Fast printers

Fast printers<@VM>Take a look at duty cycles, resolution, output and speed for one of these 85 quality, networkable laser printers<@VM>Take a look at duty cycles, resolution, output and speed for one of these 85 quality, networkable laser printers (Cont.)

Network-ready, monochrome laser printers are workhorses for workgroups

By J.B. Miles

Special to GCN

When it comes to laser printers, there's a lot more to a bargain than price. A $400 monochrome laser printer could easily deliver the goods for a personal or small office with limited output demands. But workgroups and small departments that demand high volume and high print quality need a real workhorse with speed, power, network capability and overall reliability.

The monochrome laser printers listed in this Buyers Guide generally cost $1,000 and up, with options that can push them over $4,000, but the benefits they provide can make them worth the price.

Standard features

This guide features networkable monochrome laser printers suitable for small and large workgroup service. All of them have manufacturers' pages-per-minute ratings of between 16 and 40. They offer true resolutions of 600 by 600 dots per inch for text printing, and most come bundled with software for enhancing resolution to 1,200 or even 2,400 dpi for high-quality graphical output.

Genicom's microLaser 320 prints enhanced resolutions of up to 2,400 dpi, has a ppm rating of 32 and a maximum monthly duty cycle of 150,000 pages. The network-ready version is priced at $3,495.

Tally Printer's T9140 has a 50-MHz RISC processor and 40M to 128M of memory. It's priced at $3,995.

Virtually all of the printers listed boast powerful RISC processors and scalable memory that ranges from 8M or 16M up to 384M'and even 1G if an optional hard drive is purchased with the unit.

Each of the units is network-ready, meaning that Ethernet or token-ring cards and drivers either are preinstalled or can be included as options. Most also include drivers for Microsoft Windows 9x and NT, and Mac OS 7.5 and later. Some of them also come with Unix drivers.

Feature sets vary from vendor to vendor, but most of the units listed provide advanced paper-handling options including extra feeder trays, duplexers for printing on both sides of the page, and finishing modules such as automatic collators and staplers.

Starting with a base unit priced between $1,000 and $2,000, it's not difficult to build yourself a true laser powerhouse by adding options, but keep in mind that your cost could easily soar over $3,000 as more features are added.

Seasoned units

Any workgroup printer worth its salt should be able to withstand the rigors of constant daily use, and this is where premium units depart radically from the sub-$500 laser printers designed for personal and small-office use.

One measure of the difference is a printer's duty cycle, an estimate of how many pages per month a printer is designed to handle before it fails or requires maintenance. Small personal laser printers generally offer duty cycles of several thousand to 10,000 pages per month. The printers listed here have duty cycles ranging from 35,000 to 150,000 pages per month, with 65,000 being typical for most of the units priced between $1,000 and $1,500.

Because there's no such thing as a perfect printer, you'll have to balance a number of factors to arrive at the one that best meets most of your requirements.

The QMS 2560 models hold up to 192M of memory and have a monthly duty cycle of 75,000 pages. Prices range from $2,499 to $2,899.

Total cost of ownership. The total cost includes the printer's original cost plus that of consumables'paper, toner, replaceable parts'power consumption, maintenance, downtime and training time over the life of the printer. Factoring these elements into planning cycles of six months, one year, two years and five years provides good estimates of what a printer will actually cost.

After determining total cost, many information services managers find high-end printers to be better bargains for workgroup service than less expensive models.

Speed. A ppm rating of 16 or higher is a good place to start when buying a workgroup laser printer. Be aware, however, that printers are seldom as fast as their ratings because manufacturers typically test by printing the same page over and over to achieve the highest possible rating.

This practice doesn't account for different types of printing'plain text vs. text and graphics, for instance'or the time it takes for different pages to come to print, all of which can radically change the actual ppm output of any printer.

IBM's Network Printer 17 has a 17-ppm rating and a monthly duty cycle of 65,000 pages. Its price ranges from $1,179 to $2,467.

