For home users or a small office where space is limited, look to multifunction devices--combination printer, copier, scanner and/or fax machines. Heavy-duty versions of these same printers are now being used in larger offices, too. Thanks to their improved reliability, today's high-end multipurpose machines are well worth considering.
One of the first items to consider is how much printing the office does in a month. And when determining your monthly duty cycle, be sure to factor in expected growth. You want a printer that can handle what you'll need throughout its useful life. Rated duty cycles of the printers we've surveyed range from several thousand pages to 300,000 pages per month. By matching expected load to the rated duty cycle, you'll avoid burning out the printer prematurely and buying more printer than you need. In addition, consider the number of pages per minute. For efficiency, buy a machine that will spit out documents as fast as your users can send them.
For larger groups where everyone tends to print at the same time, or if you need to print large, multipage documents, look to the higher duty-cycle/more pages per minute set. It's at this point that the ROI on the larger office-collaboration machines that staple, stack, collate and duplex-print becomes meaningful. Higher-end standalone multifunction devices built for this capacity likely will offer more advanced options.
For small offices, don't worry too much about duty cycle, since even the lowest-rated cycle is more than the most aggressive SOHO user will ever need.