by February 10, 2005 0 comments

Every IT manager faces the grind deciding what type of printer to provide to different workgroups on the network. Some workgroups may need a faster printer and have high duty cycle loads, while others may need good quality prints to be stored for longer periods. Also, the substantial printer running costs make this an important decision. In this shootout we got five printers with duty cycles of more than 10,000 prints per month, network-printing support and minimum print speeds of 20 ppm. Three of them closely matched these specs, while the remaining two deviated widely. That’s why these two were not included in the rankings, but were nevertheless reviewed. 

We checked the printers for their price, features and performance. As mentioned, the recurring costs of printers are often more than their upfront cost, thus, we also gave weightage to the price per print of each printer in our calculations of the price score. The upfront price and warranty followed suite. The features checked were the kind of management features that the printer offers, the type and size of paper supported, the capacity of input and output trays as well as support for auto-duplexing. We used the Brown-Gibson statistical model to arrive at the weightages for all parameters used in the evaluation. 

The test setup
A separate 10 Mbps network was set up to ensure that it was free from undue traffic. We set up two machines, both with 256 MB RAM. One was a client running Win XP to which the printers were connected for testing, and the other was running Windows 2000 Server with DHCP services. All printers supported TCP/IP, so you could either manually assign them an IP address or through DHCP. All tests were done over the network as well, but we didn’t find any difference in the results. 

Performance tests
Print speed and print quality are both important in a printer, and we ran several tests to judge both. Each test was performed at multiple resolutions. Keeping this as the utmost priority, a suite of 8 tests was designed to comprehensively cover both aspects. We used MS Word 2000 and CorelDraw 9 for tests. An average of three consecuting is taken. When the difference between any two readings was more than 10%, the test was repeated.

We measured the time a printer took to print the following:

  • Multiple copies of the same page
  • A single page with text and a small graphics
  • Full-page monochrome graphic.

We tested for print quality for the following aspects:

  • Smallest readable font: The minimum size we printed was size 2 in regular, bold, and italics.
  • Quality of line art and curves: Smoothness and sharpness of lines and curves is a good indicator of printer quality. This test checked the same.
  • Sharpness of wedge patch: A wedge patch is a circle with many lines extending out from the center towards its periphery. This test checks if the lines are
    distinctly visible, even at the center, with no overlaps and patches.
  • Quality of fountain fills: This is a smooth gradient of shades of gray. We checked for the accuracy with which a printer is able to replicate this without any banding.
  • Full-page monochrome graphic

By CyberMedia Labs

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