Print quality. For quality of text output, monochrome laser printers provide the best bang for the buck, especially if text-only printing is required at resolutions of 300 dpi or 600 dpi.

For high-quality graphics output, the manufacturer's bundled enhancement software comes into play, as does the inherent quality of the printer itself. The best units combine a graphics co-processor with a high-speed RISC CPU and plenty of RAM to help manage the millions of pixels involved.

Network readiness. Why buy a printer for even a small workgroup if it isn't network-ready? If you want to save yourself the hassle of installing network cards and drivers, pay the extra $300 or $400 for a fully networkable model'usually denoted with the letter 'n' in the model number'at the outset.

Support for at least Ethernet and token-ring environments should be provided, along with support for leading network protocols such as TCP/IP, Internet Packet Exchange/
Sequenced Packet Exchange, AppleTalk and NetBIOS Extended User Interface.

Network management. Network management is generally a function of software provided by the printer manufacturer.

Most bundled software is compliant with the Simple Network Management Protocol and allows remote management of print jobs and printer functions from stations anywhere along the network.

Duplexing. The ability to print on both sides of the paper is a handy feature to have and can be installed as an option in most of the printers listed.

The Ecosys FS 7000+ from Kyocera Electronics can print at an enhanced resolution of up to 2,400 dpi. It's priced at $2,499.

But know that the option usually costs an additional $400 or $500 and will cut your printer's total ppm output by half in most cases.

Installation and setup. All of the laser printers here come bundled with the manufacturer's installation and setup utilities. Most of them install the drivers automatically, but in some cases you may have to enter the path to the driver on the CD-ROM installation disk before you can successfully install the unit. This can be annoying and often requires a fairly experienced technician.

Paper management. Look for the ability to handle a wide variety of paper sizes'up to tabloid'and stock if you are interested in versatility. Most printers come standard with a 500-page input tray; many also come with a 100-page multipurpose tray that can handle a variety of paper sizes simultaneously.

As the price of your laser printer goes up, so does its ability to handle sophisticated input/output functions. Plenty of units priced at $2,000 and up offer optional trays capable of handling 2,000 sheets or more. The more expensive units also can add finishing units with multiple bins for sorting, collating and stapling.

Print languages and fonts. A print language is the means by which a computer sends information about a page to the printer. Most of the printers in this guide use Adobe PostScript or HP PLC 5x or 6 and come with an assortment of type fonts compatible with either language. Extra fonts can usually be added via a cartridge.

Tips for Buyers

  • Buy a model with built-in network capability'usually identified by 'n' in the model number.
  • Calculate carefully the costs of toner, paper supplies, printer drums and other items.
  • Buy all the extra RAM you can
    afford. Consider a hard-drive option for complex print jobs.
  • Decide which, if any, advanced paper management features you really need. They're nice but costly.
  • Look for a printer with a hefty duty cycle.
  • Use manufacturers' pages-per-minute speed claims for comparison, but don't expect any printer to perform
    at its rated speed.

Most of the printers in this category also can determine which language the host computer is using and automatically switch over as required.

True costs. Bear in mind that the costs of consumables, options and features of a laser printer in this class can vary widely, significantly affecting your bottom line. Check manufacturers' specifications carefully for the quoted yield of a toner cartridge'typically measured at 5 percent coverage per page for 10,000 to 20,000 pages'and measure this against the type of print jobs you will most often undertake.

At about $100 to $250 per cartridge, the differences between one vendor's quoted yield and another's can make a lot of difference at year's end for a busy workgroup. Also, do some comparison-shopping among vendors, not only for options and feature sets but also for prices. Vendor Web sites are a good source of information about prices and product specifications.

J.B. Miles of Pahoa, Ha-waii, writes about communications and computers.

