Color printers narrow the speed gap
Printers from Lexmark, Oki Printing Solutions, and Xerox approach 36 ppm for color printingFollow @infoworld
The C9600hdn's design mixes better and worse points. The bulky, 150-pound-plus machine has sturdy grips on three sides (none in front) for lifting, but their placement -- near the middle of each side, instead of near the corners -- makes balancing difficult. The whole top half opens up to expose the paper path and other components. It's a bit hard to reach the belt, but the fuser, toner cartridges, and other items are readily accessible. One warning: If you slide an imaging drum into its slot when the corresponding toner cartridge is not in place, the action releases a pretty good puff of toner.
The main paper tray feels flimsy and wiggly, and its sticky paper guide resisted our efforts to adjust the length setting. To its credit, however, it automatically senses both media size and type -- an unusual capability for this category. A slot on the outside of the tray takes interchangeable, hard-plastic media labels, which are included with the printer. The auxiliary tray has strong hinges and feels sturdy except for the last, short flap.
The control panel has it quirks but does provide one distinctive feature: The LCD and buttons sit on a tiltable flap, so users of any height can read it comfortably. The interface could be better designed, however: Back and Enter have confusing double functions as navigational buttons, and the lack of a numeric keypad forces you to scroll endlessly to set up the IP address or enter a password. A password-protected administrator menu covers mostly network configuration and security, but other sensitive items, such as adjusting the print position and calibrating color, nestle on unprotected menus.
The C9600hdn offers cheaper consumables than the similar Lexmark C920dn. It costs a modest 1.5 cents for a page of black text and a reasonable 10.5 cents for lightly covered color graphics. Oki Printing Solutions ships the machine with half-full cartridges.
Optional accessories include external collating finishers (four trays for $3,189; five trays for $3,811), both of which staple and can be equipped with a hole-puncher for an additional $369. An external 1,600-sheet feeder costs $1,104. Additional 530-sheet paper trays cost $424. The standard warranty provides one year of on-site service and five years for the LED array. An extra year of on-site service costs $875; two extra years, $1,655.
Xerox Phaser 6350DT
Xerox's Phaser 6350DT offers high-speed color printing in a more compact, letter/legal-size package than the hulking Lexmark and Oki Printing Solutions models we tested. But it also offers some difficult trade-offs. Although it printed quickly overall, print quality was middling. Its low purchase price is offset over time by higher consumables costs.
The Phaser 6350DT's performance is paradoxical. Its 10.1-ppm graphics speed was the fastest in our tests, but its 24.9-ppm text speed was the slowest. Cleaning and calibration cycles frequently interrupted print jobs. Print quality disappointed us overall: Text looked slightly gray and a bit fuzzy. Some colors printed inaccurately -- for example, solid blocks of magenta and cyan came out purple and teal, respectively -- and large areas of color gradation looked blotchy and streaky. Color photos appeared dotty and a little blurry.
The Phaser 6350DT's design is mostly good. The two standard input trays automatically inform the printer of the loaded media's size, but they have no label to inform users. The front, fold-out auxiliary tray has plastic hinges but is sturdy enough to withstand everyday use.