In the age of the smartphone, faxes are still sometimes necessary. You can save yourself the trouble of maintaining a phone line and dusting off your fax machine with an online fax service, such as Biscom 1-2-3. This service keeps things very simple, letting you send and receive faxes via your email inbox. That said, it’s expensive for to the number of fax pages you get, and you cannot fax to international numbers. Furthermore, you can’t send faxes from its web interface and its mobile apps don’t actually allow you to send a fax. Fax.Plus and HelloFax are our Editors’ Choice winners for online fax services.
Biscom 1-2-3 keeps it mercifully simple with just two pricing tiers. The Individual plan gets you 30 pages of sent or received faxes for $7.99 per month. Additional faxes over that limit cost 7 cents per page. If you fork over $14.99 per month for the Small Group plan, the page limit increases to 300 shared among five users, with the same per-page overage fee. Biscom 1-2-3 offers a free trial for 30 days or 30 pages (whichever comes first) that doesn’t require you to enter any credit card information.
Biscom 1-2-3’s 30-page base plan is very expensive and the worst value in terms of price per page of the services we’ve tested. Nextiva vFAX, for comparison, costs $8.95 per month and offers 500 pages with only a 3-cent overage fee for each additional page. HelloFax costs $9.99 per month for 300 pages and a 5-cent overage per page. RingCentral Fax, meanwhile, has an entry-level price of $22.99 that offers 1,500 pages and a 4.9-cent overage fee. SRFax offers the cheapest paid fax plan we tested; for $3.29 per month you can send or receive 25 pages.
Even eFax, which costs $16.95 per month for 150 pages, is a better value per page than Biscom 1-2-3. However, eFax also charges a one-time $10 setup fee; no other service we tested charges a setup fee.
(Editors’ Note: eFax, MetroFax, MyFax, and SRFax are owned by j2 Global, the parent company of PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Davis.)
If you don’t want to pay to send or receive a fax, you do have options. For example, both HelloFax and Fax.Plus offer free tiers, albeit with an allocation of fax pages that doesn’t replenish each month. On the other hand, FaxZero lets you send up to five free faxes per day (each fax you send can include up to three pages). Biscom 1-2-3 doesn’t allow you to send a fax to international numbers.
Biscom 1-2-3 does provide mobile apps, but as we discuss later, we ran into serious problems with them. That’s too bad, as we rate mobile apps as an important part of a fax service, since phones are an excellent platform for faxing, thanks to their built-in cameras. After all, apps are typically more intuitive than using an email client or mobile web browser.
To get started with Biscom 1-2-3, you just enter your name, email, and phone number. As mentioned, you don’t need to provide credit card information if you’re using the free trial. After you submit the short signup form, you receive an email with a confirmation link. Click it, and the link takes you to a page where you create a password and username. We like that Biscom 1-2-3 doesn’t assign a weak passcode and then send it to you via email, which some other fax services do—sometimes in plaintext. RingCentral Fax, it should be noted, has an even more security-conscious setup process that involves a confirmation code sent by phone. However, neither of these services support two-factor authentication, something HelloFax does.
Note that we did not need to choose a fax number at any point in the sign-up process, since Biscom 1-2-3 just assigns one to you automatically. We previously reached out to the company for more information about how numbers are assigned and were told that the standard practice is to assign users a toll-free number.
Biscom 1-2-3’s main page on the web shows a profile summary with your fax number, some account information, and—most importantly—how many pages you have remaining for the month. If you haven’t purchased a plan, there’s a large Purchase button you can use to take care of that. Note that if you start with a trial for one version, but want to switch after it expires, you may run into a problem. When we clicked through to enter payment information, the only choice was for the plan we used for the trial. A representative from Biscom 1-2-3 previously explained that you may have to pay before you can upgrade (or downgrade).
Tabs across the top let you control other Users on your account and see how often you’ve been billed. This last one is important if you anticipate going over your allotted pages each month. The Fax Log section shows a record of sent and received faxes, but it notably does not let you preview the content of faxes.