Vendor Product Maximum speed in pages per minute CPU and memory True/enhanced resolution in dots per inch Duplex/network-ready Standard/ maximum paper input capacity Maximum duty cycle in pages per month Price
Brother International Corp.
Bridgewater, N.J.
HL-1660e17100-MHz RISC, 8M to 72M600/1,200Optional/optional650/1,15035,000$900
HL-206021100-MHz RISC, 8M to 72M600/1,200Optional/optional 650/1,150 35,000$994
Canon USA Inc.
Lake Success, N.Y.
imageCLASS 4000 Series 32 100-MHz PowerPC, 8M to 40M 600/1,200 Optional/optional 1,100/3,000 150,000 $2,290 to $3,028
LBP-17601750-MHz RISC, 4M to 36M600/1,200Optional/optional1,100/1,60065,000$1,192
Compaq Computer Corp.
LN16 16 125-MHz RISC, 12M to 64M 600 to 2,400 Optional/yes 650/1,150 35,000 $1,204
LN3232133-MHz RISC, 32M to 96M600/1,200Optional/yes1,050/3,550150,000$2,544
GCC Technologies U.S.A.
Bedford, Mass.
Elite XL 20/600 20 50-MHz RISC, 16M to 64M 600 Optional/yes 500/1,000 65,000 $1,599
Elite XL 20/8002050-MHz RISC, 24M to 64M800Optional/yes500/1,00065,000$1,899
Elite XL 20/1,20020 50-MHz RISC, 64M1,200/1,200Optional/yes500/1,00065,000$2,199
Genicom Corp.
Chantilly, Va.
microLaser 170 17 125-MHz Mips, 12M to 64M 600/2,400 Optional/yes 550/1,200 35,000 $1,195
microLaser 170N17125-MHz Mips, 12M to 64M 600/2,400Optional/yes 550/1,20035,000$1,495
microLaser 28028166-MHz RISC, 12M to 64M600/2,400Optional/optional550/2,000100,000 $1,995
microLaser 280N 28 166-MHz RISC, 12M to 64M 600/2,400 Optional/yes 550/2,000 100,000 $2,365
microLaser 320 32 133-MHz RISC, 32M to 64M 600/2,400 Optional/optional 1,050/2,500 150,000 $3,195
microLaser 320N 32 133-MHz RISC, 32M to 64M 600/2,400 Optional/yes 1,050/2,500 150,000 $3,495
Hewlett-Packard Co.
Palo Alto, Calif.
LaserJet 4050 17 133-MHz RISC, 8M to 64M 600/1,200 Optional/optional 600/1,100 65,000 $1,099
LaserJet 4050se 17 133-MHz RISC, 8M to 64M 600/1,200 Optional/optional 600/1,100 65,000 $1,149
LaserJet 4050T 17 133-MHz RISC, 8M to 64M 600/1,200 Optional/optional 600/1,100 65,000 $1,249
LaserJet 4050N 17 133-MHz RISC, 8M to 64M 600/1,200 Optional/yes 600/1,100 65,000 $1,415
LaserJet 4050TN 17 133-MHz RISC, 8M to 64M 600/1,200 Optional/yes 600/1,100 65,000 $1,599
LaserJet 5000 16 100-MHz RISC, 4M to 1G 600 to 1,200 Optional/optional 350/1,100 65,000 $1,425
LaserJet 5000 N 16 100-MHz RISC, 8M to 1G 600 to 1,200 Optional/yes 350/1,100 65,000 $1,995
LaserJet 5000 GN 16 100-MHz RISC, 12M to 1G 600 to 1,200 Optional/yes 350/1,100 65,000 $2,500
LaserJet 8000 24 133-MHz RISC, 16M to 1G 600 to 1,200 Optional/optional 1,100/3,100 130,000 $2,069
LaserJet 8000 N 24 133-MHz RISC, 16M to 1G 600 to 1,200 Optional/yes 1,100/3,100 130,000 $2,579
LaserJet 8000 DN 24 133-MHz RISC, 24M to 1G 600 to 1,200 Yes/yes 1,100/3,100 130,000 $3,049
LaserJet 8100 32 166-MHz RISC, 16M to 1G 600 to 1,200 No/no 1,100/3,100 150,000 $2,639
LaserJet 8100 N 32 166-MHz RISC, 16M to 1G 600 to 1,200 Optional/yes 1,100/3,100 150,000 $2,939
LaserJet 8100 DN 32 166-MHz RISC, 24M to 1G 600 to 1,200 Yes/yes 1,100/3,100 150,000 $3,409
IBM Corp.
Armonk, N.Y.
Network Printer 17 17 33-MHz RISC, 4M to 68M 600 Yes/yes 350/1,350 65,000 $1,179 to $2,467
Infoprint 20 2050-MHz RISC, 8M to 96M600Yes/yes650/2,50075,000$1,456 to $3,245
Infoprint 32 32 66-MHz RISC, 8M to 64M 600 Optional/yes 1,000/2,500 150,000 $2,422 to $3,624
Infoprint 40 40 66-MHz RISC, 16M to 64M 600 Optional/yes 1,000/2,500 200,000 $2,687 up
Kyocera Electronics Inc.
Somerset, N.J.
Ecosys FS 3750 18 166-MHz PowerPC, 16M to 64M 1,200/2,400 Optional/yes 350/2,000 50,000 $1,099 up
Ecosys FS 7000+ 28166-MHz PowerPC, 16M to 64M 600/2,400Optional/yes1,000/3,000 100,000$2,499 up
Ecosys FS 900036233-MHz PowerPC, 16M to 64M600/2,400Optional/yes1,000/3,000150,000$2,999 up

