At every site we consulted for this report, we found more recommendations for Brother fax machines than for any other brand. One of these, the Brother IntelliFax-4100e , is highly recommended as a high-speed office fax. This fax machine uses laser technology, which is faster and produces better print quality than other current fax-machine technologies. Its built-in Super G3 (Group 3) fax modem has a speed of 33.6 Kbps and can transmit a page in as little as three seconds under ideal conditions. Parallel and USB ports let the Brother 4100e double as a computer printer, though it prints in black and white only. It can also make black-and-white copies at up to 600 dots per inch (dpi).
Users at retail sites, as well as at Brother's own website, praise the IntelliFax-4100e for its speed, efficiency and good print quality. Most also find it easy to set up and use. We didn't see many complaints about the paper jams that are so prevalent with less expensive fax machines, but a few users say the machine's automatic document feeder (ADF) sometimes grabs multiple pages of a document at once rather than scanning them through one at a time.
For smaller offices or home offices that don't have to do tons of faxing, the less expensive Brother IntelliFax-2840 could be a better choice. Like the pricier 4100e, this is a laser printer, but it's a lighter-duty one, with a recommended print volume of up to 2,000 pages per month rather than 3,000. It has the same high-speed modem as the Brother IntelliFax-4100e, and its print speed is actually slightly faster at 2.5 seconds per page. It includes copying and scanning functions, as well as a USB connection to let it serve as a computer printer.
The IntelliFax-2840 gets good reviews for its speed, ease of use and print quality. However, it receives more complaints about reliability than its pricier cousin. Reviewers say that when the fax machine sits unused for a while it goes into a deep-sleep mode, and an incoming fax does not always jolt it back to wakefulness. It can also have problems receiving faxes if there is any noise on the telephone line. Another problem is that, unlike the IntelliFax-4100e, this machine will not retain stored faxes in memory during a power outage. Consumables costs are also higher for the IntelliFax-2840: about 1.8 cents per page compared to just over a penny for the initially more expensive IntelliFax-4100e.
Although Brother fax machines get the best reviews overall, they're not the only game in town. We saw moderately good reviews for the Canon FaxPhone L190 . This Canon fax machine has the same Super G3 modem found in the Brother machines and can send faxes at up to 26 pages per minute. It can also copy, scan or serve as a computer printer. PCMag.com's Tony Hoffman is unimpressed with its output quality as a printer, but says this Canon fax machine offers a "good range of fax features" such as speed dialing, fax forwarding and error correction. Users at Amazon.com and Staples.com like the speed and easy setup of the FaxPhone L190, but we saw a lot of complaints about paper jams.
Hewlett Packard also offers a fax machine in this price range: the HP 1040 Fax (Est. $300) . It's one of only two fax machines still on the market that uses inkjet printing rather than laser or thermal technology. Its 14.4 Kbps modem isn't nearly as fast as its laser-based competitors', taking 6 seconds per page. The HP fax machine offers a lot of features, including an auto document feeder, delayed send and fax queuing, which lets you scan in your next fax while another one is being sent. However, user reviews for this HP fax machine are very mixed -- while some like the HP 1040's print quality and low operating costs, others complain that it's unreliable and tends to jam. The HP 1040 fax machine was recalled in 2012 for an overheating problem that created a risk of fires and burns, but only units sold prior to December 2011 were affected.