- Review Price: £126.00
In a world where video calls on mobiles have become reality, sending text messages has generated its very own vernacular and fridges can be accessed via the Internet it seems incredible that a technology like fax is still going.
But, in it its own quiet way, going it still is. Look carefully around most offices (you do have to hunt a bit harder than you used to, admittedly) and you’ll probably find a fax machine hiding away somewhere.
Why hasn’t it gone the way of the Dodo? After all, email is so much easier to use, isn’t it? It’s probably down to the fact that it’s such a simple technology to get to grips with and use. To send an important document, diagram, map or contract all it takes is an appreciation of how to use a phone and a photocopier.
It’s a useful emergency backup, too, a robust technology that still has its uses when the Internet connection goes down or you have a hard copy of something you want to send and there’s no scanner nearby, which is why companies like Panasonic are still producing machines like the KX-FC235E. Incidentally we love the name – it’s so … fax.
Of course it would be churlish to produce a plain old fax machine these days without at least adding a few extras to persuade folks that it’s not such boring old technology. To this end, the KX is fully equipped with the latest in DECT answer phone technology. That’s one of those wireless, digital phone thingies just in case you were wondering.
The phone part in general works very well. It’s a doddle to set up and use, something that cannot be said for all DECT answer-machine phones, and it’s packed with useful features. In fact the handset offers the sort of functionality that most mobile phones do: it has caller ID functionality, both handset and base unit store numbers that have been dialled and received (you can print a list of these out), there’s a searchable phonebook with room for 200 numbers, answer phone functions can be accessed remotely and you can even use the thing for sending SMS messages if your operator allows it.
Added to this there’s speakerphone capability in both handset and base unit, which is very useable if you like that sort of thing (can’t stand it myself – I always end up shouting at the phone). The digital answer phone will store 18 minutes of messages, which is enough for 36 messages at 30 seconds each. What’s more, the KX can be set up to automatically answer faxes and phone calls.
The copying and faxing part (the KX is not designed to be connected to your PC) is less impressive. This is mainly due to the fact that the KX uses a rather antiquated method of printing – thermal transfer. Though it isn’t going to be too much of an issue for a stand-alone fax machine, it means that print quality isn’t great on standard paper. It’s slow too, printing pages and copying at a rate of just over two pages a minute at ‘Fine’ quality. But these are the least of its problems.
Thermal printing means that you have to be careful about the type of paper you use. Certain types of letterhead paper that contains more than ’20 per cent fibre content’ can’t be used. Nor can paper lighter than 64g/m2 or heavier than 80g/m2 be used, which leaves you with a pretty limited range of paper types.
And if all of that wasn’t irritating enough the low capacity of the film roll – each one only lasts 105 A4 pages – will mean the unit needs frequent attention. Considering that fax machines these days are generally set up and forgotten about until they are needed this is a rather major limitation and means that your office manager will have to have the foresight to keep a couple of spares in reserve. And it looks as if he’ll have to get on the phone to the film supplier pretty early – the ‘starter’ roll supplied with the KX is only good for 28 pages.
Finally, adding insult to injury, replacement rolls cost around £15 for a pair, which means that each page of low-res, black-and-white, average quality printout costs around 7p per page to print. That’s higher than even the most ink-hungry of colour inkjet multifunction devices these days and much less efficient than laser-based units.
The KX-FC235 is a bit of a weird compromise. As a DECT base unit answer-phone and handset combination it works really well. It is very easy to use and has plenty of features packed in.
The thing is, the fax functionality feels a little too much of an afterthought. Its old-school thermal transfer technology is slow, expensive to run and requires too much in the way of maintenance to be useful in anything but a very occasional capacity. And, at £125, the KX isn’t great value either, especially when you consider how cheap both DECT answer phones and decent multifunction devices are these days.
Our advice? 1 – Buy a Panasonic DECT answer-phone. 2 – Buy an inkjet multifunction device with fax functionality. 3 – Use the money you’ve saved to order a tasty takeaway pizza and rent out a DVD. Much better value for money.