A4 colour laser printers group test

Introduction

When it comes to workgroup printing, colour is now king – colour laser printers, that is. While many small businesses – and schools, to a certain extent – still rely on mono lasers for day-to-day print jobs, colour printing adds that extra professional edge to the company logo on your letterhead, or that new leaflet that’s just back from the art department.

Printers in such environments might equally be called upon to produce a montage of photos from a school trip as a couple of hundred pages of a Word document or technical manual, with – just for good measure – a short run of two-sided copies of a flyer or newsletter to be sent out as a mailing. Variety, then, was going to be the watchword for the series of tests to which we were going to subject our select band of lasers printers
Each of the printers we tested needed to be capable of auto-duplexing. A duplex unit adds to the weight – and cost – of a printer, but it brings the benefit of allowing the user to print on both sides of a sheet of paper without having to feed the output back in after one side has been printed (manual duplexing). The printers on test all used the same, multipass method of duplexing, in which one side is printed before the paper is turned over by the print mechanism and the other side printed. This is sometimes termed the ‘peek-a-boo’ method, as the paper emerges briefly from the printer after the first side has been printed, and is then pulled back for the other side to be printed.

We also decided that each of the printers should be adept at reproducing photos at a more than reasonable quality. In fact, two of our test batch – the Brother HL-4070CDW and the Lexmark C734DN – have built-in PictBridge ports for direct connection of a PictBridge-compatible digital camera for printing photos without the use of a computer, while Hewlett-Packard’s multifunction Color LaserJet CM2320fxi sports a selection of card slots on the front panel.

As if that weren’t enough, we also enlisted the help of a local firm of digital printers. We asked them to supply us with original PDF files of some of the jobs that had shown up the shortcomings of their own high-volume colour lasers, and act as judge and jury for us. And so, with the addition of the Dell 3130CN, Kyocera’s FS-C5350DN, and the Samsung CLP 770ND, our group test began.

Just to be certain, we also took a look at the cost of toner replacement. This was definitely going to be a tough one.