Phaser 6250n, C752n and Elite Color 16
IntroductionI've been telling people for years that colour printing is the future, and that mono lasers are old hat. In the more recent past, I've said that any office should be able to afford a colour printer, though most still have at least one mono laser. Unless you need to print more than 40 pages per minute, or your budget is under £500, there are very few excuses not to buy a colour laser. The proof is here, with three capable and reasonably priced printers. Each one is slightly different, but all should have your mono lasers quaking in their paper trays. The Xerox Phaser 6250n sets new standards in price and performance - as prices start at less than £2,000 including VAT, and it can comfortably churn out 24 pages per minute (ppm) in colour. As with all the models tested, the prices are variable depending on how many extras you want. You can add duplex, extra paper capacity and other things that will increase the price. The base network model, the Phaser 6250n, is just £1,609 excluding VAT, which offers amazing value. But this is by no means the cheapest printer of the three - but its performance is ahead of the competition. Speed-testing
When testing laser printers, there are different aspects to consider. The engine speed is the number of pages a printer can print once it gets warmed up. Normally after the first page prints, subsequent pages (duplicates) will print predictably at the quoted engine speed. This is fine for offices where people print lots of the same thing, but in more-creative places, that isn't the case. If you want to print out a PDF page, the processing can take longer than the printing. So the PostScript RIP (Raster Image Processor) needs to be fast. The test that gauges the speed of the image-processing is the first-page-to-print test. This is the length of time between pressing Print and the first page dropping onto the tray. The Phaser 6250n set a record on this test at 18.66 seconds. That's almost certainly faster than it takes you to stroll over to the printer and pick up the print. The next printer we looked at was the Lexmark C752n. It's also an A4 unit, though it runs at a more sedate 19ppm engine speed. Its first page to print is also slower at just over a minute. This is about average, however; it's the Xerox that's unusually fast. The Lexmark model comes in at a slightly higher price than the Xerox, and for corporate customers that have Lexmark printers already, there's little reason to change brands. While the performance doesn't quite match the Xerox, it isn't far off. The final printer we tested was the GCC Elite Color 16. It's fair to say that the GCC model bears more than a passing resemblance to the Xerox model. This in part is due to it using the same Fuji-Xerox print engine. This similarity is mostly superficial, however, because the performance of the GCC doesn't come close to the Xerox model - but then nor does the price. Phat controller
There are very few print-engine manufacturers in the world, and it's inevitable that the same engines will show up in different printers. But that doesn't mean that the printers are the same. A printer has three main components: the chassis, the engine, and the controller. Even if a printer has the same chassis and engine, the controller that drives the engine may differ and affect the performance in a big way. That's how two apparently identical printers can perform so differently. The GCC model takes around a minute to get our test page out, and then prints 16ppm at engine speed. The one thing I haven't touched on here is the quality of the output. While none of the three printers have achieved what I would term a perfect print, all three are very close in the quality stakes. The nature of laser printing seems to mean that there will always be some banding, registration errors, or artefacts on output - at least in units that print at this speed. I'm fairly sure that the old four-pass printers were capable of higher quality in the past. Sadly, the older generation topped out at around four pages per minute, and so had limited appeal.