Locked printer bins succeed in protecting your documents

These days, few network managers have the time or budget to
support standalone printers turning out sensitive documents behind locked doors.

A workgroup printer makes more sense, especially one with its own locked doors in the
form of secure, password-protected bins.

Each of the 10 bins on the Xerox 4517mp's optional mailbox/collator protects up to 50
single- or double-sided pages from unauthorized eyes. The user must punch in a four-digit
passcode at the printer console to open his or her bin and has 30 seconds to remove
sensitive pages.

No printing occurs unless all bins are closed. The only security exposure comes in
clearing paper jams. I encountered a number of them in testing.

Jams were easy to remove from the duplex print feed in the rear and the front feed. But
wrinkled or torn pages are an ongoing threat to smooth operation, given the 4517mp's tight
paper path and complex output choices.

The mailbox/collator, which fits on top with a special connector, can work as 10 secure
bins or as a collator. You couldn't assign, say, three password-protected bins while
saving the other seven for general office collating.

My test unit, loaded with 16M of RAM and a 128M drive, self-installed easily under
Windows 95's Plug and Play. I had no trouble printing with Xerox's beta driver for Adobe
PostScript Level 2. But my Digital Equipment Corp. Celebris XL 5120 Pentium PC suffered
several general protection faults from Windows Dynamic Link Library problems when I tried
to print using the beta Hewlett-Packard PCL5e emulation driver.

Incidentally, this printer tends to default to PCL, so output changes you make in the
PostScript menu--duplex printing, tray switching and so on--don't necessarily take effect
unless you make them in the PCL menu as well.

My test unit printed an average 12 pages per minute of Microsoft Word text at 600- by
600-dot-per-inch resolution--noticeably less than the 17 ppm claimed by Xerox. Maximum
resolution is 1,200-by-600 dpi, with toner-saving draft and TrueRes edge-smoothing modes
also available.

The user-installable duplex printing feed did come close to the 13-ppm claimed speed at
600-by-600 dpi. I also printed two-sided text at an average 6 ppm, almost the same as the
company's rating.

Graphics files, of course, take longer; you can print edge to edge with 144 levels of
gray. A 181K .TIF file printed out in 20 seconds and looked very clear. A color map
created in Microsoft PowerPoint started to print out, but then I saw a message,
"Image too complex."

The 4517mp operates very quietly and fits into a small space just 17 inches square. It
warms up in about a minute. When inactive for 60 minutes, it goes automatically into a
power-saving mode. You can set another duration or disable power-saving entirely.

All the printer functions are programmed from the eight-button front console,
confusingly named the Control Panel, just like Windows'. The multifunction buttons access
long, hierarchical menus for system, PCL, PostScript and parallel functions as well as
secret passcodes. Error messages and troubleshooting hints appear on a two-line LCD
readout above the buttons.

The maximum paper capacity is 1,350 sheets with three optional trays that stack under
the printer. Each tray has an extension for legal-sized paper. Also available are a
75-envelope feeder, transparency feeder and offset catch tray that stacks jobs separately.
One toner cartridge should yield about 10,000 prints, according to Xerox.

All the pieces of the 40-pound unit snap together easily with no tools. Xerox gives one
year of on-site service, with eight-hour guaranteed response time.

Ethernet, token-ring and AppleTalk network interface cards are optionally priced from
$101. The bundled Document Services for Printing 2.0 software for Windows handles printer
selection and also monitors other Xerox and Hewlett-Packard Co. printers present on a
Novell NetWare network. Its best-fit function shows which of the available printers is
best for a given job. A Printer Details image shows where trouble has occurred.

The 4517mp alone is $2,550. An add-on bundle consisting of the mailbox/collator plus
two 500-sheet trays plus duplex printing capability will sell for $1,795 when it becomes
available this spring.

Standard printer memory is 6M, expandable to 32M. There are two PC Card slots; a 2M PC
Card for flash upgrades goes for $245. Xerox plans to discount all these prices on General
Services Administration schedule soon.

Xerox Corp., Rochester, N.Y.; tel. 800-34-XEROX

Price: $2,550 plus mailbox and network card options

Overall grade: B-

[+] Secure, compact and multifunctional, with good resolution.

[-]Collating duty can't be assigned to unused secure bins.

[-] Spooling paper up from the extra trays gets complicated.

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