desktop printer or multifunction printer

There are many different options to choose from when selecting print and copy equipment, and knowing which device is the right one for your business can be a challenge. A great place to start is understanding the two main categories of devices, standalone desktop printers and multifunction printers. 

So, is a desktop printer or a multifunction printer (MFP) the better choice? Well, the answer depends on your organization’s needs. You must consider a variety of factors.  

Deciding Which Device is Right for You: Desktop Printer or Multifunction Printer

To start, determine what device capabilities your office needs.  

Does your organization only need to print, or would you like to copy, fax and scan as well? 

Standalone printers are only capable of printing, while MFPs provide copy, print, scan and fax capabilities. 

When is a Printer Right for You? 

If your organization only needs to be able to print, you may be able to get by with a standalone desktop printer. However, this will depend on a few other factors.  

  • Print volume 
  • Paper size 
  • Budget 

Many desktop printers are not capable of printing documents larger than 8.5×14” or legal size. While a desktop printer is less of an upfront investment, service and supplies could cost a significant amount. If you intend to run a high volume of prints or large document sizes, a desktop printer may not be the best solution for your needs.  

In what situation is a standalone desktop printer a good solution?  

As an example, let’s say you own a very small business, maybe 1-3 employees. Your office space is small; therefore, you have very limited space for a print device. You and your team will print less than 1,000 pages a month and you don’t foresee a need to copy, scan, or fax.  

In this scenario, a standalone printer would be a viable solution for your business. However, this situation is rare. Most often an organization in this scenario will opt for a small desktop MFP. The cost for service and supplies on either type of device will be very similar and opting for an MFP will give you the capability to copy, scan, and fax, in case you ever need it.  

When is an MFP Right for You? 

If the demands of your office require the ability to scan, copy and fax, you will need a multifunction printer. There are many options when selecting a multifunction printer, but we can help you streamline the decision. 

To help determine which MFP your organization needs, ask yourself a few questions: 

  • Do you need color? 
  • How many users will be printing to this device? 
  • What paper sizes will you print on? 
  • How many prints and copies do you anticipate running?  
  • What space do you have allocated for the print device? 
  • What is your budget? 

In what situation is a multifunction printer a good solution? 

As an example, let’s say you work in a small business with 10-25 employees. Your organization needs the capability to print, copy, scan, and fax documents. 

In this scenario, your organization needs an MFP. We commonly see organizations in this situation try to keep expenses low, by purchasing one or two MFPs that all employees share. This is a very cost-effective solution. When all employees share one or two central MFPs, service and supplies are much less than if each employee had an individual printer.  The service and supply costs will be very reasonable for one or two central MFPs.  

What if your documents get into the wrong hands? 

If you’re worried about sensitive data getting in the wrong hands because your organization is sharing a device among all employees, breathe easy. Modern MFPs have features to protect your documents from getting into the wrong hands. This is done through the hold and/or lock print options.

If you’re using hold print, the document will not print until you release the print job at the MFP. Lock print does the same thing as hold print; however, it requires a passcode to release the job. This provides an additional layer of security. 

When is a Combination of MFPs and Printers Right for You? 

Another option for your print environment is using a combination of desktop printers and MFPs, this is most common in mid to large size organizations. 

As an example, let’s say you’re the CFO of a large corporation and you have 10-12 employees in your department. 

A common solution is to have the employees in the finance department share one central MFP for all their printing, copying, faxing and scanning. While the CFO, has a printer on his/her desk for quick and secure access to prints. The CFO also uses the shared MFP for his/her copy, scan and fax needs. Each department in the organization follows this same structure. 

Organizations use a combination of device types to be as cost effective as possible while ensuring employees are efficient.  

Managing Your Print Devices 

When an organization has 10 or more print devices it can become a little overwhelming to manage the service and supplies,  let alone the support required for these devices. In this situation, a Managed Print Services program may be a solution.  

Managed Print Services (MPS) or print management is a comprehensive strategy that places the best devices in optimal locations for your business, resulting in a low total cost of ownership. Additionally, service and supplies are bundled into the contract, enabling you to budget with ease. With an MPS provider, the hassle of your print environment is out of your hands and in the hands of an expert.  

Check out the top 5 Benefits to Implementing a Managed Print Services Plan

Additional Factors to Consider 

Many additional factors play into the selection of a print device. Beyond deciding if a printer desktop printer or a multifunction printer is correct for you, you need to know whether your organization need an A3 or an A4 device. 

A3 and A4 are the two categories of printers and MFPs. A3 devices are larger, more heavy-duty machines that are capable of printing 11×17 paper. A4 devices cannot print 11×17 paper and are smaller machines, some of which can be placed on a desktop. 

While these categories apply for all printers, including desktop printers, A3 and A4 are most commonly used to categorize multifunction printers. Read more about the differences in A3 and A4 MFPs, here


All organizational scenarios are unique. Selecting the correct office equipment for your organization’s unique needs is a challenging task. Regardless of your organization’s make-up, we recommend discussing your print environment with a print specialist.  

A trained print specialist will ensure you purchase the optimal equipment for your needs and budget. Operating with the incorrect equipment can be a hindrance to your productivity and your pocketbook.