by September 25, 2006 0 comments



Laser printers have been around since 1971 and yet they’re hot in demand
even today. Many exciting things have happened to this category over the recent
past. For one, the cost of owning and running a laser printer has come down
dramatically. From being an enterprise level product that was only meant to be
shared by a group of people, lasers have even reached the personal desktop,
making it an ideal choice for the senior management.

Color laser printers have been talked of for quite some time, but it’s only
recently that their costs have come down considerably for any office to consider
them seriously. With this, their adoption rate should increase considerably in
the near future, thereby allowing color printing of office documents in the
workplace. Looking at this trend, for the first time, we decided to also include
color laser printers in our shootout.

This time, we asked for monochrome lasers that fall between 20 to 40 ppm, and
color lasers with print speeds of up to 20 ppm. After receiving the models, we
further sub-divided the color lasers into two categories, and monos into three.
This decision was taken to ensure a fair comparison. The categories are as
follows:
Color Lasers:
1. Entry level
2. Mid range

Mono Lasers:
1. Personal mono lasers
2. Small workgroups
3. Medium workgroups

Before we get into the shootout, let’s answer a few pressing concerns every
organization is facing today.

Oh! for some more RAM
What do you do if you regularly print very
heavy pages and find your printer to be too slow? Your answer is to go in
for some extra RAM. And all but two of the color models reviewed here have
the facility of taking in extra RAM. But there is a catch, and a big one
at that. The price of extra RAM may be more than that of the printer
itself.

For example, the Samsung CLP-510 lists at Rs 20,000 and
an extra 128 MB of RAM will cost you Rs 22,000! And at the mid level, the
HP 3000dn costs Rs 94,000, while a RAM upgrade will set you back by
another Rs. 31,377. We tried talking to the vendors about this . To start
with, most of them were extremely hesitant to give us the price of the
extra RAM. And one of them even argued that no one really uses extra RAM.
We wonder why then do most models come with the option? In the good old
days, printers would use standard RAM. Our guess is that as with
cartridges, RAM also gives some extra margin!

The problem here is that you will realize you need more
RAM only after you have purchased and installed your printer, and by then
you are stuck with it. A good rule of thumb to use when purchasing would
be to check installed RAM and the price for atleast 256 if not 512 MB of
total RAM if you plan to print heavy
pages, regularly.

Laser MFD or Laser Printer?
We’ve already seen inkjet based MFDs overtaking inkjet printers, so the same
question for lasers is only natural. Today you can buy an entry level mono
laser-based MFD at a decent price tag of 18k, which includes a scanner, digital
laser copier, PC fax and a telephone handset. Likewise, a higher end laser based
MFD can even work as an organization’s communication hub. Laser based MFDs
definitely have an advantage there, but that doesn’t mean you should replace
all your laser printers with laser based MFDs. They will remain for the simple
reason that the usage for various functions of an MFD varies across every
department in an organization.

Not everybody needs to send out the same number of faxes, nor does everybody
require so much scanning. Everbody on the other hand needs to print, making a
strong case for laser printers. Also, when it comes to bulk purchase, laser
printers would still be more cost effective than laser MFDs.

Color or mono?
If you have high volume color printing requirements in the office, then go for
color lasers. They are definitely more economical than color inkjets. After
comparing the cost per print of the color lasers we received, we found that each
page on an average for a color laser can cost as low as Rs 3.12. The cost of a
color inkjet print however would be more.

How we tested
We used an Intel P4 3.2 GHz system with 512 MB RAM running on Win XP. All the
printers had a USB 2.0 interface, with a few having network interfaces and even
a parallel port. When a printer had both USB as well as Ethernet support, we
tested with the latter. It was done on an isolated network so that there was no
unnecessary traffic to hinder our test.

We performed ten tests for each printer to check for quality and speed of
printing. The tests were done using Word 2000, CorelDraw 9, and Adobe PhotoShop
7. Each test was repeated thrice and its average was considered. If the
difference between any two readings was more than 10 percent, the test was r
peated.

