Multi-Function Printer Follow-up

A little over a week ago, I posted that I am looking for a "killer multi-function printer" and asked for advice. I received a fair bit of advice, 120 comments so far. This post is an attempt to sum up the advice and then I'll tell you what I decided to purchase.

The following multi-function printers were most frequently mentioned in the comments:

1 - Canon Pixma Family – there are so many Pixma printers to choose from it makes your head spin. Five of Amazon's 10 most popular multi-function printers are Pixma models.

2 – Brother MFC Family – very popular choice among the readers of this blog.

3 – HP OfficeJet Pro 8500 – the most controversial printer among the readers. Quite a few of you have had bad experiences with HP printers. But HP was the only manufacturer that bothered to leave a comment. Big props to HP for that.

4 – Lexmark – mentioned by several with strong references.

5- Epson Artisan and Epson Workforce – not mentioned by many, but the ones who did love their Epson printer.

It seems like Canon, Brother, and HP are the "big three" of multi-function printers. They have the most models and they were most frequently mentioned in the comments. But I got negative comments about each of them from multiple people. And to be honest, it was confusing deciding which of their products was right for us.

So I made up a list of the top products from the big three and added several from Lexmark and Epson to it and went looking at online reviews. This one from consumersearch was helpful and got me seriously thinking about the Epson Workforce.

I then went into the Amazon reviews for each product and looked at specific areas that matter a lot to me (like pull and push scanning over the network). The size of the printer is also a critical issue for me.

In the end after I did all of this work, we came out in favor of the Epson printers. We like both the Workforce and the Artisan. This review from tilted the balance and we are going with the Epson Artisan.

One thing that came out loud and clear in the comments is that a dedicated scanner is also a good idea. And the one that pretty much everyone recommended is the Fujitsu Scansnap S1500. You can get it for Windows or Mac. We are getting the Mac version for our family.

So that's it. I hope you all found this follow-up post helpful. I sure found all your comments helpful in my search for the best printer for our family.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. Deckerton

    Interesting. Seems like an inordinate amount of work for this decision. Wondering how you could apply “Right-time” technology to reduce this decision loop.

    1. fredwilson

      it sounds like more time than it was. maybe a couple hours in all. when you compare that to the amount of time i will spend setting it up, connecting everyone on the network to it, dealing with paper jams and troubleshooting, it pales in comparison. it’s best to pick the right device in the long run

      1. Ryan Lackey

        Plus, I at least have learned about the Epson printers, and that scanner, and thank you for that (I knew the standalone Epson printers were great; wasn’t aware they made good multifunction printers too). So maybe ~3 hours of your time, 5-10 minutes from ~200 people, and then benefits for you and for anyone else who reads this over the next 3 years.Hopefully you will need to buy other stuff in the future and post for responoses the same way. I’d love to see “I need to buy health insurance for a startup in NYC and San Francisco” 🙂

        1. fredwilson

          i am working on buying healthcare for our venture capital firmi want to move to catastrophic only for insurance and HSAs for everythingelseit gets tricky in a small firm where the partners own the business.there are tax issues we are trying to understandway too complicated

          1. Ryan Lackey

            I am also mostly interested in HDHP/HSA. Unfortunately I think the recent reforms have made these less economic for issuers — from what I’ve seen, getting a new HDHP is much more difficult (impossible?).The one thing I learned from asking Quora is that TriNet is a decent option for outsourcing this kind of stuff. Employment regulatory compliance is probably my single least favorite thing about business, so if I can outsource it 100%, I’m happier.

          2. Michael B. Aronson

            At our firm the partners (who are not employees of the management company) get their own (I have a high deductible HSA) which then leaves the relatively young and single analysts and associates who qualify for a much more reasonable rate.The High deductible policy is good in that (like the new HC bill) allow coverage of post college kids up to age 26 which we have for my older daughter now.

          3. fredwilson

            Can you send me a private email on this setup michael? I’d like to replicate what you’ve done if possible

          4. daveschappell

            Not sure if Qliance is in NYC but I saw a preso by the founder and was very impressed (they just received funding from Bezos, Dell and others)

          5. ShanaC

            When you figure it out- post?

          6. Morgan Warstler

            I don’t know NYC (which I assume is more), but doing research before Obamacare passed, I checked 40-50 different profiles in a bunch of states, and found that in pretty much every circumstance, it was best to set the HSA donation at the maximum tax free ($6K) assuming you are that generous, and then set the deductible at whatever amount over that you feel comfortable laying on the employee. At $7K/100%, it was routinely just a couple hundred bucks a month in premium over the $500 into the HSA.

    2. paulhart

      I’m sure the up-front effort of making a selection pales in comparison to the time lost to problematic hardware and the frustration that comes along for the ride with that.

