Panasonic Adds A Little Color

Enters color laser market with CL500 printer

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Though Panasonic is no stranger to the printing arena, it's just getting its feet wet in the color laser segment. Yet the CRN Test Center thinks Panasonic is off to a solid start with the debut of the single-pass WORKiO CL500, its first color laser printer.

The CL500, slated to appear at TechXNY/PC Expo in New York this week, is sure to set some new standards. As the smallest color laser printer now available, the 66-pound unit measures 16.5 inches wide, 21.1 inches deep and 15.5 inches high. Panasonic, in fact, had to create a new single-pass engine for this compact printer, which can print up to 17 pages per minute in color and up to 21 ppm in black and white. It doesn't take 11 x 17-inch paper.

At first glance, one might consider the CL500 a personal color laser printer, but Panasonic has made a 10/100 network interface card standard with the product. The CL500's estimated street price, less than $2,000, likely will drop low enough to make the printer widely available.

Resellers should find the CL500 an easy sale, considering that many customers probably have already paid much more for a monochrome laser printer. According to Panasonic, monochrome pages will cost 1.67 cents each to print, and color pages will cost 8.9 cents each to print over five years.

Since the CL500 is targeted at the SMB market, Panasonic ensured that it has a low cost of ownership. The toner cartridges are simple to install and relatively inexpensive to replace. Test Center engineers were able to install the cartridges without consulting the manual. Black cartridges cost $24.99 each, and color cartridges cost $71.99 each. Under the next-day Express Exchange warranty, users can get a replacement unit sent to them overnight.

Test Center engineers examined a beta CL500 unit and noticed some print imperfections, but Panasonic said the problem would be eliminated in production units. Assuming that occurs, the Test Center deems the CL500 a winner. No other color laser printer is as space-savvy or easy to set up. It also meets its rated specifications and is plenty fast for the SMB space.

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