Color laser printers

Color laser printers<@VM>New wave of color printers has management tools that reduce strain of connection to workgroups

Hewlett-Packard's Color LaserJet 8500, priced at $6,349, offers 132 Adobe Type 1 and 45 HP FontSmart fonts and a 2.1G hard drive. It prints color at 6 ppm and text at 24 ppm.

By J.B. Miles

Special to GCN

It used to be a no-brainer. For fast, low-cost text output, information technology managers bought monochrome laser printers for their workgroups. When they needed bursts of color for reports, slide shows or occasional graphics, they supplemented the lasers with inexpensive ink-jet printers. Case closed.

Now, thanks to bigger, faster print engines, RISC processors, excellent printer management software tools and plenty of memory, color laser printers are quickly becoming viable all-in-one options for budget-conscious workgroup managers who require quality output.

Historically, color laser printing at the workgroup level left much to be desired. You could get a speedy 50-page-per-minute behemoth from Xerox Corp. or IBM Corp., but at prices of $100,000 and up they were hardly suitable for workgroup use.

Smaller color lasers tended to be slow, with color image quality that ranged from spotty to awful, and for some reason, manufacturers of small color lasers hadn't yet considered the networking requirements of typical workgroups. The result was often a mishmash of color laser and ink-jet printers serving separate workgroups scattered throughout a building or department.

Until recently, prospective buyers had trouble finding color lasers with much to recommend them except for faster text output and lower per-page costs than similarly priced color ink-jets.

That situation is rapidly changing. This roundup of color laser printers describes 49 units with the muscle to capably serve most small workgroups. I set $10,000 as the price limit for a workgroup printer; happily for buyers, most of the units in this Buyers Guide cost much less.

To make the list, a color laser also had to be capable of delivering at least 3 ppm of color output; many here deliver twice or four times that. I also looked for network readiness; all but a handful of the color lasers listed are network-ready, with options such as networking software and network interface cards.

If you want these options with printers that don't have them, expect to add $500 to $1,000 to the base price.

NICs and drivers

Many of the models listed come with built-in NICs and networking software right out of the box. They all provide drivers for Microsoft Windows 9x, and many provide drivers for Windows NT, Apple Mac OS 7.5 and later, and various flavors of Unix.

All but one'QMS Inc.'s new, low-priced Magicolor 2 DeskLaser'come with their own RISC processor. In most cases, today's demanding color applications at high resolutions require a printer with its own processor.

As with printers in general, your selection of a color laser printer should be determined by the print requirements of your organization. This usually includes the types of print jobs most often undertaken, the number of people requiring printer services, the quality of images required and the overall printing budget for your department or workgroup.




Tips for buyers


  • Don't overbuy. A high-end printer such as Hewlett-Packard's $9,049 Color LaserJet 8500DN can make you drool because it's packed with features, but HP's $2,499 LaserJet 4500 might do just as well for a small workgroup.

  • Don't underbuy, either. Don't settle for a $2,000 non-networkable unit if you plan to upgrade. Buy a network-ready printer that can be outfitted with more memory, a hard drive and an assortment of network interface cards.

  • Make an estimate of the monthly cost of consumables before you buy your printer, then double it.

  • Know that speed isn't everything. Also find out a printer's expandable memory, RISC processor, hard drive and paper handling options.

  • Try before you buy, and check the manufacturer's warranty and return policies.


There are a few specifics to consider:

Speed. A small workgroup, or a large one with occasional color printing requirements, can make do with a 3- or 4-ppm unit that might be capable of producing 12 or even 16 ppm of black-and-white text.

Konica Business Technologies Inc.'s KL-3015 ForceColor, Lexmark International Inc.'s Optra SC 1275 and QMS' Magicolor 2 DeskLaser are good examples of sub-$2,000 units offering 3- or 4-ppm color print speeds along with networking options and fairly hefty 12- to 16-ppm text output.

Need more speed? You'll need a more robust print engine with a more powerful internal RISC processor. Canon USA Inc.'s imageClass C2100 series and Hewlett-Packard Co.'s 8500 series offer 6-ppm color output with 24-ppm ratings for text, but they are priced at more than $5,000.

All models in Lexmark International Inc.'s LED-based Optra Color 1200 series provide 12-ppm color output at prices starting at $5,299. LED printers are first cousins to lasers. They use stationary light-emitting diodes instead of the lens and mirrors used by lasers, which allows for a single pass around the drum and results in fast image transfer speeds.