      1. fredwilson

        exactlyi’ve learned the hard way to do my homework on something like thisthe $200 it costs is nothing compared to the time and hassle of making a badpurchase

  2. Wiggly

    Did you do some homework on per page costs, in particular for laser vs inkjet decision?

    1. fredwilson

      i looked at that stuff but we don’t do that much printing so it was not akey decision point

  3. zerobeta

    Methinks that by the time paper becomes obsolete, they will have finally made a home printer that actually works.

    1. ShanaC

      I don’t think paper will ever become obsolete, just a lot rarer. Certain things….you’ll just need paper for. They’ll be special…

      1. zerobeta

        Yes paper will probably never be truly obsolete although it can be argued that its merely a format for information like the record, cassette, or 8track, and could eventually end up being just as obscure.

      2. kidmercury

        if it has a beginning, it will have an end.

        1. fredwilson

          sadly that is true

        2. ShanaC

          we memorialize with writing on the wall- I don’t think screens are alwaysgoing to cut it. Something cermonial about physically passingobjects…….(just thinking on it…)

      3. raycote

        You may be correct but I have a nagging feeling that you may just be papering over the truth?

        1. ShanaC

          that is just a bad pun.

    2. Tereza


  4. MattCope

    I’m beginning to be a little put off at companies that make a bunch of models. (I read the other day that Motorola makes 86 different cell phones.)This was my problem when I tried to buy my multi-function printer. “What’s the difference between the HP OfficeJet 5102-dsp and the 5210-spd?”

    1. fredwilson

      honestly, that is a big reason i didn’t go with the big three

  5. Shefaly

    I used an HP T45 extensively for 10 years before the carriage broke. I now have an HP L7680 which I reviewed on Amazon UK. Both were excellent price points. The bottle neck is the ink price more than anything else.

  6. Bruce Barber

    Looks like we’ve just witnessed a grand (and successful) experiment in “social shopping”. Wave of the future, perchance?

  7. sfmitch

    Huge +1 to the ScanSnap for Mac idea. One of the best purchases I’ve ever made (I own a previous version) and of the few things I recommend to anyone who will listen.

  8. Chris Waldron

    Great follow up but there are still important details to this experiment.Where was the purchase made? You mentioned a good review that put you over the edge but as a consumer would you have tried out several and keep the best one?Did any people in your closest “circle of friends” influence this decision more because of the stronger relationship?Sorry for the questions but why people buy and creating a marketplace is interesting to me.

    1. fredwilson

      I did not consult friends on this. I bought everything at amazon

  9. Ned

    This thread actually prompted me to move from a Brother 7820N to a Pixma MX870. The functionality (duplex scanning and printing) and Mac compatibility of the Pixma (not to mention the $129 price) make it a no-brainer for us. We have a dedicated duplex color laser, so we are mostly using the MF for scanning and fax. We love it (so far).

  10. Doug Ellis

    I agree about the S1500M, but I wish it were a network scanner instead of USB.

  11. Andrew Hillman

    I am a fan of Brother – Toner Only though. Print carts are too expensive. Brother can take a pounding and work well. The one I would avoid is Lexmark.

  12. Len Feldman

    I didn’t comment last week because I too am an Epson Workforce user. I love it–great quality prints, reliable ADF, excellent faxing, and usable software–but I went to the Epson website and found that most of the printers were bigger than the space you had available. If you can make an Epson fit, I’d definitely go with it.

  13. Mark Essel

    This would make a killer squidoo lense

  14. David Binetti

    It would be great to hear your thoughts on the Scansnap purchase as a “Do customers know what they want?” post, particularly WRT startups. Given that if you had followed your original constraints you wouldn’t have even considered a Scansnap provides an interesting personal experience you might want to riff off of. The “vision v. feedback” question has been a hot topic in the lean startup community as of late.

    1. sbell22

      David, FYI i have purchase at least a dozen scanners since the first HP hit in 1989, and have never really “liked”, or heavily used one. When I found customer reviews about the ScanSnap, they were exceptional, like “best $ I’ve ever spent on a tech device”; “use it every day, happily”, and the like. After only a few months of use, this one purchase has already up for the other 12 scanners that I had used only on occasion.Like other sensational products, I think the ScanSnap has a bit of a cult following among happy owners, which creates a bit of a marketing vortex which may attract people who may not even be looking for a scanner when they stumble upon it.