Print speed: We measured the printing speed using the following
mechanisms:
1. Time taken to print first page of a multi-page document.
2. Time taken to print multiple pages.
3. Time to print multiple copies of the same page.
4. Time to print a single page with a small graphic.
5. For color lasers, a 16 MB full-page photograph was printed and the time
recorded.

Print quality: After setting each printer to the maximum print
resolution it supported, we checked for the following:
1. Smallest readable font.
2. Full-page monochrome graphic.
3. Line art and curves.
4. Sharpness of a wedge patch: A wedge patch is a circle with many lines
extending out from the center towards its periphery. A good printer should be
able to replicate this with all the lines clearly visible, even at the center,
and without any overlaps or patches.
5. Quality of fountain fills: This is a smoothgradient of shades of gray.
We checked how accurately each printer was able to replicate this without any
banding.
6. Quality of full-page color image: Here, we have taken a full color image
print on plain paper as well as on photo paper and then compared the quality.

All the above tests were done on A4 Xerox paper. For color photo printing, we
used 173 GSM photo paper.

Features and upgradability: What can you upgrade in a printer and by
how much? We looked for the following:
1. Memory: How much RAM does a printer ship with and what’s the maximum it can
support?
2. Network: What are the various protocols and platforms that the printer
supports? How many network cards can it take?
3. Accessories: These include extra input trays, feeders, output bins,
duplexers, etc. These are all optional, and we checked how many did each printer
support.
4. Ease of upgrade: We looked at how easily you could access the different parts
inside to upgrade the printer, like adding a hard disk, more memory, or a
network card. We also checkedwhether a printer had its own proprietary memory
modules or if regular SDRAM could
be used.
5. We also looked for ease of setup, and configuration, printing modes, recovery
from paper jam, support for multiple platforms and other features, if any.

Pricing: Here we considered the actual cost of each printer, the cost
of its toner cartridge, cost of a RAM upgrade, and warranty.

Lastly, we used the Brown Gibson model to arrive at the weightages, which
were then used for the rankings.

Entry Level Color Laser Printers


Xerox Phaser 6120

Price: Rs 19,990 (1 yr warranty)
Contact: Xerox India, Gurgaon
PH: 9810296115
Email ID: d.bernard@xerox.com 
+ Lowest price,
high on features
High cost of consumables

This is the lowest priced color laser printer in the shootout. The printer is
meant for small offices. The rated color and monochrome print speed is 5 and 20
ppm respectively and it lived up to its spec in our tests. Xerox 6120 offers
USB, parallel as well as Ethernet options.

The printer also offers various expandability options such as adding a duplex
unit, hard drive and extra RAM. The printer can print at 2400 dpi, which is the
highest resolution for this category. The printer is powered by 300 MHz 32-bit
RISC processor and 128 MB RAM (expandable up to 640 MB). But, to expand the RAM,
you need to spend substantial money. To upgrade from 128 to 256 MB it will cost
you Rs 6,120. To expand the RAM to the maximum possible, you have to shell out
Rs 24,480, which is more than the cost of the printer itself.

Quality wise, the printer gave excellent output in color and mono, and
achieved highest scores in performance tests in this category. It scores the
highest points for features as it provides maximum RAM expandability and a
higher capacity paper tray. Another added bonus is that the printer supports
both PCL and Postscript, and is even Pantone certified.

It gives color prints @ Rs 5.90 and mono @ Rs 1.21 per printed page. Plus,
you have to spend Rs 8,853 for replacing the drum after printing
20,000 pages.

Bottom line: This is the best printer in
this category, due to its performance and features.

