The 8 Best Fax Machines
This wiki has been updated 23 times since it was first published in March of 2015. If you're one of the many people who still rely on hard copies, you can find the perfect fax machine for your home or office from our comprehensive selection. We've included light-duty models that are great for occasional usage along with some durable units suitable for high-volume work and more complex jobs, all ranked here by their ease of use, imaging quality, and additional features. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best fax machine on Amazon.
March 12, 2020:
There aren't too many standalone fax machines being developed today, and all the models on our list are combinations that are printers first and have faxing capabilities tied into their feature sets. As faxing takes a backseat to other functions, a lot of companies have pushed touchscreen interfaces at the expense of numeric keypads that are much more convenient when you're dialing numbers for multiple faxes. That's why so many of our selections have numeric keypads.
That said, the entirety of our list has turned over since we last visited the ranking, as printer companies upgrade their lineups yearly at the least. One such upgrade was the Epson WorkForce ET-4760 EcoTank, which has been upgraded from the company's 4755 model. This is an option without a keypad, but it's one with an innovative ink handling system that can really save you some money.
The Canon ImageClass All-In-One is another upgrade from our last ranking's Canon MF424DW, and this one boasts duplex scanning, which is the ability to read both sides of a document simultaneously for scanning, copying, or faxing purposes. That can come in handy if you regularly deal with double-sided documents, as it could ultimately cut your working time in half.
A Brief History Of The Fax Machine
The subsequent decades saw refinements to the technology, including the addition of wireless image transmission capabilities.
As incredible as it might initially sound, the first device approximating a fax machine was in fact invented more than a decade before the telephone.
As incredible as it might initially sound, the first device approximating a fax machine was in fact invented more than a decade before the telephone. The pantelegraph was invented by an Italian named Giovanni Caselli in the mid 1860s. The device was capable of scanning a page marked with a special solution of potassium ferricyanide that interrupted the transmission of an electrical signal sent via telegraph wire. A stylus attached to a remote device would reproduce the image scanned by the first pantelegraph and dutifully recreate the words or small graphics on a second piece of paper.
The pantelegraph could only copy an area of approximately four by six inches, and transmission of an image or a bit of text took almost two minutes to complete. Still, the device saw practical applications in use verifying signatures for banking and legal purposes, and it certainly amazed and impressed its share of people the world over.
Eventually, this forerunner of the modern fax machine was superseded by ever better technology, just as the fax machine itself nears obsolescence in the 21st century. Viable uses for the fax machine still remain, however, and the devices still have many devoted users in the commercial, public, military, and private sectors.
The fax machines of today can trace their origins to the 1880s. A scanning phototelegraph invented by British physicist Shelford Tidwell could scan any two dimensional object, transmitting documents, maps, charts, and even photographs via telephone wire. The subsequent decades saw refinements to the technology, including the addition of wireless image transmission capabilities.
In the 1960s, the Xerox Corporation released what may accurately be considered the first modern fax machines. These devices, the Long Distance Xerography machine in 1964 and the Magnafax Telecopier in 1966, used digital technology to scan and transmit entire pages of data in a few minutes.
Soon page-long faxes (short for facsimile, from the Latin for "make alike," for your reference) were being sent in less than a minute and using ever smaller devices. The phone and fax machine combination was seen in offices around the globe throughout the 1980s and 90s, with email and faster online communication finally beginning to supplant the fax at the end of the latter decade.
While faxing is less common today than it was in years gone by, many transactions are still conducted using hard copies of documents, and thus the fax machine still has a role to play in many aspects of life.
Choosing The Right Fax Machine For The Office
If your shop, small business, or medical practice uses all the latest technology, from wireless printers to Bluetooth headsets, yet you still need to have a fax machine on hand for the occasional reception and transmission of hard copies, then there are multiple affordable devices available that do just that: they send and receive faxes, and that's about it.
As faxing has become less and less common, so too has the process become more involved.
More often than not, however, faxing is just one of many capabilities of the multitasking high end printing, copying, and scanning machine an office will consider for all its document handling needs. A decent printing and copying "station" can cost anywhere from two hundred dollars on up to the thousands. And unless your place of business, retail location, or your medical or legal practice requires an exorbitant volume of faxing, most any of these devices will be able to easily handle the job for you.
The one drawback many of these machines have when it comes to sending faxes is that getting to their fax function can be a multiple step hassle. As faxing has become less and less common, so too has the process become more involved. So, if you only send the occasional fax but you want the process to be painlessly simple when you do, a basic, affordable, purpose built fax machine may still make sense for your workplace.
Choosing A Fax Machine For Home Use
There are multiple reasons the private residence has a need for using a fax machine. These usually include dealing with medical forms, insurance paperwork, and other sensitive documents that can be important to have in hard copy and that often require hand-written signatures and dates to be considered valid.
If you already have a decent printer and scanner, then an inexpensive, basic fax machine is a fine choice.
If you already have a decent printer and scanner, then an inexpensive, basic fax machine is a fine choice. If you're looking for a new all-in-one printing solution, then by all means consider a higher end unit with the capability to print, scan, copy, fax, and more. The extra cash you spend up front will secure you a machine that lasts for years, putting you ahead of the technology even as it includes a few almost outdated features, like faxing.
Faxes are also a fine way for people not entirely comfortable with the latest technology to stay in touch. Even someone who spends precious little time surfing the web or checking his or her email can easily pull a sheet of paper out of the fax machine and read a letter, so a fax machine can be a fine way to stay in touch with older friends or relatives.
A fax machine can also be a valid method of sending sensitive communications and documents that works even when an internet connection is experiencing issues: as fax machines transmit via phone lines, they are often not affected by complications with other systems, which can be helpful during emergency situations.
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