  15. Steve

    After getting recommendations for a Pixma MP800 I bought it & was pretty happy. I had no problems with it except that the ink seemed relatively expensive and I kept running out. And when I tried to buy non-brand replacement ink the hassle was too much (the printer keeps complaining)Then I bought a mac for family use, and it came with a free HP printer – that P.O.S. broke within a couple months of use. I looked for a replacement and like you I settled on the Epson Artisan 800 (maybe you’re getting the 810 now.)Six months later the printer sits mostly unused, due to technical issues. Unfortunately its mac support sucks – I don’t know whether it’s the drivers or the printer itself, but it only successfully prints about half the time. The rest of the times it gets halfway down the page (at most) and then stops and ejects the page. I had read other reviews that warned about the drivers & support software, so I’m passing this along as a possible issue. If it does happen to you, don’t bother trying to fix it. I’ve wasted way too much time trying to get mine to work…Anyway, long story short = 1) go with a Pixma, from what I’ve experienced it’s a more reliable printer.2) in general, the entire printer industry is crap, just waiting for an Apple-like company to step in and clean house

  16. awaldstein

    Thnx Fred…I happen to be in the printer/scanner shopping mode as well.Usually my favorite posts at AVC are the ones that take a lot of my time cause I’m engaged and can’t pull away.This one is the opposite, super useful cause I checked back for the summary and will take action.

  17. sbell22

    Fred, i know you are a very cutting-edge, top-drawer vc and all of that… BUT. The point is not “to be” Epson, or “not to be” Epson. Or HP, Brother, Canon, whatever brand of old-school, chop-down-the-trees and pay-up-the-nose for cartridges, old-school PRINTING. No… the point is to be 100% PAPERLESS!So, I’d like to challenge you a bit: why, exactly, do you need to use a printer, with all that paper, hardware, and ink, to physically print things? That’s so OLD SCHOOL. Have you not mastered the art of scanning, pdf/pdf annotation, paperless statements, dropbox, email, ETC…?Now, i do not claim to be a Fred Wilson. I am not such a major figure in the tech scene; but I am a busy tech business person, and i have managed to go 100% paperless – no need for printouts. Lawyers continue to be pesky requesters of paper; but i just email them edited PDF’s. Other than that, it’s easy. I think you might want to phase in making it a rule around your obviously, very progressive office – JUSTIFY any printing – it’s the exception, not the rule. The old way of doing things.I am glad to see you have discovered the Fujitsu ScanSnap, which is hands-down the device that will liberate you from paper. I used it to scan in about 600 books (you have to purchase a “book cutter” on Amazon), about 15 boxes of paper records. And have been happily paperless ever since.I do keep an Epson 6-ink-cartridge high resolution photo printer around, but haven’t had to purchase cartridges for a year now. In fact, i can’t even recall the last time i used it. Feels sort of like my last fax machine – a bit of a relic.

    1. fredwilson

      This is my home office. My kids still need to print their reports out in paper form to submit them to their school. My wife still has paper forms she needs to deal with. I am with you on 100pcnt paperless. That’s why the scanner is the most important of the four functions to me. But paper is a requirement in our lives as much as we’d like it not to be

      1. sbell22

        ok, Fred – I’m with you on the kids. Not sure about your better half/wife 🙂 But consider this.My mids are 7 and 9, and they email their scanned homework, Kumon work, etc to their teacher. As far as forms go, they can be printed as pdf’s and email’d or fax’d electronically. The era of “it has to be a signed piece of paper to be legally valid” seems to be over, as far as i can tell.Glad to hear the Fujitsu ScanSnap 1500M is the most important of the four functions to you. I found it can be a life-changer, you just have to decide to get rid of all the paper, get setup on EverNote, install the right local paperless/OCR applications (not to ignore the OCR-capable Adobe Acrobat 9 OSX), and allocate some time for the conversion – then you’re paperless for life.I would start a blog about it, and document everything I’ve discovered; but,,, and just about every related domain are “taken”, :(I am not buying the paper being a requirement in your lives, though… still not convinced :)Regards, and thanks for such a great blog.-steve

    2. Ardith

      The fact that you’re in high tech says it all. My how you love to laud over the rest of the populace with your “superior” skills. FYI, it is you tech people who design the tools users are supposed to be able to use, aka intuitive, but for the most part are not created with user-usage in mind. Frankly, and more often than not, I find high tech products sadly lacking in the logic department. So hey, how about producing tools we can easily use, that make sense, don’t crash (or at least are operational more often than not), don’t screw up something else, don’t require trying to reference ridiculously poor documentation, and we’ll use them right away. We will thank you then.

      1. sbell22

        Nawh, I think you got it wrong, Ardith. Actually, the paperless thing was a fun discovery for me, and I’d enjoy sharing it with others. I was just having fun tweaking Fred a bit, since he’s the ultimate insider tech guy.The paperless thing turns out to be surprisingly low tech to implement, once you get your hands on one of those beautiful, easy to use, Fujitsu ScanSnap scanners. You simply convert things to pdf documents, using software to annotate, organize, ocr (for search), backup your now-virtual documents. Adobe Acrobat Pro can do it all but there are easier-to-use tools like PDFPen. And online tools for getting at the docs from any device, like EverNote, are worth looking at.The Fujitsu ScanSnap, and the EverNote app are two examples of great tech products, that are straightforward and easy to use. Check them out! (no affiliation, just a satisfied customer).