HP Color LaserJet 2600n

Price: Rs 19,999 (1 yr warranty)
Contact: HP India, Gurgaon 
PH: 2566111 
Email ID: kakuni.mahto@hp.com 
+ Good price,
no need to replace the drum 
RAM is not upgradeable 

This printer has a rated color print speed of 8 ppm, which is higher than the
other two in the category. However, its monochrome print speed is also
8 ppm, which is much lower than the other two. Being an office printer, it has a
network interface. It comes with 16 MB RAM and unfortunately, this cannot be
upgraded. Moreover, it does not have a duplex unit for double-sided printing,
which comes built-in with the Samsung printer.

However you can avail duplex printing on this printer, manually, using its
driver. The capacity of the input paper tray is 250 while that of the output
tray is 125. The printer can print at upto 600×600 dpi resolution. It gave us
good quality color prints and very good black and white prints for daily office
work. However, in the Grayscale test, it gave average quality mono prints due to
slight banding. For printing full color graphics, the printer took 22 secs and
for printing multiple pages it gave 8 ppm speed as rated.

It warmed-up in about 20 sec, which is acceptable if the printer is connected
to a network. In line art printing, the print quality was excellent with smooth
lines. In the CMY print test, the print quality was sharp but there was slight
banding in the printed sheet. The printer gives you full color prints @ Rs 4.50
and monochrome @ 60p per page, which is the best rate in this category. Plus,
the printer has an in-built imaging drum, which saves on the cost of replacing
the drum at the end of each duty cycle.

You just need to spend for its color and black cartridges.

Bottom line: A very effective printer
overall, but loses out on features.

Samsung CLP-510

Price: Rs 20,000 (1 yr warranty)
Contact: Samsung India Electronics, Delhi.
PH: 41511234
Email ID: anupam.k@samsung.com 
+Low cost per color page and highest ppm in this category  
Below average print quality, generates too much heat  

This is the heaviest color laser printer in this category. The model comes
with a USB port only, but you can add Ethernet capability. The printer can print
color images or text at up to 1200 dpi resolution. It has a duplex unit, an LCD
display and navigation buttons to control the print job, and for configuring the
settings. The printer has a Samsung SPGPM processor with 64 MB RAM, expandable
to 192 MB. Moreover, it has optional wireless connectivity. We were not too
pleased with this printer’s print quality. In every print, the color was
darker than it should have been, with deep color shades. Same was the case with
mono prints. When we took a CMY print, it gave a small rectangular patch at the
center of the page.
We re-calibrated the cartridge and re-did the test many times, but the results
were the same. It printed at 5 ppm in color and 24 ppm in mono, just 1 ppm less
than the rated speed. Still, this is the highest speed in this category.

The fuser of the printer generated too much heat compared to others. If
people stand near the printer to collect the printed pages, they have to
tolerate the hot air coming out of the fuser unit. The Samsung CLP-510 has a
cost per page for color prints of Rs 3.87 and Paise 76
for mono. It has the lowest cost per color print.

Bottom line: An average printer overall,
but good enough for routine office text printing requirements.

Mid Range Color Lasers


Mid Range Color Lasers
As these printers could not be clubbed into any of the other categories, due to a wide variation in their price, they’ve not been ranked, but reviewed separately nevertheless

HP LaserJet 3000dn

Price: Rs 94,000 (1 yr warranty)
Contact: HP India, Gurgaon 
PH: 2566111 
Email ID: kakuni.mahto@hp.com 
+ Low cost per page, fast print speed
Costly 

This is the fastest color laser printer we received and the most expensive
one in this category. The printer is meant for workgroups with up to 50 users.
It comes with default 256 MB RAM that can be expanded to 512 MB. However, this
upgrade can cost you about Rs 31K. It has an LCD panel with navigational
buttons. Plus, it has a useful Jam Recovery option that ejects the jammed sheet,
without requiring any opening of the unit. The 3000dn has a rated ppm of 30 in
mono and up to 15 ppm in color. It can do 600×600 dpi in both mono and color
modes. For connectivity, you have two options: USB 2.0 and Ethernet. The printer
has HP JetDirect embedded print server for managing print jobs.

