A3+ colour laser printers

Introduction

Walk into any small- to medium-sized graphic design studio, and the chances are you’ll find one or more A3+ inkjet printers – often in conjunction with a software RIP – used as a proofing tool. And that’s great – as long as you’re producing one-off proofs of no more than a few pages. However, if you do work in such a studio, you might sometimes be faced with proofing a larger document – an entire brochure or catalogue, for instance – and you really can’t afford to wait for the RIP to process the Postscript data from your InDesign file. Plus, if you’re printing a sizeable document you’re likely to run through at least one set of inkjet cartridges – not to mention the sheer volume of paper, if you’re printing single-sided. The alternative? Well, until fairly recently not much – or at least not at a price that could be considered cost-effective by a self-employed designer or small design studio.

In recent years, however, the cost of one alternative – the workgroup colour laser printer – has not exactly plummeted, but dropped to a level that makes it viable for a broader range of users.

For this test we’ve taken six candidates from some of the leading manufacturers and set them head-to-head. All the printers in this group test are networkable – some, such as Konica Minolta’s Magicolor 8650DN and the Lexmark C935DN, with Gigabit Ethernet. All are capable of automatic duplexing, either as standard or as an option.

There is, as you might expect, a comprehensive range of options available for each printer, including additional paper trays, internal hard disks and finishing options such as booklet folding, stapling and saddle stitching, depending on the manufacturer.

In addition, each printer is capable of handling a broad range of media types and weights so, where this information is available, we’ll mention it in the reviews of the individual units.

In fact, the capabilities of most of these printers mean that they are serious candidates if you’re looking to move your leaflet or brochure printing in-house – a common enough business strategy these days. Which raises one final factor for consideration: cost of ownership. Any saving made on no longer paying someone else to do the printing would have to be offset against the not inconsiderable cost of consumables for these printers, so we’ve taken a close look at that too. Let’s see, then, how they stack up.

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