The world of photocopiers is a rapidly changing place. Since the word ‘Xerox’ was trademarked in 1948, barely a year has gone by without some new development in photocopier technology. The current market is flooded with different brands and models of photocopier which come in varying sizes with a plethora of extra features. Choosing between them can be a perplexing task.
Your Photocopier Requirements
Before you even start looking at specific makes and models it’s a good idea to assess exactly what your office needs from a photocopier. If you already have a copier this process is made simpler as you have a basis for comparison. For first time buyers it’s a little trickier, but simply follow the steps below and you’ll be on the right track.
Replacing an existing copier
If you're looking for a replacement for an existing office copier ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the machine you currently use have all the features you need?
- Can it handle the volume of copying you currently perform?
- Does it copy fast enough?
- Is it costing you an arm and a leg?
- How would you want a new photocopier to differ from your current one?
Answering these questions will help you narrow down the options when approaching suppliers. If you can say ‘I currently have X but I’m looking for something which can handle higher volumes’ or ‘I currently have Y but I’m looking for something a bit simpler’ a supplier will immediately be able to suggest a couple of appropriate models.
Buying a first copier
Establishing what kind of machine you need when you’ve never had one can be difficult but thinking about the following should help:
- What volume of copies will you be making each month? This can be a difficult figure to estimate, so think about how many people are in your office, roughly how many copies each will be making per day, multiply these numbers together and then by the average number of days in your working month (normally about 21).
- What size of paper will you be copying on? A4 is the normal size but you may need to copy larger documents. (Remember that A3 is twice the size of A4, A5 is half the size of A4 etc)
- Do you need to copy in colour? Think carefully about this as colour copying is significantly more expensive than black and white.
- Do you want the photocopier to act as a scanner and printer? This is common to almost all modern digital copiers but think about whether the copier will be connected to a single computer or a network.
What additional features do you need for your copier?
There are a large amount of additional features that you can get with a modern photocopier. The array of features can be confusing, we have gathered a list of the most common additional features that may be of interest when you're considering your photocopier purchase.
- Double sided printing: Saves paper
- Document feeder: For copying multiple page documents in a single operation.
- Sorting functions: For separating out and collating multiple print jobs.
- Image editing: Alter or resize your copied documents using a panel on the machine itself.
- Stapling, hole punching, binding: all these can be done by a sophisticated copier as a labour saving measure.
Once you know what you’re looking for from a photocopier, comparing the different options on the market becomes a lot easier.
Different types of photocopier
The Xerox machines released in the late 1940s were analogue machines which transferred an image from an electrostatic drum created by shining light through one piece of paper directly onto another with dry ink, or ‘toner’. Modern machines are almost all digital – essentially a digital scanner and laser printer combined. They only need to scan an image once to produce multiple copies and produce sharper, higher quality images.
Despite all operating from the same basic principle there are still considerable differences between different types of machine.
These all-in-ones, commonly packaged with desktop computers, aren’t really copiers at all but basic scanners and inkjet printers. Only suitable for the home office, the costs of replacing ink cartridges quickly mount up for anyone other than the low volume user.
Genuine office photocopiers are sizeable machines and will take up the best part of a normal sized desk, though A4 only versions are available to reduce the size of the copier’s footprint. Desktop copiers can perform nearly all of the functions of larger machines but not those which require adding separate modules such as binding, sorting etc. They’ll also have fewer paper trays so in a busy office you mind find that you’re refilling trays often.
Floor standing copiers are more suitable for high volume copying environments and those with many users sending simultaneous print/copy jobs. They can be fitted with various sorting, binding and finishing modules for professional quality printing.
A term for any machine which combines printing, scanning and copying on a network. Available in desktop or floor-standing sizes they can also incorporate fax functions, complicated image editing features, PIN or card access for billing different departments, a hard drive for document storage and even integrate with document management software for unified printing and scanning across your organisation.
Colour vs. Black and White
Because copiers use toner rather than ink, a colour machine needs a separate toner cartridge for each of the primary colours cyan, magenta and yellow as well as a cartridge for black. Also, the mechanics of colour copying require the image to be built up from successive passes past each toner cartridge which means that colour copiers are more expensive to manufacture and more prone to breakdowns. As a consequence, colour copying is at least twice as expensive as black and white copying.
Lease or Purchase a copier?
The final decision you’ll have to make when obtaining a new photocopier is whether to lease your machine or purchase it. You’ll also probably want some kind of maintenance and service contract rather than paying for an engineer every time something goes wrong.
- Purchasing your photocopier adds it to a list of your company’s assets. Buying outright saves you having to deal with finance agreements and making monthly payments for a number of years. There will however be a large cash outlay for anything other than a very small machine.
- Leasing a photocopier involves making a monthly payment to a finance company for use of their machine over a fixed number of years. As you won’t own the machine this option has the advantage of the monthly payments being tax deductable. It also grants you the option of changing your equipment during or at the end of a lease agreement without paying large lump sums. Special leasing agreements are also available for the public sector in order to work around budgetary restrictions.
- Maintenance and service cover agreements provide a fixed level of service and repair cover, including parts and labour, for a monthly or annual fee. Full service contracts also include the cost of consumables – the toner cartridges. Photocopier service contracts are normally charged at a set price for every 1,000 copies you make so you’ll pay in proportion to how much you actually use the copier.
Once you’re armed with all the pertinent information, it’s time to compare quotes from different suppliers. As prices vary a lot between different companies it’s best to gather quite a few quotes for comparable machines and then look for online reviews for the models they suggest. If you’re not sure whether to lease or purchase, get quotes for both. The more options you collect, the greater the chance that your perfect solution is among them – and once you’ve found that perfect solution, you shouldn’t have to worry about photocopiers again for quite some time.
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