The HP printers we have seen so far, have been quite noisy. The 3000dn is a
lot quieter in comparison. This printer is a clear winner in terms of speed. It
achieved a perfect 30 ppm as rated, while printing text with a color image. On
printing a full color image it took around 33 secs to print. As far as quality
is concerned, line art as well as full color and CMY graphic prints were very
good. The printer gives you very economical color prints (about Rs 3.12 per
print) in this category. And in mono, the cost per page was only 52p, which also
very low and affordable.

Bottom Line: Good print speed coupled
with low printing cost make this an excellent choice.

 

HP LaserJet 3600dn

Price: Rs 65,000 (1 yr warranty)
Contact: HP India, Gurgaon 
PH: 2566111 
Email ID: kakuni.mahto@hp.com 
+ Good print quality 
Lower print speed, RAM can’t be upgraded

This printer is meant for those workgroups that need good quality color
prints. Unfortunately, this printer also comes with 128 MB RAM that cannot be
upgraded. Just like the HP 3000dn, it has an LCD panel, but here you would be
shown the name of the job it is processing. You can connect the printer over USB
or Ethernet and printing jobs can be managed using its built-in print server.
The printer gave us 17 ppm as rated for both color and mono prints. It can print
at 600×600 dpi and the print quality was excellent with color as well as mono.
In the line art test, the lines were slightly dotted instead of being solid, but
to an acceptable extent. Surprisingly, full color graphics took only 22 secs,
which is
11 secs lesser than its cousin, the HP 3000dn.

This printer gives the same speeds over both USB as well as Ethernet
interfaces. The HP 3600dn costs Rs 65,000 and the cost per page with this
printer was Rs 4.33 for color and just 97p with mono. But compared to HP 3000dn,
the cost per page for 3600dn is higher.

Bottom Line: Overall, a good printer for
small workgroups.

Personal Mono Lasers


Personal Mono Lasers

Xerox Phaser 3122

Price: Rs 6,750 (1 yr warranty)
Contact: Xerox India, Gurgaon
PH: 9810296115
Email ID: d.bernard@xerox.com 
+ Low Price
High cartridge cost 

This printer has the lowest price at Rs 6,750 and the amazing part is that
its print cartridge costs Rs 4,300. This is the trend with most of the Xerox
printers where you have a huge recurring cost. It comes with just 8 MB RAM which
cannot be upgraded and has both parallel and USB connectivity. The time taken
for first page print is 10 seconds. But, it did manage to meet its claimed print
speed at 20 ppm. The Phaser can print up to 1200 dpi resolution and the printing
quality was good in our tests. The duty cycle of the printer is 35,000 pages
while the cartridge yield is 3,000 prints.

Bottom Line: A compact design and low price, make it a good buy.

 

Epson Stylus EPL-6200L

Price: Rs 10,800 (2 yr warranty)
Contact: Epson India, Bangalore
PH: 30515000
Email ID: prabagaran@eid.epson.co.in 
+ Good
printing speed
Low Ram

This was a last moment entry in our shootout. At first glance it’s a nice
looking laser printer. But if you are standing near the printer to collect the
printouts, then the heat emanating from the vents at the top of the unit hits
you in the face. This is annoying. The printer managed to give good performance
in our tests-its output was 20 ppm and time taken to print the first page was
14 seconds.

The printer is low on RAM having only 2 MB and has only two LEDs in its
control panel to display information about the status of the printer. It has a
parallel and a USB interface for connectivity. Its cartridge provides a yield of
3000 pages and its input tray can handle 150 papers while the output tray
capacity is 100.

Bottom Line: A good choice provided you
need only textual prints.