Resolution. Virtually all color lasers offer resolution of 600 by 600 dots per inch. In many cases, the quality and sharpness of the image can be enhanced by using vendor-specific software such as Hewlett-Packard's ImageREt 2400. The use of such software often results in resolution quality of 1,200 by 600, 1,200 by 1,200 or even 2,400 by 1,200 dpi.



The $2,912 C LBP 460PS Color Laserprinter from Canon U.S.A. prints color at 4 ppm and text at 16 ppm and offers an optional 850-sheet paper tray. It supports all major protocols, including TCP/IP, IPX/SPX and AppleTalk.


Paper handling. Color lasers for workgroups generally come with 250-sheet or 500-sheet trays capable of managing 8.5- by 11-inch paper in varying weights.

For workgroup use, or when the printer is networked, it's wise to buy an option that expands the paper-handling capability of the device to cut down on time spent restocking the printer.

If you require tabloid pages, which measure 11 inches by 17 inches, Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark, QMS, Tally Printer Corp. and Tektronix Inc. can meet your requirements with a wide-format color laser.

Tally's SpectraStar T8204 and T8204+ are wide-format printers priced at less than $7,000. The T8204+ has more memory and an internal hard drive for higher resolutions and speeds. Tektronix's Phaser 780 A3/ Tabloid model comes with standard Ethernet interfaces and an optional SCSI hard drive, with prices beginning at $6,095.



Lexmark's Optra Color 1200 network printer, priced at $5,299, has a 200-MHz NEC 5000 RISC processor. It prints color and text at 12 ppm.



Duplexing. Duplexing is the ability to print on both sides of the page. Many printer manufacturers list manual duplexing as a feature, but that means you turn over the pages yourself.

Often featured only among high-priced production units, built-in automatic duplexing is available in Hewlett-Packard's Color LaserJet 8500DN, QMS' Magicolor 2 DeskLaser Duplex and Tektronix's Phaser 740 Duplex. Some other printers listed in the chart offer duplexing as an option for an additional cost.

Printer management tools. Most color lasers come with vendor-specific management applications, such as Hewlett-Packard's JetAdmin, Lexmark's MarkVision and Tektronix's PhaserShare. Each application has the same goal: user-friendly printer setup and operation.

Unfortunately for users in the past, different versions of these tools were required for different operating systems and platforms, which led to management headaches when setting up the same printer in different sites for different workgroups. But now, for example, setting up a Lexmark Optra 1275N with MarkVision under Windows NT is similar to setting up an Optra Color 1200n under Novell NetWare.

Color management. Like printer management tools, the use of color management applications is much improved in today's color laser models. Most color laser printers now have built-in RISC processors, extra memory and better overall technology than they used to, so the difference between average and excellent output is often found in the color management applications that come with the units.

Along with vendor-specific applications such as Canon's ColorGear, Tally's TallyColor and Tektronix's TekColor, look for an assortment of useful third-party tools such as ColorSync from Apple Computer Inc., colorWise from Electronics for Imaging Inc. of Foster City, Calif., and various products from Pantone Inc. of Carlstadt, N.J.

Print languages and fonts. Most color lasers come with both Adobe PostScript and HP PCL 5c printer emulations and an assortment of type fonts compatible with either language. The best printers are capable of determining the language a host computer is using and automatically making a switchover if required.

Networking. As mentioned, most of the featured printers provide networking options in the form of additional ports, networking software and NICs. Fully networkable models are denoted with the letter 'n' in their name or model number.

Networking software is usually based on Simple Network Management Profile protocols, letting the printer communicate with other network devices and be managed from a remote console on the network.

If vendor-specific management software products are provided, it's recommended that you use them. One example is Minolta Corp.'s Minolta Network Utility and PageScope network printer management utilities.

Similarly, almost any Ethernet or token-ring NIC can be installed with a networked printer, but many vendors provide their own printer-optimized NICs'Lexmark's MarkNet series, for example'and I suggest using them with their printers.

For small workgroups a 10-Mbps Ethernet card is sufficient, but for large workgroups with large print applications, I recommend a 10/100-Mbps Fast Ethernet NIC.

Ports. Just about all color laser printers come with a serial port and one or more high-speed bidirectional parallel ports. I'm still amazed at the paucity of color lasers with Universal Serial Bus connections, but I expect more of them to show up by year's end.

