For small offices, the Fellowes Powershred 99Ci (Est. $190) earns more recommendations than any other paper shredder. This is a console shredder with a 9-gallon bin that pulls out for easy emptying. You feed paper into the top of the machine, but facing sideways rather than away from you, which gives the machine a deeper and narrower footprint than most shredders. The Powershred 99Ci can shred junk mail, data discs, credit cards, and file folders as well as plain office paper, reducing it all to 0.16-by-1.5-inch pieces. That's small enough to qualify this shredder for a Level 3 security rating, the minimum experts recommend for confidential business or personal documents.
The feature reviewers like best about the Powershred 99Ci is its anti-jamming sensors. If they sense that you're trying to feed in a stack too thick for the machine, they'll alert you so you can pull it back out before it causes a jam. Even if you miss the warning, the shredder will simply push the sheets back out in reverse and make another attempt to chew through them. However, Christopher Null of PC World warns that the anti-jamming technology isn't foolproof, and "Clearing jams that do occur can be rather arduous."
Fellowes claims that the Powershred 99Ci can consume 18 sheets of paper at a time. Null says he tested it with 17 sheets and found the machine could generally handle that amount, and some users at retail sites agree. However, other owners say this claim is a major overstatement and the real feed capacity is closer to 6 or 7 sheets. Reviewers also dispute the alleged run time of 30 minutes; many users at Amazon complain that the shredder overheats in as little as 15 minutes, and it requires 40 minutes to cool off. On the plus side, reviewers agree that staples and paper clips pose no problems for the shredder.
Customer service appears to be a cut above. The manufacturer seems responsive not only to direct complaints but also to owner feedback on sites like Amazon.com and Staples.com. Fellowes offers a two-year warranty on the shredder itself and a lifetime warranty for the cutters.
While the Fellowes Powershred 99Ci is great for small to mid-size offices, it's not ideal for heavy use. For churning through large stacks of paper, reviewers recommend the Staples SPL-TXC24A. Null calls it a "bruiser," saying it accepts just about anything—stapled or paper-clipped documents, credit cards, junk mail, data disks—and "chews it up without complaint." Users at Staples.com agree that its feed capacity is impressive, though they say it's closer to 18 or 20 sheets than the 24 the manufacturer claims. Most also say the claimed run time of 20 minutes is accurate, although a few complain that their machines overheated after just a few minutes of use.
Like the Fellowes, the Staples paper shredder has a shred size of about 1.5 inches by 0.16 inches and is virtually jam-free. Null says it can easily handle a stack of two junk-mail envelopes, while most shredders would "choke on just one." Users at Staples.com are pleased with the shredder's smooth and fairly quiet operation, but they have a couple of gripes. First of all, they say, the 8-gallon bin tends to fill up unevenly, with paper shreds piling up in one tall mound, causing the machine's sensors to trip the "full" signal when the bin is only around half full.
Second, several users say they had problems with the on/off switch. It needs to be pressed twice to wake the machine up from its sleep cycle. Also, the machine won't turn back on unless the bag is secured very snugly against the plastic tab that holds it in the bin. Neither of these problems is covered in the user manual, and owners are miffed at how hard it was to find the solutions. Still, most users think this is a good paper shredder for the money. The machine is backed by a 3-year warranty.