In many industries, fax machines are still considered a necessity; in fact, they are seeing a resurgence in popularity. Faxing is a very secure way to exchange information. Faxes cannot be easily hacked, and unlike email attachments, they cannot transmit computer viruses.
The best fax machines for home offices are more compact than those used in corporate settings but offer similar capabilities. Look for standard fax-copy-print capabilities in any machine; however, a closer look reveals differences in connectivity, print type, speed, capacity, and other features. To help you compare the different models, this list contains some of the best fax machines available for a home office.
- BEST OVERALL: HP OfficeJet Pro 9025 All-in-One Wireless Printer
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Epson Workforce WF-2860 All-in-One Wireless Printer
- UPGRADE PICK: HP Color LaserJet Pro Multifunction M479fdw Wireless
- BEST DEDICATED: Brother FAX-2840 High Speed Mono Laser Fax Machine
- BEST COMPACT: HP LaserJet Pro M29w Wireless All-in-One Printer
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Fax Machine
Your home office digital network is probably more compact and flexible than a typical corporate office setting, but your fax machine must work within your network. Read on to learn more about the options in fax machines and how to choose a machine to best fit your needs.
Other than sending and receiving documents, printing is the primary job of a fax machine. Choose from laser or inkjet printing technology.
Laser printers are fast, produce high-quality images, and are more expensive than inkjet. Laser printing uses toner, a dry, powdered material that lasts longer than ink. Toner replacement is expensive, and the drums must be replaced every fourth toner replacement. This is a good choice for those who do lots of printing.
Inkjet printers are inexpensive, produce a more resilient finish, and the cartridges are easier to replace than toner. Inkjet printers use liquid ink that produces better photo images and color documents that resist smudging better than toner. They print more slowly and print fewer pages over their life span than laser printers. Choose inkjet if you want great-looking, long-lasting color documents and photos, or if you only print occasionally.
Monochrome vs. Color
Many shoppers are inclined to move straight to a color printer with built-in fax capabilities, but a more practical solution may be in order. Monochrome (black/gray only) printers are popular in professional offices because of their fast print speeds, low operation costs, and high-quality text. Monochrome may be a better choice for those who print large quantities of simple text. If, however, you plan to print your own brochures, flyers, advertisements, or any document involving color graphics, a color printer/fax machine is your obvious choice.
Wired vs. Wireless
Fax machines are incorporated into the home office network via a network cable or wireless connection. To use a fax machine, you need a telephone landline. In a wired network, transmission is fast, and the connection is interrupted only if the power goes out. Wireless networking eliminates the clutter of wires throughout the house. However, the signal can drop or suffer interference, and transmission is a little slower than in a wired connection.
Wired fax machines connect to your computer with an ethernet cable through a network router using Wi-Fi or a Bluetooth connection. Wi-Fi connections may run through a network router or connect the computer or smartphone directly to the fax. Bluetooth can connect the computer or smartphone directly to the fax machine. While connected to your device, fax machines can send a fax. Some machines can receive a fax and forward it to email.
In many home offices, paper capacity may be a low priority; in those scenarios, a tray that holds 150 sheets of paper is probably sufficient. However, those who print a lot of documents or who often print on different sizes of paper may want to consider buying a fax machine with a higher capacity of 250 sheets or more.
A fax modem allows the fax machine to send and receive document transmissions over phone lines. The speed of the modem is the maximum rate at which the transfer can happen, which is generally 14.4 kilobit per second or faster. A faster modem speed can help clear the phone line faster, which may be helpful if the line is shared with phone calls.
The actual amount of time it takes for a document to fax depends on the size of the document, the amount of detail it contains, and the clarity of the connection to the machine on the receiving end. A text-only document takes about 30 seconds per page to transmit, while a page-sized photograph could take a full minute. A faster modem can deliver documents more quickly.
Auto-Dialing and Memory
Like with a phone, users can program their favorite fax numbers into a fax machine for quick recall. The larger the memory, the more information it can store. Some hold as many as 200 preprogrammed contacts or more. Review the number of preprogrammed numbers the fax machine can hold if you plan to fax to a lot of different numbers.
Memory also stores documents and is used in processing. The larger the memory, the more it can do at once. A larger memory allows a longer document queue and improves the details in document quality.
Password protection is available to allow operation only by authorized users. Encryption software scrambles the transmission, so it can’t be intercepted by a third party between transmission and reception. Fax machines that store fax information offer an added level of security against data loss in case of power failure.
Wi-Fi and Smart Technology
Fax machines may connect to the home office network with an ethernet cable, but it’s becoming more common to use Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi office connections use radio frequencies to link devices through a router hotspot. As long as the router is functioning properly, the various devices on the network can communicate with one another. Other devices may connect to the fax machine with a Bluetooth connection.
Most fax machine makers have developed apps to connect and manage fax machines remotely. These apps allow users to scan remotely, then fax the scanned image through the fax machine or receive faxes on a remote device. The app also allows users to check the status of ink or toner, the fax history, and other functions. Some fax machines are compatible with voice-activated smart devices like Amazon Echo or Apple’s Siri.
Fax machines offer other convenient features, too. While basic fax machines require the user to manually place and flip the document to be scanned, those with auto document feeders perform this task automatically. Caller ID displays the source of incoming faxes or phone calls on a shared line, which will help users decide whether to answer a call or let the fax machine pick up. Dual access functionality lets users print one document while transmitting another. Machines with broadcast capability allow a document to be sent to multiple recipients.