Cost of consumables. These include the cost of toner cartridges and paper. Typical color lasers print about 4,500 pages of black text using black toner at 5 percent coverage. Color printing involves the use of cyan, magenta and yellow toner, and about 3,500 pages can be printed at 5 percent coverage.

Most toner cartridges range between $65 and $85. The cost of paper depends on its weight, gloss, size and overall quality. You can get by at a cost of about 3 cents per page with a splotch of color, but more color, better paper and higher resolution settings will cost a lot more.

Multifunctional devices. Many of the printers come with copying or scanning options that are fine for limited use, but don't depend on them for production work.

Similarly, all-in-one, or multifunctional, devices that include a copier, flatbed scanner and ink-jet printer are fine for personal or small-office use where demands are usually low.

Their components generally represent the lowest common denominator for the technologies involved, however, so they are aren't advised for more demanding workgroup tasks and are not listed in this Buyers Guide.

On the other hand, manufacturers such as Canon and Panasonic Communications & Systems Co. do include some high-end copier and scanning functions with some of their printers. For that, you be the judge.


J.B. Miles, of Pahoa, Hawaii, writes about communications and computers.































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Vendor Product Speed in
pages per
minute
Standard drivers Memory in megabytes Processor Extra features Price
Brother International Corp. Bridgewater, N.J. 908-704-1700 www.brother.com HL-2400C 4 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT 32 to 112 100-MHz Fujitsu SPARClite RISC 2 PCMCIA interfaces, CAPT color management, PostScript 2 and PLC 5c emulation, optional legal-size-paper tray $2,205
Canon U.S.A. Inc. Lake Success, N.Y. 516-328-5000 www.usa.canon.com C LPB 460PS 4 color, 12 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS 32 to 192 133-MHz Mips R4300 RISC Rip-While-Print page processing, PostScript 3 and PLC 5c emulation, Color Rendering Dictionary, NetSpot remote management, EFI ColorWise, optional 850-sheet paper tray, optional DU-83 duplex attachment $2,912
image CLASS C2100 6 color, 24 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS 24 and up 133-MHz Mips R4700 RISC 136 PostScript, 35 Intellifont, 10 TrueType and 1 Bitmap fonts; EFI and Adobe Web font downloaders; PCL 5c and Adobe PostScript 3 autoswitching; standard 2.1M hard drive; EFI ColorWise, ICM Profile, Apple ColorSync, Canon ColorGear color management; optional color copier attachment $6,773
image CLASS C2100 PD 6 color, 24 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS 24 and up 133-MHz Mips R4700 RISC Same but with Auto-Duplexing unit, 2,000-sheet paper controller, optional 7-bin sorter, Copy Station reader, Image Editing Unit, Separating Kit, Control Card IV $8,591
Compaq Computer Corp. Houston 281-370-0670 www.compaq.com Digital Laser Printer LNC02 4 color, 24 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS; Unix; OpenVMS 32 to 384 133-MHz NEC Vr4300 RISC Optional SCSI ports; PostScript 2 and PLC 5c emulation; Apple ColorSync, Windows 95 ICM and Pantone color control; color copying option; Ethernet card $4,495 up
Hewlett-Packard Co. Palo Alto, Calif. 650-857-1501 www.hp.com LaserJet 4500 4 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT 32 to 208 133-MHz HP RISC PostScript 2 and PLC 5c emulation, 35 Truetype fonts, optional network support, ImageREt 2400 color enhancement, 2.1G hard drive, optional duplexing $2,499
Color LaserJet 4500N 4 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT 32 to 208 133-MHz HP RISC Networkable version of 4500 with JetDirect 600N (EIO) print server, Ethernet card $2,949
Color LaserJet 4500DN 4 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT 32 to 208 133-MHz HP RISC Same as networkable 4500N but with automatic duplexing $3,799
Color LaserJet 8500 6 color, 24 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT 32 to 256 133-MHz HP RISC PostScript 3 and PLC 5c emulation, 132 Adobe Type 1 and 45 HP FontSmart fonts, optional networking, 2.1G hard drive, optional duplexing $6,349
Color LaserJet 4500N 6 color, 24 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT 32 to 256 133-MHz HP RISC Networkable version of 8500 with JetDirect 600N (EIO) print server, Ethernet card $7,149