Small Workgroup Monos


Small Workgroup Monos

WeP Laser 2500

Price: Rs 22,500 (1 yr warranty)
Contact: Wep Peripherals, Bangalore 
PH: 2270359
Email ID: manjunatha.g@wepindia.com 
+ Auto duplex printing
Initial setup is difficult

It is a winner in this category due to its superior features and performance.
However, the printer gave good performance in terms of speed, as time taken to
print first page was 11 secs and it has an overall speed of 20 ppm. The price
per page is Rs 1.17. It didn’t do well in the grayscale test, although its
performance in other graphics and text quality tests was good. It comes with 16
MB RAM which is upgradable to 272 MB. For connectivity, it has parallel and USB
interfaces.

Bottom Line: The auto duplex feature,
makes it exciting for this category .

 

 

 

Xerox Phaser 3150

Price: Rs 17,000 (1 yr warranty)
Contact: Xerox India, Gurgaon
PH: 9810296115
Email ID: d.bernard@xerox.com 
+ Good speed 
Low image quality, no auto duplexer

This printer is also meant for small workgroups and prints at a resolution of
1200 dpi. It is powered by a 32 bit RISC 166 MHz processor and has 32 MB RAM
that’s upgradable to 144 MB. The cost for printing is Rs 1.77 per page. For
connectivity, it has a parallel and a USB interface. This printer does not have
an auto-duplex printing mode. It is similar in performance to the Wep Laser
2500. In our tests, the printer gave good quality text prints but when we threw
full page graphics at it, the print quality was below average.

In the speed tests, the performance was good and time taken for the first
page print was 11 seconds and the overall speed was 21 ppm.

Bottom Line: A useful printer for regular
text printing requirements.

Mid Range Monos


Mid Range Monos

HP LaserJet 2430n

Price: Rs 59,999 (1 yr warranty)
Contact: HP India, Gurgaon 
PH: 2566111 
Email ID: kakuni.mahto@hp.com 
+ Automatic duplex and low cost per page
Costly RAM upgrade 

This printer has a perfect balance of price, performance and features. It
comes with 64 MB RAM which can be expanded to 320 MB. There is also a USB and
Ethernet interface for network printing. On the front panel, there is an LCD
screen and a navigation button to configure the settings of the printer.

In addition, it has an automatic duplex unit for two side printing. The
printer took only 10 secs to print the first page. Plus, the printer was able to
achieve its rated speed of 33 ppm.

The printer can print at 1200x 1200 dpi at best quality; therefore it showed
fine and crisp prints in all the print quality tests. The print quality was
excellent in gray scale printing and there was no banding at all.

The printer is a bit costly which does not matter in this segment, as people
would be more after good quality mono prints. However, in the long run it will
benefit you in terms of cost of consumables, because it has lowest cost per page
of 50p only.

Bottom Line: This printer gives you good
quality and economical prints at a fast speed.

 

Canon LBP3460

Price: Rs 54,995 (2 yr warranty)
Contact: Canon India, Gurgaon
PH: 5160000
Email ID:
info@canon.co.in 
+ Good printing speed, automatic duplex function
Average quality prints in grayscale

This printer was launched just as we were about to send this issue to press.
We received the test printer for evaluation with broken cartridges and were not
able to get a replacement in time. Therefore, we decided to repair the cartridge
ourselves and use that for our tests.

On the features front, the printer ships with 64 MB RAM that can be upgraded
to 320 MB. It has a USB as well as an Ethernet port. In addition, it has an
automatic duplex function for double-sided printing. The input as well as output
tray capacity is 250 sheets. The printer has a rated speed of 33 ppm which was
easily achieved in our tests. The time taken to print the first page was 11 secs.

The printer can print at a maximum resolution of 600×600 dpi. The quality of
mono prints was very good barring the grayscale test where there was visible
banding. The printer gives you mono prints with cost per page of Rs 1.40. It
also has an LCD panel and navigational buttons to manage and configure the
settings.

Bottom Line: A fast printer, that’s
good for heavy text printing requirement of a small workgroup.

Sanjay Majumder and Swapnil Arora

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