HOME Technology 2003
Multifunction devices dominate
Multifunction devices that print, scan and act as low-end as photo-copiers are pushing the traditional inkjet printer from its pride of place alongside the home PC.

This year inkjet printers are feeling the squeeze from inkjet-based multifunction peripherals (MFPs) as the average price narrows between standard printers and competition intensifies.

In fact many PC bundles now include combo units as an enticement to buyers.

An entry level MFP which can print, scan and copy might sell for around $250 while the addition of a fax could take it up to between $500-$600.

Key players in the standard inkjet printer market over the past year were Hewlett Packard (HP), Canon, Epson and Lexmark. IDC researcher Christina Tan-Wanklyn says sales of stand-alone inkjets contracted considerably in the past year due to market saturation and aggressive bundling.

Inkjets add value

"Vendors challenged each other to provide the best offering at the magic $1995 (ex GST) price point with deals including a desktop scanner and printer. The two most aggressive players were Hewlett-Packard selling through PRG and The PC Company (bundling with Epson) at Farmers outlets," she says.

While inkjet printers are becoming more affordable they’re also delivering more, including much better print out quality, often specifically geared for photographs. New entry-level A4 size inkjet printers are now available for under $120 compared to last year where the entry level varied at between $150 - $199. However users can pay up to $600 for a printer that has professional features and higher print quality. Other attractive features may include borderless printing and up to eight colours.

Resolution and page per minute are two important things to look out for when purchasing a printer. Depending on the quality of the original image a printer capable of 1200 x 1200 dpi (dots per inch) should be able to give you an output that can withstand professional scrutiny.

No-one wants to wait around forever for a page to print and many entry level machines take a lot longer than a page per minute (ppm). In fact it can take several minutes depending on the detail of the image. Stepping up a model or two can halve your print time.

Get the retail outlet to print an example of what the machine is capable of while you are watching to prove the glossy prints in the tray aren’t from a higher quality printer.

Cost of consumable

And check the cost of consumables, for example the ink cartridge - two ink cartridge replacements on a sub-$100 unit may cost as much as the printer itself. Rather than buying a bundled printer with a PC it may pay to invest a little more to get a more robust, quality machine especially if you plan to use it regularly and particularly if you plan to print photographs.

We’ll see more dedicated photo printers with slots for memory cards, which can take feed direct from cameras. These can range in price from $300 to over $1000 depending on the quality required. Most of them have a very high resolution and like standard printers are using up to six and even eight-colour cartridges to give the fullest possible attention to detail.

IDC expects to the digital camera market to continue to enjoy robust growth as prices continue to fall and this will be a major driver for the inkjet market, specifically for photo printers. It’s believed inkjet MFPs and photo quality printers of either A4 or A6 size are likely to be favoured over the Christmas, New Year buying season.

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