Colour Laser Printers

Introduction

Every Mac needs a printer, and there’s more choice now than ever before. Colour laser technology is a fairly recent arrival, and it was only a few years ago that an A4 colour laser would set you back at least £600. Since then the technology has become faster and cheaper, and lasers are now competing on cost with inkjets – traditionally the most accessible way to create colour output.

The most obvious laser advantage is speed. Many colour lasers can print 10 colour pages in the time it takes an inkjet to print one, and for high-volume work in offices and home businesses, the difference is enough to make lasers the obvious choice. Running costs are also significantly lower. Coverage for laser toner cartridges will be measured in thousands rather than hundreds of pages. So even though toner replacement costs can be steep – expect to pay between £50 to £100 per toner, multiplied by four for each of the CMYK colour packs – the cost per page can still be low.

But what about output quality? Laser resolution may be as low as 600dpi, compared to 1,440dpi for inkjet, but technical differences mean that laser output is very much sharper on the page. Even though colour laser output has a slight sheen because of the fusing process, it’s ideal for promotional artwork, presentations. Fine art and photo printing are less likely as applications, because laser prints fade comparatively quickly.

Lasers offer a good all-round solution for anyone who needs fast, high volume printing. With that in mind we looked at six popular colour laser printers to see what they could offer in terms of speed – both processing/setup speed and nominal pages per minute using a standard test page – quality, ease of use and all-round practicality. We’ve included one high-end A3 printer for comparison, to show what you get if you’re prepared to spend more. But most of our models are A4 sized, divided approximately into vertical ‘Dalek’ and boxier ‘breadbin’ stylings. While testing we found some surprisingly large variations in speed, reliability, ease of use and output quality. Read on to find out which model came out top…

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