Most small businesses don't need a high-end color laser printer and don't want to pay for one either.
But while there are other color printing technologies that don't cost as much as laser, such as inkjet and solid-ink, laser printers are the only ones that deliver a consistently crisp, professional image. Laser printers also print much faster than inkjets, especially when printing full-color pages and photographs.
Now there are two new color laser printers that offer a less expensive alternative while also using a minimal amount of desktop real estate.
Hewlett-Packard's $1,499 LaserJet 2500n is a 600-x-600-dpi color laser printer with an enhanced 2,400-dpi mode. It measures 14.8 inches high by 18.9 inches wide by 17.7 inches deep, and it weighs about 53 pounds. The 2500n model includes a 10/100 NIC and an extra 250-sheet paper tray. With the included second paper tray, the 2500n has an input capacity of 375 sheets. Output capacity is 125 sheets. It has a recommended monthly duty cycle of 30,000 pages.
Setup procedures for the LaserJet 2500n are easy but not intuitive. Turning on the printer initiates an installation process whereby a carousel inside the unit automatically advances to the proper position for each toner cartridge to be installed one by one through a door in the top panel.
The Minolta-QMS Magicolor 2300 DL, which costs $799, is a 2,400-x-600-dpi color laser printer that measures approximately 15.5 inches high by 14 inches wide by 20 inches deep and weighs about 61 pounds.
HP's LaserJet 2500n is a 600-x-600-dpi color laser printer with enhanced 2,400-dpi mode. It measures 14.8 x 18.9 x 17.7 inches and weighs about 53 pounds. It is priced at $1,499.
An automatic duplexer module is optional. The DL model includes 10/100 Ethernet, USB and parallel interfaces. It is rated for a monthly duty cycle of up to 35,000 pages per month. This printer has a 200-sheet standard input capacity, with an optional lower feeder that holds 500 sheets. Output capacity is also 200 sheets.
The Magicolor 2300 DL is easy to set up because it's more or less ready to print right out of the box; all consumables come pre-installed. The printer ships with standard capacity toner cartridges that yield up to 1,500 pages at 5 percent coverage. Optional high-capacity cartridges yield up to 4,500 pages at 5 percent coverage. Test Center engineers mildly object to the "low-capacity" toner cartridges that are essentially high-capacity units only one-third full.
The LaserJet 2500n and Magicolor 2300 DL are both rated at 16 ppm in monochrome and 4 ppm in color. Neither printer will accept paper that's wider than 8.5 inches.
Test Center engineers tested the performance of both printers using two 10-page Word document files; one was all black, and the other was in black with color headings.
The LaserJet 2500n took 18 seconds to print the first page of the monochrome document and 51 seconds to produce all 10. It took 32 seconds for the first page of the color document to print and 2 minutes, 46 seconds for all 10.
Minolta-QMS' Magicolor 2300 DL is a 2,400-x-600-dpi color laser printer that measures about 15.5 x 14 x 20 inches and weighs about 61 pounds. It is priced at $799.
The Magicolor 2300 DL took 16 seconds to print the first page of the monochrome document and 50 seconds to produce all 10. It took 28 seconds for the first page of the color document to print and 2 minutes, 41 seconds for all 10. Up to this point, both printers performed similarly, and both were close to rated specs.
Two color images from the Spencer & Associates printer test suite were also used to gauge performance and image quality.
A processor-intensive photo of a castle took the LaserJet 2500n 2 minutes, 48 seconds to print, while another file containing line art, a color photo and text in different point sizes took 43 seconds to print.
Apparently, the Magicolor 2300 DL can process data faster but can't necessarily print faster. It printed the castle image in only 1 minute, 28 seconds, but the mixed image took 49 seconds to print. Output from the Minolta printer looked better than that created by the HP unit.
If price, performance and image quality are paramount concerns, Test Center engineers would choose the Minolta Magicolor 2300 DL over the HP LaserJet 2500n.
Solution providers, however, might find that some customers are more easily sold on the HP brand name. But those same customers can buy two of the Minolta printers for little more than the price of one HP unit.