Business in Vancouver: News that works for you

    Time to upgrade to colour
    Who says office documents have to be black and white?

    by  (c) 2003 First published in Business in Vancouver ,  Issue #705 April 29- May 5, 2003 GearGuide  column

    Do you remember moving from monochrome computer monitors to colour, and how much more comfortable it made working on computers? While most children can print their school reports at home in colour, most business documents are still printed in boring monochrome.

    Colour laser-quality printers are taking aim at the business market, with models for medium-sized offices on up. They're more expensive than inkjet printers aimed at home users and monochrome laser printers, but they combine network capability with faster output and lower cost per page. And they offer the added bonus of more attractive output than the more common black and white office printers.

    Regardless of manufacturer, estimated cost of these models is around two-to-three cents per monochrome text output page, and about 14 cents for colour output (based on 20 per-cent colour toner coverage).

    HP wins reviewers' praise

    HP Laserjet 5500 series has won the hearts of reviewers because of its print quality
    Hewlett-Packard offers models built around the core of their 21-page-per-minute (ppm) Colour Laserjet 5500 printer. The product line starts with the non-networked $5,746 C9656A. Network-capable models start with the $6,225 Model C7131A, and $6,421 gets the C9657A adding an auto-duplexer for double-sided printing. At $8,449 the C9658A ups the ante with more built-in memory and two 500-sheet paper trays, while the top-of-the-line C9659A ($9,970) adds a hard drive for storing print jobs, three 500-sheet paper trays and a 100-sheet multi-purpose tray. All are rated as able to produce a hefty 120,000 pages per month.

    These HP models won the hearts of reviewers in a recent network colour printer shoot-out conducted by IT weekly Computing Canada, which remarked "the HP's stellar print quality won their hearts."

    Xerox built for speed

    The Xerox Phaser 7300 boasts the fastest output speeds, at up to 37 pagers per minute
    A similar comparison in U.S.-based PC Magazine gave the edge to Xerox's Phaser lineup. Their 7300 models promise the fastest output speeds, up to 30 ppm for colour copy (up to 37 ppm for black and white). This speed is achieved by being able to print in a single pass through the printer, rather than four passes required by some other technologies. Their $6,299 Phaser 7300 features tabloid-sized output and up to 2,400 dot-per-inch resolution. Xerox's Smart Trays technology automatically senses the type of media loaded in the unit's paper trays, while their Auto Thickness sensor adjusts toner density for different paper weights. Xerox rates these printers as capable of printing up to 83,000 pages per month.

    Lexmark suited for bulk jobs

    Also well regarded is Lexmark with a series of new models. The C912 series can print banners up to 36 inches long for store signage, as well as printing up to 12-by-18-inch edge-to-edge output. Print speeds run up to 28 ppm in both colour and monochrome, and Lexmark touts lower page costs than its "leading competitor" (presumably HP). Output options include stapling, hole-punching and offset stacking.

    Lexmark's c912 series prints banners up to 36 inches long, and offers best-of-class paper capacity
    Lexmark's non-networked base model pricing starts at $5,449, with the network-friendly C912n adding increased memory and two paper trays for $6,879. The next step up is the $8,149 C912dn adding a duplexer, while the top-of-the-line C912fn ($13,739) gives all of the above plus additional paper capacity and all the output finishing options.

    The Lexmark line of colour printers are rated at 100,000 copies per month. PC Magazine noted that a slightly lower than average cost per page and best-of-class paper capacity makes these models good choices for users who print a lot of pages.

    According to Lexmark research, a typical Canadian office worker in a small to medium-sized enterprise produces an average of 36 printed pages a day.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan