Color printers hit higher speeds
Vendors rev the engines, but short- and long-term costs remain highFollow @infoworld
Color printers on the office network can serve important purposes. Your organization's design or publications group probably considers a color printer essential for creating public documents such as Web page layouts, brochures, mailers, and posters. They're handy in finance, marketing, and other departments for producing reports, presentations, and other internal documents.
Some offices might have the volume or graphics-intensive apps necessary for one of the fast, 30-plus-ppm (pages per minute) printers we reviewed recently; for the rest, there's a wide selection of models with midrange engine-speed specs of 20 ppm to 30 ppm for printing in color. This group encompasses both the letter/legal-size printers most businesses use, plus tabloid-size models for more specialized jobs.
New models offer diverse talents
Our roundup compares eight office printers from seven major vendors, all with midrange engine-speed specs of 24 ppm to 30 ppm for color printing. Despite the narrow speed range, the diverse lineup includes six letter/legal-size printers and two tabloid-size, and one that marks the image with LEDs instead of a laser.
We also tested the Xerox Phaser 8550DX, which uses solid ink instead of powdered toner to lay color on the page. Midrange printers that appeared in last year's roundup were not retested, but some are still available. A few vendors were caught between product cycles and couldn't participate.
The three top-rated printers in our roundup -- Ricoh's Aficio CL7200, Hewlett-Packard's Color LaserJet 5550dtn, and Xerox's Phaser 6300DN -- show how far the midrange category has come in the past year and a half. Engine-speed specs continue to rise: Xerox claims the Phaser 6300DN can print monochrome documents as fast as 36 ppm and color ones as fast as 26 ppm. Although our tests showed the usual -- sometimes vast -- difference between the ideal and the real, the Phaser 6300DN was still one of the fastest printers we tested, posting an average speed of 21.7 ppm printing a plain-text file and 13.8 ppm printing various graphics files.
Print quality is also improving: The Ricoh Aficio CL7200 and the HP Color LaserJet 5550dtn were adept both at finely drawn text and realistic, nicely saturated color graphics. Some of the other printers we tested still struggled with these issues but rarely to a distressing degree.