Colorful Multitasking to Jazz Up Your Small Office

SAN FRANCISCO (06/23/2000) - You multitask every day. Why shouldn't your office equipment? New color multifunction devices from Hewlett-Packard Co. and Xerox Corp. -- machines that print, fax, copy, and scan -- can help your office pick up its pace.

These two products, each built around a color ink jet printer and color scanner, bring something new to the table, albeit with a wide price spread. The $800 HP OfficeJet G85 can be shared on an office network (if you add a $145 optional interface), and it supports color faxing. The $350 Xerox WorkCentre 490cx makes color copies even when your PC is not operating (other inexpensive color MFDs make color copies by first scanning to disk and then sending the scan back to the printer--an inconvenient process).

Why so much more for the HP? For starters, the OfficeJet has a flatbed scanner glass and an automatic document feeder, while the WorkCentre has just a feeder.

The OfficeJet is a bit bulky, but you can scan objects--for copying, faxing, or saving to disk--that simply won't fit through the device's document feeder.

Also, the HP captures better scans, which produce fabulous copies with rich, solid colors and excellent detail. The Xerox's color copies look faded and dull in comparison--they're certainly good enough for office use, but unattractive for important presentations.

But our shipping units produced impressive ink jet print output, even on plain paper.

The Fax Are In

An MFD sometimes demands intuition, luck, and patience. The WorkCentre's control panel provides little guidance on basic operations, despite a two-line, 16-character LCD. The OfficeJet's control panel is better, with separate, clearly labeled buttons for almost all functions, and its two-line, 16-character LCD makes sense.

Both units offer standard fax capabilities: delayed send, to take advantage of off-peak phone rates; polling, to call another fax machine and request a document; and fax forwarding. Both can route voice calls to your telephone and receive faxes into memory if printer supplies run out.

Abundant Software

HP and Xerox compete brutally in the document processing market, so each provides a wealth of software. The OfficeJet includes IRIS for optical character recognition (which makes scanned text editable) and a graphics editor to capture and clean up scans. Xerox includes LaserFAX Lite plus its own Pagis Pro document-archiving and OCR package.

Unfortunately, with fax, address book, document management, OCR, and image editing functions scattered over several applications, processing documents on either of these machines takes more effort than it should.

The HP OfficeJet, with its flatbed scanner, support for color faxing, and $79 duplexer option, offers more versatility for running a small business or home office.

If your work requires high-quality color scans and copies, the HP OfficeJet may be worth the extra money. But if good basic color printing and fax capabilities are enough to keep your office humming, the Xerox WorkCentre has everything you need.

--Dan Littman

Hewlett-Packard OfficeJet G85

PRO: Excellent scanner with flatbed and document feeder.

CON: Bulky presence.

VALUE: High quality, high cost.

Street price: $800



Xerox WorkCentre 490cx

PRO: Very good print quality.

CON: Mediocre copy quality; has a puzzling control panel.

VALUE: All you need for the basics in faxing and color printing.

Street price: $350



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