Just 7 years ago the average price paid for a home fax machine was $600. Today, you can purchase one for half that, and the machines are becoming almost as common in the kitchen as they are in the office. Most new models have eliminated old annoyances (no more disconnecting if you accidentally answer a “fax call” from another phone in the house). Even the less expensive thermal (rolled) paper models double as copiers and now commonly boast deluxe functions, such as automatic paper cutters and built-in answering machines. The more expensive plain-paper machines, preferred by some because printouts don’t roll up or fade over time, have dropped in price from over $1,000 to under $500.
How We Chose
We examined 18 thermal (rolled) paper and plain-paper fax machines, ranging in price from around $250 to $750. Our engineers faxed and copied pages that displayed a variety of images, including typed and handwritten works, geometric shapes, and magazine photographs. Each printout was judged for charity, sharpness, and legibility. Those with added capabilities (answering machines, computer printers, scanners) were subjected to additional tests.
Features to Look for
- AUTO-REMOTE ACTIVATION: Automatically senses and receives an incoming fax, even if you inadvertently answer the phone from elsewhere in the house when a fax is trying to come through. Machines without this feature require you to quickly punch in a code to keep from being disconnected.
- BUILT-IN ANSWERING MACHINE: Provides a simpler and more foolproof setup process than hooking up the fax to a separate answering machine. Current models have digital (tapeless) designs that operate quickly and silently.
- COPIER: Makes photocopies of an original document. This feature is found on all fax machines.
- DISTINCTIVE-RING DETECTION: Lets you program the fax machine to answer only calls with a special ring–if your phone company offers an optional service that assigns a second number on your existing line with a different-sounding ring. This service is cheaper than getting a second phone line just for faxing.
- ENLARGED/REDUCED COPY: Can shrink or enlarge the original document when copying.
- MEMORY DIAL: Lets you store frequently called numbers for quick retrieval.
- MULTICOPY CAPABILITY: Allows you to make several copies of the original in just one step.
- OUT-OF-PAPER MEMORY: Stores information when unable to print; memorized faxes will automatically print when paper or ink is refilled. The number of pages stored may vary, depending on the mix of text and graphics.
- PAPER ANTICURL: Designed to reduce the curling tendency of rolled paper.
- PAPER CUTTER: Automatically cuts rolled paper to the right length after each page is printed.
- PRESCAN: Quickly “reads” and stores each page into memory, then faxes at an accelerated speed.
- SHEET FEEDER: Automatically feeds a stack of sheets, one page at a time, into the sending or copying section of the machine.