Reviews in this Group Test
Each printer receives star ratings out of six for Performance, Features & Design and Value for Money, plus a final Overall score.
The Performance score is a combination of the quality and speed results. Quality is a separate subjective rating, scored out of ten in four different categories.
We award points to each one based on how sharply it renders small details; how solid and clean black areas are; and how smooth gradients are.
We also look for problem areas: banding is a common affliction in monochrome laser printers, and we mark down printers that show evidence of this.
The Performance score also reflects each printer’s speed in our timed tests. Our ppm (pages per minute) figures are arrived at by subtracting the initial processing time from the overall time to print a job.
Our rating for Features & Design is calculated by allocating points to a number of different criteria.
We consider both technical features – such as built-in Ethernet ports and duplexers, front-panel controls and displays, and input capacity – and practical benefits, such as warranties and the ability to print on thicker paper or card.
The Value for Money score represents the overall “bang-per-buck” delivered by each model on test.
Naturally, we look at the initial purchase 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 cartridges but the cost of replacement parts that may eventually wear out, such as the image drum or transfer unit.
This overall cost is then weighed against its scores in the other categories to give a rating out of six.
Finally, the Overall rating is a strict average of the category scores, although it may sometimes appear higher or lower than expected due to rounding.
|Quality scores: click on image for larger size|
Test Analysis and graphical data
The printers in this month’s Labs are aimed at more intense business use than last month’s cheaper models, so we’d expect higher print speeds. But we’d also expect more consistency.
The most impressive performer in this respect was the award-winning Kyocera FS-2020D, with a speed differential of just 3ppm between our two speed tests. Lexmark’s E360dn was quicker overall, but it couldn’t match its lofty claims of 38ppm with 36ppm in our main speed test.
Running costs are also more important with business printers. And here the Kyocera impressed once again.
For the first 20,000 pages or so, it was in the same ball park as the rest of the printers, but over 50,000 pages it was the clear winner, costing a mere $1298 to own.
|Graph of total costs: click on image for larger size|
The graphs explained
Our cost of ownership graph shows, for each printer, the projected total cost of printing of a given number of pages.
We take into account the purchase price of the printer and toner, based on current online prices, plus any user-replaceable parts with limited lifespans, such as maintenance kits.