Ricoh and Xerox deliver fast color in a big way
Pricey and speedy models break the tabloid barrierFollow @infoworld
We scored performance and tested print speed using each printer’s Adobe PostScript driver’s default settings. It might be possible to coax better performance or better print quality from the machines by juggling driver settings before each job, but because the printers do not have equivalent nondefault settings, I stuck with the common denominator settings.
On print quality, the Ricoh beats the Xerox. It produces matte black text with a crisp, sharply focused look, not letting heavy text blob together nor dropping fine detail on light text. It prints color swatches spot on, although density does drop off somewhat in the middle of large areas. It also shades color and grayscale photos well, although a dot pattern visible in grayscale photos interferes a bit with rendering detail.
Ricoh’s Aficio CL7300D costs $5,095 in the configuration I tested -- $1,746 more than the Xerox Phaser 7400DN. The Ricoh does come with an extra internal paper tray plus a hard drive, but when you equip the Xerox with those useful items, the Ricoh still costs $748 more.
Ricoh’s consumables, however, are a bargain. After 50,000 prints (about a year’s worth), you’ll have spent $1,039 to keep your Ricoh CL7300D humming (not including paper or electricity), compared with $1,520 for the Xerox Phaser 7400DN; after 250,000 prints, the Ricoh bill will amount to $7,639 -- $10,215 for the Xerox. By that time, you’ll have long recuperated the higher purchase price. For my calculations, consumables costs reflect a running total of all purchases of replacement components at specific break points. They are not based on a generalized cost per page.
Note that pricing for Ricoh products is not entirely transparent because the company sells through a dealer network and often under a monthly contract that includes supplies. You may be able to negotiate better deals than the list prices quoted here.
Xerox Phaser 7400DN
The 7400DN shows some nice design touches. One of my favorites is the hinged control panel, which swivels from horizontal to vertical to accommodate tall and short people. The controller cover is also on hinges; you loosen two captive thumbscrews, and the door folds out of your way. A bracket over the output tray keeps prints in place if you open the case to clear a paper jam.
All the flaps and doors are labeled to match illustrations in the maintenance documentation. The external auxiliary feed and the main paper tray both feel fairly sturdy, but the size guides on it are somewhat balky. A slot on the tray holds reusable plastic size labels, which Xerox provides.
The LED-array design hangs the light sources from the ceiling of the printer’s paper path, so that opening the lid lifts much of the innards out of your way. And a cage that holds the drums and toner cartridges can raise a couple of inches to allow you to access paper jams at the image transfer belt without gutting the whole printer.
Xerox made the 7400DN friendly for users and system admins alike. A big backlit LCD displays six lines of text and takes advantage of the real estate to show prompts and menu paths. Users can also print some help files that are stored permanently on the printer, such as tutorials on color calibration and paper types. Extensive on-screen manuals fill in for brief, oversimplified printed documentation.
One minor UI flaw: The installation CD includes a useful tool called SupportCentre that displays video tutorials, FAQs, manuals, and so on, but it isn’t documented in the install guide; I just stumbled upon it by luck.