Network Printers: Leading Lasers

 
 
By M. David Stone  |  Posted 2004-04-02 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

For heavy-duty business printing, you can't beat the monochrome laser's work ethic.

Despite the allure of the color laser, the network monochrome laser printer remains the leading choice for businesses. More precisely, its the preferred choice for businesses that print thousands of pages per month and require one or more printers that have built-in Ethernet cards, duplexers, 35– to 50–page-per-minute ratings, and 1,000-page or better input capacity.

Network laser printers also have such options as hard drives, cost-tracking tools, and a multitude of paper trays. For those whose task it is to purchase such beasts, PC Magazine Labs tested nine of these printers to make your job easier.

The surprising news for this class of printers is its ease of installation. Installing a single network printer—or, worse, a newly arrived shipment of several network printers—used to be a daunting proposition. But companies have finally made setup easier. A few installation routines stand out as particularly slick, but even the hardest installation routine in this group is not all that difficult.

As always for this class of printers, we took a careful look at network installation and remote management tools, including the ability to check printer status without walking to the printer. These features can affect the total cost of printing in terms of time saved or wasted. Management features also affect the person charged with supporting and maintaining the printers in your office.

Only four of these printers handle tabloid-size paper. But this feature increases the cost enough to make you think twice before buying such a model. The tabloid-size printers in our roundup cost from $3,080 to $4,060; the range for letter- and legal-size printers is $1,377 to $2,700. And the most expensive letter- and legal-size printers are packed with extras, compared with relatively stripped-down offerings for the least expensive tabloid-size printers.

Once testing was finished, we had one more surprise: The Xerox Phaser 4500DT—with one of the slowest-rated engines in the group, at 36 ppm—turned in the fastest times on our performance suite. Count this as one more reason you shouldnt take manufacturers engine ratings as the last word in printer performance.

One finding that didnt surprise us: Output quality was about the same across the board. All the printers turned in respectable quality scores ranging from 6.0 to 7.1 out of 10, which means you can all but eliminate output quality as a factor in choosing one printer over another. If wading through manufacturers technical specs is making you dizzy, well help you sort out what really matters.

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M. David Stone is an award-winning freelance writer and computer industry consultant with special areas of expertise in imaging technologies (including printers, monitors, large-screen displays, projectors, scanners, and digital cameras), storage (both magnetic and optical), and word processing. His 25 years of experience in writing about science and technology includes a nearly 20-year concentration on PC hardware and software. He also has a proven track record of making technical issues easy for non-technical readers to understand, while holding the interest of more knowledgeable readers. Writing credits include eight computer-related books, major contributions to four others, and more than 2,000 articles in national and worldwide computer and general interest publications. His two most recent books are The Underground Guide to Color Printers (Addison-Wesley, 1996) and Troubleshooting Your PC, (Microsoft Press, 2000, with co-author Alfred Poor).

Much of David's current writing is for PC Magazine, where he has been a frequent contributor since 1983 and a contributing editor since 1987. His work includes feature articles, special projects, reviews, and both hardware and software solutions for PC Magazine's Solutions columns. He also contributes to other magazines, including Wired. As Computers Editor at Science Digest from 1984 until the magazine stopped publication, he wrote both a monthly column and additional articles. His newspaper column on computers appeared in the Newark Star Ledger from 1995 through 1997.

Non-computer-related work includes the Project Data Book for NASA's Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (written for GE's Astro-Space Division), and magazine articles and AV productions on subjects ranging from cosmology to ape language experiments. David also develops and writes testing scripts for leading computer magazines, including PC Magazine's PC Labs. His scripts have covered a wide range of subjects, including computers, scanners, printers, modems, word processors, fax modems, and communications software. He lives just outside of New York City, and considers himself a New Yorker at heart.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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