Test Center Head-To-Head: 4 Great Printing Solutions For Small Offices

Printer Week 2013

For Printer Week 2013, the CRN Test Center looked at a variety of new printing and multi-purpose office machines for the small and medium business. For part two of this two-part report, we looked at solutions from Brother, Canon, Lexmark and Epson, all of which offer sturdy, feature-rich solutions for the home or small office. Here's an overview of each product, with printer pros and cons. Be sure to check out CRN's Printer Week 2013 page for full reviews.

Brother MFC-J4510dw

Listing for $199 is the tabloid-sized printing Brother MFC-J4510dw Business Smart Inkjet All-in-One color MFP. Set-up was a snap, and its color LCD touch panel gave guidance. USB, Ethernet and Wi-Fi are standard. Though "clickier" than a high school cheerleader, the Brother 4510 puts out clean, crisp color that mostly kept up with a promised output rate of 35 pages-per-minute for black-only and 27 ppm for color.

Its has a 150-sheet capacity and inputs for USB and numerous memory cards. Wi-Fi equipped mobile devices can print using Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print and Brother's iPrint for Android and iOS. It also allows direct printing from websites such as Facebook, Flickr and Picasa, as well as from Dropbox, Evernote and Google Docs. The color scanner outputs to numerous formats that can be emailed or saved to a server or local media. The 4510 is covered by a two-year warranty.

Canon ImageClass MF8580

Canon delivers solid value with the Color ImageClass MF8580Cdw Color Laser Multifunction printer. For $599 list, the 8580 includes a two-sided color printer, copier, scanner and fax machine with network control and Ethernet, USB and Wi-Fi interfaces all standard. Boasting a 40,000 page-per-month duty cycle, fast time-to-first-page and fairly high paper capacity, the 8580 is suited for the small office or busy department.

With its 17- by 19-inch footprint and 26-inch vertical clearance requirement, the 8580 stands a prominent figure. Its handsome black-and-putty design and sturdy look and feel instill confidence that the unit will well outlast its one-year warranty. It touts higher-end features such as secure-print and unique user IDs for usage monitoring. Mobile devices can output to Canon's ImageClass MFP using Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print and Canon's own Canon Mobile Printing application for iOS (an Android version is in development).

Lexmark CX410 Series MFP

Unorthodox doesn't always equate with inferior. Despite an output tray that discharges in the rear, the Lexmark CX410 Multifunction Color Laser Printer is far more than a glorified fax machine. And, its trayless multipurpose input feeder, which handles just a single sheet at a time, still seems a clever way to save space and improve ease-of use.

Introduced in October, Lexmark's latest CX410-series of laser MFPs combines printing, copying, faxing and scanning, all in high-resolution color. Its $699 starting list price and rated duty cycle of 75,000 pages per month places it squarely in the small-business space. Setup on Mac and Windows was quick, and the printer delivered every bit of its rated 32 pages per minute for color or black, but its Lexmark's 11 second time-to-first-page was only about half right. Lexmark's offers a bare bones Mobile Printing app for Android and iOS. Still, the Lexmark CX410 Multifunction Color Laser Printer is worth a look.

Epson LW-300 Label Printer

We couldn't imagine a label printer easier to use than Epson's LW-300 Label Printer, a stand-alone labeler akin to the popular Brother P-Touch. A label maker should be on the must-have list for any department manager or small business that wants to stay well organized or keep drawers and cabinets marked for efficiency. And, Epson offers two: the $39 LW-300 model with one-line LCD (reviewed here), and the $49 Epson LW-400, which adds barcode printing, a two-line backlit LCD and more options for label types and colors.

Overall, we found the $39 Epson LW-300 a good value; it's a capable label printer that's easy to use, comes with a protective carrying case and is flexible enough for most situations. An AC power adapter is a $25 option.

Be sure to check out all of CRN's Printer Week 2013 coverage as we look at small-office printing solutions all this week.