Business Laser Printers

Business Laser Printers

When it comes to getting real work done, there’s still nothing to compete with a laser printer’s combination of quality, speed and economy. We tell you how to choose a busines laser, plus review 3 examples.

When it comes to getting real work done, there’s still nothing to compete with a laser printer’s combination of quality, speed and economy. And while the past decade has seen laser technology evolve only gradually, by contrast with the regular generational leaps seen in other areas of consumer technology, today’s lasers offer a remarkable range of capabilities. Some are lightning fast; others produce dazzling colour. Some are tiny, and some are surprisingly cost-effective.

Of course, if you only ever plan to print in low volumes then your most economical option may not be a laser at all. Lasers are cheaper to run than inkjets, but the purchase price is almost invariably higher, so you generally need to print a few thousand pages before the savings start to kick in.

Yet, even for occasional usage, there are plenty of good reasons to choose one. Home users will appreciate pin-sharp text with no risk of streaking or smudging. Offices can benefit from the long life of the engine and parts, which enables a laser to print ten times as many pages as some inkjets before requiring maintenance. And if you’re looking for a workhorse printer to service a whole department, you’ll want professional options such as double-sided printing, extra paper trays and remote management.

We've looked at 3 business laser printers. We subjected each to a range of tests to find out just how well it measures up to its intended role, and reproduce the results along with full details of our experiences.

How We Test
Fully fledged business printers, meanwhile, command premium prices on the strength of their professional credentials, so we expect fast, high-quality output, low running costs, remote manageability and a good range of expansion options from these printers.

Standard tests

While our assessments are category specific, they’re based partly on a standard series of print tests, to which we subject every printer to determine its speed and quality. For our first test, we time how long each printer takes to output 50 copies of the ISO single-page business letter. The document features a small red graphic, but we print it in monochrome even on the colour printers to ensure a level playing field for this test. We then set the colour printers printing ten copies of a slightly more complicated five-page ISO colour newsletter, a test that includes black text on a variety of coloured backgrounds, plus coloured graphs and photos. This second 50-page test exposes the speed difference between printing colour and monochrome documents.

Next, we print a range of tables, charts and DTP layouts from Excel, Word and Adobe’s Acrobat Reader. Unlike the first two tests, these documents don’t involve any repeated pages, revealing whether print speed is affected by the printer having to process each page image afresh, rather than reproducing a page over and over again.

Finally, we carry out our quality print tests, based on our two standard high-resolution montages – one in monochrome, the other in full colour where applicable – which consist of photographs, shades, gradients and text at a range of sizes.

Scores

Each laser printer receives star ratings out of six for Quality, Speed, Features & Design and Value for Money, plus a final Overall score.

Quality is a subjective rating arrived at by two members of the PC Authority team, who independently assess the output of each printer. We award points to each based on how sharply it renders small details, how solid and clean black areas are, and how smooth gradients are. For colour printers, we also award marks for the cleanness and accuracy of colours, and how natural photographic content appears.

The speed score reflects each printer’s performance in our timed tests, taking into account the time that elapses between the tester clicking Print and the last page emerging from the printer.

Our rating for Features & Design is calculated by allocating points to a number of different criteria according to the category, as described above. We consider both technical features – such as built-in ethernet, software functions and front-panel controls – and practical benefits, such as warranties and the amount of toner included at purchase with each printer.

The Value for Money score represents the overall ‘bang-for-buck’ delivered by each model on test. Naturally, we look at the cost of the printer itself, but we also factor in a calculation of the long-term running costs based on typical usage for that category.

This includes not only toner but the cost of any replacement parts that may eventually wear out, such as the image drum or transfer unit. The overall cost of owning the printer is then weighed against its scores for Features & Design, Speed and Quality to give a Value for Money rating out of six.

Finally, the Overall rating is a strict average of the separate category scores, although it may sometimes appear higher or lower than expected due to rounding.


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This Group Test appeared in the August, 2008 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine

See more about:  laser  |  printers
 
 

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