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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