  18. Fred Kapoor

    Like @ShanaC said, I don’t believe paper will ever become obsolete, or at least a guy of a age wants to think that way. So it is always good to share tips and recommendations when it comes to the different kinds of printers to be used for business purposes. I don’t know much about technology and I tend to have problems with these stuff. However, as of right now, the Brother multi-function printers I used in my business have been the best so far.

  19. Ardith

    Good morning and thanks, Fred (and kudos to zerobeta for his overall assessment). Like so many supposedly multi-function equipment/technology, it always seems to be the case that at least one if not more of the functions work poorly, and which one(s) work better varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. We had a Lexmark all-in-one printer we bought for our business, and now we have a Canon. I’m not impressed with either. The so called two-sided printing function on the Canon that was a selling point for us, for example, should be straight forward to implement. It is not.Consistent, and certainly consistently high, quality across a set of functions just seems to much to ask from manufacturers.

  20. WA

    I am a bit late to the party chat on the printer issue (That serious delay in the actual posts and email delivery where I receive it…any hints on that would be very appreciated) and my eyebrows raised in pleasant surprise on the community metrics so far. In March I installed a brother MFC 8890DW as most of my printing is done Black and White. It is the machine I use for copy, scan and fax too. In conjunction with this I set up the Epson Artisan 710. Please hold the ‘Boos” for the ink jet, as I originally booed the idea as well.My CPA and his associates made a very compelling argument for the combination. Given the fiscally personal prudence many of my CPA friends seem to subscribe to, they had my ear for reasoning out the combo. The Brother MFC’s reputation as a most reliable Laser and the user friendly experience while keeping consumable costs under control is a big plus. It serves all purposes other than color/picture printing. As we move both the house and business towards paperless with fax and scanner (Paper Port) has provided a great platform this far and the take away is “good enough for an office of high tech CPA’s good enough for us.”So why the ink jet? Simple. Most color reports or print outs for personal or business use are becoming fewer and more far between. For clients most color presentations (I am a career RR and IAR) can finally be done burning them to CD as PDF or PPT, as well as pushing them through on email so the Epson 710’s built in CD labeler is a nice touch. For the few reports, graphs, pie charts and pictures that do mandate color printouts I keep a supply of high quality bonded and photo paper on hand.It is not my suggestion that two machines are best by any measure. I was just pretty stoked to see that the community validated my choices here. If I was to have to go with one for family use only, I would consider the Brother color MFC series. In the mean time my affinity for both Epson and Brother seem to currently define me as a printolygamist.

  21. Josh Gordon

    haha, you wound up going with the artisan after all. i think you’ll like. don’t remember how old your kids are, but it also has a cool function — scan any photo, and it prints it out in an outline form that kids can color health insurance — i’ve been doing the same research i did for printers on health insurance for my employees. managed to find some very affordable and good options (surprisingly, starting at $280/month/person). perhaps good time to run the same kind of post you did about printers for healthcare? would love to see other people’s comments. the “musts” for me: prescription coverage. wavering on in- vs out-network, but don’t think there’s something wrong with in-network only. also wavering on low- vs high-deductibles and tending to go with low as I don’t want there to be barrier for preventative care.cheersj

  22. Elie Seidman

    What did you learn about UGC vs professional content along the way?

    1. fredwilson

      you need a bit of both to get the best result

  23. DaveGoulden

    Perfect timing. Just bought it direct from Epson since it they had free shipping and it wasn’t an Amazon Prime item.I was about to go through a research process myself as our 10 year old super cheap Dell all in one is on its last legs and full of cat hair–I’m thinking of putting a spiky mat on this one to keep the cat from napping on it. Any recommendations ;)Thanks!

  24. scottmag

    One thing I didn’t notice from the previous discussion or this one is the subject of printer drivers. In my experience they are often one of the most problematic components of a computer experience. They contribute to crashes, they create undiagnosable problems, and come bundled with 50 GB of additional junk in the default install. Mac users often get second-class drivers and less support. I don’t understand why we still tolerate this. Didn’t we used to just send Postscript to the printer and it could deal with it? Maybe I am having a false memory of a simpler world that didn’t really exist, but I am really disappointed with the low quality of printer drivers and the cumbersome installation process for modern printers.

  25. paramendra

    HP left a comment? I am impressed.

  26. unsurelok

    what did hunch recommend?

  27. fredwilson

    Yup. Chris dixon shared their choice in the original post comments. It was the canon