Color printers narrow the speed gap
Printers from Lexmark, Oki Printing Solutions, and Xerox approach 36 ppm for color printingFollow @infoworld
Ah, color printers: they dazzle you with their output, but then they disappoint with slow print speeds -- especially on full-color pages.
Little has changed since we reviewed a small army of them last year, but a few new models have appeared at the faster end of the spectrum. Most corporate color lasers offer engines capable of printing text and graphics at 20 to 30 pages per minute. The vendors promise the printers in our test can achieve plain-text printing speeds of 36 to 40 ppm and color graphics printing of 32 to 36 ppm. You probably won't see those top speeds during regular use, of course, but these printers are still among the fastest around.
The Lexmark C920dn and the Oki Printing Solutions C9600hdn are both tabloid-size and use an array of LEDs to create the page image. The Xerox Phaser 6350DT offers a letter/legal-size paper path and a laser-based engine. The Oki Printing Solutions C9600hdn edges out the competition with high marks in speed, print quality, and value.
We've revised our test methodology to give these higher-speed printers a chance to hit their stride. We also altered our cost-of-consumables formula to reflect a typical office's higher volume of plain-text printing versus color printing. Our takeaway: Comparison-shop consumables as carefully as you do the printer.
Because color printers cost more to use, managing who gets to use them is key to controlling your budget. Look for management software that allows you to lock out single users or entire groups from specific features, or from printing after-hours. Ask whether you can turn off or password-protect the control-panel menus. Unfortunately, we have yet to see a printer that allows you to fine-tune which menus to leave wide open and which to restrict.
The Lexmark C920dn trails the top-ranked Oki Printing Solutions C9600hdn by a hair. Both are tabloid-size LED printers. The C920dn, however, prints nicer-looking color graphics and offers some better design elements, but it comes in a little slower overall, with lesser text quality and pricier consumables.
The 920dn printed standout color and good monochrome output -- but somewhat slowly. Graphics pages averaged 8.1 ppm, which was slightly faster than the Oki Printing Solutions C9600hdn. Color graphics were cleanly drawn and saturated, and photos looked sharp and detailed. Grayscale photos, on the other hand, seemed a bit fuzzy and too dark. Text pages printed at a middling speed of 25.4 ppm in our new tests and showed a faint haze around letters.
The C920dn's 180-pound bulk contains many nice features. The standard paper drawer and multipurpose tray feel a bit flimsy but are easy to adjust and load. The drawer automatically communicates the loaded media's size to the printer; you dial a rotary label to display the correct media size on the front of the tray. Users can store forms on the optional, expensive ($535) 20GB hard drive, or they can plug a flash drive into a front USB port and print files in PDF, HTML, and other open formats. The top half of the printer lifts on sturdy arms to expose the belt and drums.