Practical FaxMe. (peripheral controller turns printer into fax machine) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Stephen Levy
First, there was Long Distance Xerography; then came the first desktop fax, the Telecopier I. Soon after, improvements in fax technology developed to the point where today we have automatic, plain-paper fax machines and computer software and hardware that can turn your system into a fax machine. Recently, Practical Peripherals introduced the new Practical FaxMe cartridge. This device turns any Hewlett-Packard LaserJet series II or III printer with at least 1MB of expansion memory into a plain-paper fax machine for receiving faxes.
Unlike adding a fax board to a computer, the FaxMe is easy to install. You simply insert the cartridge into the slot of the LaserJet and attach the phone connector--and you're all set. If you do nothing else, as long as your printer is on and the phone line is connected, the FaxMe changes your LaserJet printer into a plain-paper fax receiver.
Most people, though, won't want to simply turn their printer into a fax machine; they'll also want to use the LaserJet for its original purpose. Don't worry, you still can. The FaxMe cartridge is designed with a full range of settings and options, the most important being the three operations modes: fax receiving only, printer only, and automatic switching. You can also set the FaxMe with the date, day of the week, time, speed, and other usual settings you'd expect to set on a fax machine. As when you make changes to the settings on the LaserJet, setting or changing the settings of the FaxMe involves pushing a series of buttons on the printer's control panel in the correct order.
I tested the FaxMe on the LaserJet II and IIP by sending faxes that varied in length and density of type and graphics. All faxes were received in acceptable quality on plain paper. I also sent the same faxes to my office's regular fax machine, which uses standard rolled fax paper. As you'd expect, plain-paper faxes are much easier to handle, not to mention more convenient. There wasn't much difference in the quality of the graphics on the LaserJet/FaxMe combo compared to the regular fax machine with rolled paper. The text, though--including the entire TrueType Wingdings font--printed more clearly with the FaxMe.
Who needs the FaxMe? It doesn't replace a regular fax machine or a fax board in a computer, since it doesn't send faxes. The FaxMe is priced lower than most plain-paper fax machines, though. Therefore, if you have a LaserJet with enough memory and only need a fax-receiving device, this may be just what you need. You also might find the built-in battery an important option to consider. Once you've set the cartridge, you don't have to keep resetting it.
The FaxMe operates as advertised and comes with a lifetime limited warranty. But it's not for everyone. Those who need to both receive and send faxes might want to consider another option. But if you only intend to receive faxes or if you're considering replacing your fax machine because you're tired of rolled-up faxes, you might consider the Practical FaxMe cartridge as an effective alternative.