A critical difference between Biscom 1-2-3 and most other fax services is that you cannot send faxes from its web interface. No other service has this limitation. For example, mFax and HelloFax feature well-designed, feature-packed, and intuitive web interfaces. In fact, we prefer nearly every other service’s web interface solely for their ability to actually send faxes from them.
With Biscom, faxing is handled entirely by email. To send a fax, simply use the address format: [recipient’s first name].[recipient’s last name].[recipient’s-fax-number]@biscom123.com. Fill out the subject line and body with any text you want to include, attach any files, and send it off. The service supports Adobe PDF, JPEG, Microsoft Office, PNG, and TIFF file formats for attachments. Faxes sent to your fax number will also materialize in your inbox.
There are a couple of key limitations for sending faxes with Biscom 1-2-3. if you want to send faxes from a different email address than the one you signed up with, you’ll have to add it in the Fax User section of the Biscom 1-2-3 site. Another restriction, as mentioned, is that you can only send faxes to domestic numbers; the Biscom 1-2-3 address format does not include the country code before the area code.
Biscom 1-2-3 is available as both an Android app (version 4 and later) and iOS app (version 8 and later), but we don’t recommend trying to use either of them and not just because they were last updated in 2016. For instance, there are multiple apps from Biscom in the store with “Fax” somewhere in the name; you should download the one called Biscom 1-2-3. More importantly, however, there is nowhere for you to log in to the app. As we soon discovered, this app is basically a just conduit to your email app of choice—and a poor one at that.
To start, enter the fax number of your recipient, a subject, and whatever memo you want to send along. You can add file attachments here, but note that the in-app viewer only supports PDF and TIFF files. Presumably, one might want to use a mobile faxing service to fax a picture (JPEG) of a document, but you would not be able to preview that inside the app.
Once you finish filling out those details, hit the blue send button in the lower right-hand corner to share it with your email client of choice. That’s right; you can’t actually send a fax from the app. You need to port it over to email and send it from there. However, in the transition to email, the fax address broke into two parts and we had to reenter it in Biscom’s format manually before we could sending it. Users should just compose the fax using the email app.
One reason you might use Biscom’s mobile apps are for its document editing tools. If you open a supported file in the app, you can sign it, add check marks, write text, or add date and time information. Fax.Plus also allows you to sign documents from the mobile app.
eFax, iFax, and RingCentral Fax all offer dedicated desktop apps in addition to mobile apps.
PCMag no longer has any fax machines in our office (and, in any case, we are all working from home now). So, we test fax services by sending sample faxes between two online fax services. With Biscom 1-2-3, we received faxes via email without an issue, but we found that we needed to use a mobile email app to actually send them. We didn’t have an issue trying to send faxes from a web email client with other fax services.
We tested Biscom 1-2-3’s fax quality by sending two test documents from it: a graphics-heavy one and one that was mostly text. It performed about average. On the graphics-heavy page, the text was legible, if a bit obscured by background pixelation, while the graphic looked sharp, despite missing some of the finer gradients. On the simpler document, the text looked a bit light and pixelated. It also completely missed a series of vertical dots running down the left-hand side. That said, Biscom 1-2-3’s quality should be fine for most basic faxing needs.
Not as Easy as 1-2-3
While Biscom 1-2-3 integrates seamlessly into your existing email workflow, we are disappointed that it doesn’t allow you to send or receive faxes from its web interface. Furthermore, Biscom 1-2-3 is expensive for the number of fax pages you get, doesn’t let you choose your own number, and cannot send international faxes. Biscom’s fax quality is only average, as well. We instead recommend Editors’ Choice winner HelloFax, which only costs a few dollars more than Biscom 1-2-3 but is far more powerful and packed with feaures. Fax.Plus is also an Editors’ Choice pick for its flexible pricing and mobile app.
Biscom 1-2-3 Specs
|Price Per Month||$7.99|
|Pages Per Month||30 Pages Sent or Received|
|Overage Charges||7 Cents Per Page|