Color LaserJet 8500DN 6 color, 24 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT 32 to 256 133-MHz HP RISC Same as networkable 4500N but with automatic duplexing $9,049
Konica Business Technologies Inc. Windsor, Conn. 860-683-2222 www.konicabt.com KL-3015 ForceColor 3 color, 15 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS; Unix 16 to 96 133-MHz Mips R4300 EFI ColorWise, Apple ColorSync, Windows ICM and Pantone color management; EFI Fiery RIP controller; PostScript 2 and PLC 5c emulation; optional hard drive and networking features $1,500
KL-3015N ForceColor 3 color, 15 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS; Unix 32 to 96 133-MHz Mips R4300 Networkable version of the KL-3015 with Ethernet card $3,195
LK-3015N+ ForceColor 3 color, 15 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS; Unix 48 to 96 133-MHz Mips R4300 Same but with 1.4G hard drive $4,495
Lexmark International Inc. Lexington, Ky. 606-232-2000 www.lexmark.com Optra SC 1275 4 color, 12 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS; OS/2 16 to 190 66-MHz i960 RISC PostScript 2 and PLC 5c emulation, multiple PCI and coax/Twinax connectivity options, optional hard drive, SmartSwitch automatic switching between printer languages, FontVision font management utility, optional networking, Job Overlap for fast printing, optional hard drive $1,899
Optra SC 1275N 4 color, 12 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS; OS/2 16 to 190 66-MHz RISC Network-ready version of the SC 1275 with MarkVision printer utility and MarkNet network adapters $2,429
Optra SC 1275N for Solaris 4 color, 12 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS; OS/2 16 to 190 66-MHz i960 RISC Solaris-ready version of the SC 1275N $2,489
Optra Color 1200 12 color, 12 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS; OS/2 32 to 128 200-MHz NEC 5000 RISC Multiple optional port configurations including IrDA infrared; SmartSwitch Automatic printer language switching; FontVision font management utility; MarkNet Pro print servers; MarkVision printer utility; optional networking; Windows ICM, Apple ColorSync, Agfa FotoTune and Pantone color management; Lexmark Print Management Services for Microsoft Small Business servers; manual duplex support $5,299
Optra Color 1200ni 12 color, 12 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS; OS/2 32 to 128 200-MHz NEC 5000 RISC Network-ready version of 1200 with MarkNet adapters and extra paper trays $5,619
Optra Color 1200n 12 color, 12 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS; OS/2 64 to 128 200-MHz NEC 5000 RISC Same but with larger paper-management capability $6,199
Minolta Corp. Ramsey, N.J. 201-512-5800 www. minoltaprinters.com Color PageWorks EX 3 color, 12 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT 80 to 192 133-MHz NEC Vr4300 RISC PostScript 3 emulation, CRD, Apple ColorSync and Pantone color management, EFI Web Server, optional hard drive, optional Ethernet or token-ring interfaces $3,999
Color PageWorks EX Plus 3 color, 12 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT 80 to 192 133-MHz NEC Vr4300 RISC Networkable version of PageWorks EX $4,999
Color PageWorks PS Plus 3 color, 12 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS 20 to 68 33-MHz i960 RISC PostScript 3 and PLC 5c emulation; 136 PostScript 3, 45 Agfa IF and 10 TrueType fonts; standard LocalTalk and Ethernet adapter; Minolta Network Utility; PageScope network printer management $3,099
Color PageWorks L 3 color, 12 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT 16.5 20-MHz Hitachi RISC Windows or NT fonts, RealTone 2400 color management, optional Ethernet adapter $1,999
Color PageWorks LN 3 color, 12 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT 16.5 20-MHz Hitachi RISC Networkable version of PageWorks L with Ethernet adapter $2,499
NEC America Inc. Melville, N.Y. 516-753-7000 www.nec.com SuperScript 4400 4 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS 32 100-MHz NEC RISC PostScript 3 and PCL 5c emulation, 136 PostScript fonts, PrintAgentTM print management, optional networking $2,499
SuperScript 4400N 4 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS 96 100-MHz NEC RISC Networkable version of the 4200 model with 2.1G hard drive $2,999
Okidata Corp. Mount Laurel, N.J. 609-235-2600 www.okidata.com OkiPage 8c 8 color, 8 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS 32 to 80 100-MHz Mips 4700 RISC Post Script 3 and PCL 5c emulation; 138 PostScript, 45 PCL fonts; optional paper tray upsizing; optional OkiLAN network cards $3,295
