

Quality (B&W)

Quality (Colour)







Ink Cartridge




 Laser printers are often used in the office, while inkjet printers are used at home. The main difference between the two is in their speed and quality.

Laser Printers

Laser printers are designed for printing sheaves of paper at record-setting speeds. Most of these come in monochrome (meaning black and white) settings, but it is possible to find coloured laser printers. While the inkjet printer prints slowly, line by line, the laser printer scans and prints the entire page at once. This creates faster printing speeds, but the overall quality of the prints suffers because of it. That is why laser printers are primarily used in an office setting where most of the documents only require black ink.

Inkjet Printers

Inkjet printers are commonly found at home, but some businesses use them. Printing shops, for example, run inkjet printers because of their ability to produce higher quality prints. These printers typically sacrifice speed for quality. For example, a laser printer could create a small stack of papers in the time it takes an inkjet printer to print one page. This is because the inkjet printer goes line by line, selectively applying billions of tiny ink dots onto the page. Colours are brighter and more vibrant on inkjet printers, and they are primarily used for printing pictures.

Selecting a Printer Type

It seems obvious that the clear choice is inkjet for home and laser for business, but this is not always true. As mentioned above, some businesses that regularly print coloured materials do go with an inkjet printer over a laser version. A homeowner who works from home, and needs multiple copies of pages printed at once, would usually prefer the speed of a laser over the colour quality of an inkjet.

Another key factor is cost. Laser printers tend to be more expensive upfront, but since they do not require ink cartridges, their ongoing costs are minimal. Inkjet printers, on the other hand, need to have their ink cartridges periodically replaced whenever they start to run low. This becomes quite costly depending on how much material the owner prints throughout the year.

Multifunctional printers marketed towards the home often use inkjet printers, while those marketed towards businesses use laser. A savvy consumer always pays close attention to what type of printing technology is used for the printer. This allows the buyer to get the upper hand and make an intelligent decision on whether or not he or she wants to invest in the speed of a laser, or the ongoing quality and cost of an inkjet.

How to Buy Dedicated and Multi-Functional Printers on eBay

There are plenty of printers for sale on eBay ranging from small home models, to large office workhorses. Companies and homeowners alike who are looking to cut down on their budget can even purchase a used printer from eBay, as long as it is good working condition. This can be a risky proposition when buying online since you cannot see the printer in person, so make sure the seller includes an accurate description of the item along with plenty of pictures.

When it comes to looking for printers, type 'printers&' into the search engine to get started. Once all of the results are listed you can browse through the listings at your leisure. If there are too many listings to keep track of, then narrow down your search further by adding some limiters. Typing 'multi-functional printer&' only includes results for printers that do more than print. Likewise, you can also limit the type of printer by typing in 'inkjet printer&'. Use eBay's search engine to your advantage to get the best deals possible before they are gone.


Consumers have different needs when it comes to printing documents, and for this reason there are many different printer versions on the market. Dedicated printers are devoted to solely printing documents and are often sold at very reasonable prices. Multifunctional printers come with additional options like scanning, copying, and faxing documents. Businesses or homeowners who do business from home can benefit from the extra features of these products.

However, before selecting a printer from the computer store or eBay, it is worthwhile for the consumer to determine exactly what they want their printer to do. This allows them to focus on the type of printer they want without being distracted. A laser printer is able to print documents rapidly, while an inkjet printer works slowly but produces a higher quality product of print. Buyers who carefully evaluate their printing needs before purchasing can save money by getting the right model that serves them well for years to come.

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