Our Top Picks
Working from home brings plenty of challenges, so your home office technology should remove some of those challenges to help you be more productive. Whether you need a robust print-copy-scan-fax machine with professional-quality color output and advanced security or a fast, simple, dedicated fax machine, the right machine may appear in this list.
For those who need to print, scan, copy, and fax with full-color capabilities, this fast inkjet model may be the right choice. The HP OfficeJet Pro 9025 Wireless Printer offers fast 24-page-per-minute printing speed and a 35-page automatic feeder. It connects to your home office network via Wi-Fi, USB port, or ethernet cable. Two 250-sheet paper trays helps users stay productive on high-volume projects. It syncs to QuickBooks, Google Drive, and other programs with Smart Tasks to eliminate repetitive tasks and organize receipts and business documents 50 percent faster.
Use the HP Smart app to access your printer and scanner, monitor ink levels, and print, copy, and scan on the go. Self-healing Wi-Fi automatically detects connectivity issues and reconnects seamlessly to keep you connected. Built-in security features include basic encryption, password protection, Wi-Fi security, and document protection. HP offers an optional upgrade to HP Instant Ink to get genuine HP 962 ink delivered to your home office, with shipping and recycling included.
For a fax machine with plenty of functionality at a value price, consider the Epson Workforce WF-2860 All-in-One Wireless Color Printer. This inkjet color printer offers precision printing and a compact, space-saving design. It prints 14 pages per minute in black and 7.5 pages per minute in color. It features a 30-page auto document feeder for copying and scanning and a 150-sheet paper capacity for printing. To save paper, it automatically prints double-sided. It supports mobile printing from iOS and Android devices (no network required with Wi-Fi connection), as well as ethernet connectivity. This printer is compatible only with Epson cartridges; it won’t work with third-party cartridges or ink.
For those who need more functionality, such as upgraded security features and automated workflow functions, the HP Color LaserJet Pro Multifunction M479fdw Wireless Laser Printer is an excellent choice. It supports high productivity with single-pass two-sided scanning, a 50-sheet auto document feeder, a 250-sheet input tray, and print speeds up to 28 pages per minute. The energy-efficient design saves up to 18 percent more energy than comparable printers.
Built-in Wi-Fi Direct allows smart devices to connect directly to the wireless printer for easy mobile printing with no local network connection. Embedded security features include instant threat notifications and optional PIN/Pull printing that help protect the printer from being an entry point for cyberattacks and to ensure the security of sensitive data. Advanced settings allow you to save preferences and automate complicated workflows.
Those looking for a fast, simple, secure dedicated fax machine may want to check out the Brother FAX-2840 High Speed Mono Laser Fax Machine. It features a 20-page capacity auto document feeder for scanning and an adjustable 250-sheet capacity paper tray for printing incoming faxes. The 33.5 Kbits/second modem sends a page in just 2.5 seconds. The 16MB memory stores up to 400 pages. A built-in high speed USB 2.0 interface can connect to your computer for 21-page-per-minute laser printing. This fax machine is compatible with the Brother TN-450 toner cartridge, which can print up to 2,600 pages.
If office space is tight, take a look at the compact HP LaserJet Pro M29w Wireless All-in-One Laser Printer. The smallest laser printer in its class, it still produces professional quality monochrome printing results. It prints up to 19 pages per minute and features a 150-sheet paper capacity for printing. Built-in wireless capabilities allow for easy access to print and share on a network or to connect directly to the printer using Wi-Fi Direct. Preloaded business apps let users scan directly to PDF and email. It supports mobile printing via the HP Smart app, which allows you to scan from your smart device, order toner, and print from the cloud.
FAQs About Fax Machines
If you’re still deciding on a fax machine or just have a few questions about setting one up, you’re not alone. Keep reading to find out more about owning and operating one of these devices.
Q. How does a fax machine work?
Fax is a digital signal that travels over analog telephone phone lines. A fax machine scans an image of a document, converts it to an electronic signal, and transmits it to another fax machine, much the same way that a telephone transmits voice calls to another phone.
Q. How do I set up a fax machine?
To set up a dedicated fax machine, simply plug in the power cord and the phone line and then set up the machine settings. Connect the phone cord to the wall jack and to the 1-line on the fax machine. Each model and brand of fax machine works a bit differently, but these are the general steps:
- Set up fax settings and preferences on the fax machine, including the fax header. The fax header is the information your recipients see when you send a fax, typically your name/business name and complete 10-digit fax number.
- Turn on “answer mode” to accept incoming calls (faxes) automatically. If the fax line doubles as a voice line, set the number of rings to answer to allow yourself enough time to answer an incoming call before the fax machine picks up.
- Select the dial type corresponding to your analog phone service: tone or pulse.
- Finally, follow the instructions in your owner’s manual to run a test to make sure everything is in working order.
Q. How do I use a fax machine?
The three basic steps to using a fax machine are dial-scan-send or:
- Dial the fax number you’re faxing to.
- Scan the cover sheet and document(s) you’re sending.
- Push the send button. The order may vary for your machine.
Q. How long does it take to send a fax?
It takes an average of 30 seconds for each page of text you’re faxing and a minute per photo. Faster equipment and clear lines can reduce the time significantly. Larger documents may take longer.
Q. Can I send a fax with a fax machine if I don’t have a landline?
Fax machines are engineered to work with analog telephone lines. You cannot send a fax with a fax machine without a landline. VoIP or internet phone lines do not work with fax machines.
Q. Can I send a fax directly from my computer to a fax machine?
You can use a web app like FAX.PLUS, eFax, or others to send and receive faxes from your computer.