OkiPage 8c/n 8 color, 8 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS 32 to 80 100-MHz Mips 4700 RISC Same as 8c model but with network cards, OkiLAN Network Utility software, standard 80M of RAM $3,795
Panasonic Communications & Systems Co. Secaucus, N.J. 201-348-7000 www.panasonic.com KX-P8420DX Network 3.5 color, 14 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT 80 to 192 133-MHz RISC PostScript 3 emulation, Windows ICM/ ICC Profiles; EFI ColorWise, Color VisualCal, Pantone color management; standard 10/100 Ethernet card with autoswitching; optional token-ring card $2,695
KX-P8420LX Network 3.5 color, 14 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT 144 to 192 133-MHz RISC Same but with more memory $3,395
KX-P8420EX Network 3.5 color, 14 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT 144 to 192 133-MHz RISC Same but with additional options $3,895
QMS Inc. Birmingham, Ala. 334-433-6300 www.qms.com Magicolor 2 DeskLaser 4 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT 8 to 64 33-MHz i960 RISC Host-based processing; universal legal tray, QMS SC-200 digital copier-scanner, Ethernet interface $1,299
Magicolor 2 DeskLaser Duplex 4 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT 32 to 64 33-MHz i960 RISC Same as Magicolor 2 but with full automatic duplexing $2,199
Magicolor 2 CX 4 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS 24 to 384 133-MHz NEC Vr4300 RISC PostScript 2 and PLC 5c emulation; Ethernet and parallel interfaces; optional token-ring, DECnet, TCP/IP, SCSI interfaces; universal legal tray; QMS SC-200 digital copier-scanner; optional hard drive $1,999
Magicolor 2 DX 4 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS 80 to 384 133-MHz NEC Vr4300 RISC Same as 2 CX model but with more memory $2,499
Magicolor 2 EX 4 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS 80 to 384 133-MHz NEC Vr4300 RISC Same as 2 DX but with internal hard drive $3,299
Magicolor 330 CX 4 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS 64 to 192 133-MHz NEC Vr4300 RISC Same as 2 CX/DX/EX series but with QMS Qcolor and ColorDepth color management, 2.2G internal hard drive $4,499
Tally Printer Corp. Kent, Wash. 425-251-5500 www.tally.com T8104 8 color, 8 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS; Unix 24 to 384 133-MHz NEC Vr4300 RISC PostScript 3, PLC 5c/GL2 and HP-GL emulation; standard Ethernet interface; optional token-ring, SCSI, coax and Twinax interfaces; TallyColor, Pantone, ColorSync and Windows ICM color management $1,999
Spectra*Star T8104+ 8 color, 8 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS; Unix 24 to 384 133-MHz NEC Vr4300 RISC Upgraded version of T8104 model for higher-resolution print jobs $3,299
Spectra*Star T8204 Wide Format Color Laser 4 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS; Unix 64 to 384 133-MHz NEC Vr4300 RISC For wide-format print jobs; same processor and basic specs as T8104 series but with more color management options $5,499
Spectra*Star T8204+ Wide Format 4 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Color Laser Mac OS; Unix 144 to 384 133-MHz NEC Vr4300 RISC Same as T8204 model but with more memory and internal hard drive $6,799
Tektronix Inc. Wilsonville, Ore. 503-627-6499 www.tek.com Phaser 740 5 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS; OS/2; Unix 32 to 256 133-MHz RISC PostScript 3 and PLC 5c emulation; standard Ethernet network card; Pantone, Apple ColorSync and TekColor color management; optional SCSI interface; optional duplexing $1,995
Phaser 740 Plus 5 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS; OS/2; Unix 64 to 256 133-MHz RISC Same as 740 but with more memory, SCSI interface $2,795
Phaser 740 Duplex 5 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS; OS/2; Unix 128 to 256 133-MHz RISC Same as 740 Plus but with more memory and Auto Duplex Unit $3,595
Phaser 740 Extended 5 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS; OS/2; Unix 128 to 256 133-MHz RISC Same as 740 Duplex but with lower tray assembly, 4.5G internal hard drive $4,295
Phaser 780 A3/Tabloid Color Laser Printer 4 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x, NT; Mac OS; OS/2; Unix 64 to 192 133-MHz RISC For 11- by 17-inch paper; standard Ethernet interfaces and optional SCSI hard drive $6,095 up
Xerox Corp. Stamford, Conn. 716-423-5090 www.xerox.com DocuPrint NC60 4 color, 16 text Windows 3.x, 9x 64 to 128 133-MHz RISC Standard Ethernet interface; optional 10/100 Ethernet or token-ring cards $2,695

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