VendorProductMaximum speed in pages per minute CPU and memoryTrue/enhanced resolution in dots per inchDuplex/network-readyStandard/ maximum paper input capacityMaximum duty cycle in pages per monthPrice
Lexmark International Inc.
Lexington, Ky.
Optra S 1625/1625n16100-MHz RISC, 4M to 68M1,200/1,200Optional/optional350/2,00065,000$1,049
Optra S 1625n16100-MHz RISC, 8M to 68M1,200/1,200Optional/yes350/2,00065,000$1,349 to $1,409
Optra S 185518133-MHz RISC, 4M to 68M1,200/1,200Optional/optional350/2,00065,000$1,099
Optra S 1855n18133-MHz RISC, 8M to 68M1,200/1,200Optional/yes350/2,00065,000$1,419 to $1,559
Optra T61220167-MHz RISC, 8M to 264M1,200/1,200Optional/optional600/3,600100,000$1,149
Optra T612n20167-MHz RISC, 16M to 272M1,200/1,200Optional/yes600/3,600100,000$1,499 to $1,599
Optra S 245524133-MHz RISC, 8M to 136M1,200/1,200Optional/optional1,250/3,600100,000 1,829 to $1,919
Optra S 2455n24133-MHz RISC, 16M to 136M1,200/1,200Optional/yes1,250/3,600100,000$2,179 to $2,229
Optra T61425200-MHz RISC, 8M to 384M1,200/1,200Optional/optional600/4,100130,000$1,729
Optra T614n25200-MHz RISC, 16M to 384M1,200/1,200Optional/yes1,100/4,100130,000$2,179 to $2,239
Optra SE 345534167-MHz RISC, 16M to 384M 8M to 136M1,200/1,200Optional/optional1,250/3,600150,000$2,199 to $2,299
Optra Se 3455n34167-MHz RISC, 16M to 136M1,200/1,200Optional/yes1,250/3,600150,000$2,429 to $2,699
Optra T61635200-MHz RISC, 16M to 384M1,200/1,200Optional/optional1,100/4,100150,000$2,299
Optra T616n35200-MHz RISC, 16M to 384M1,200/1,200Optional/yes1,100/4,100150,000$2,549 to $2,609
Optra W81035200-MHz RISC, 16M to 384M1,200/1,200Optional/optional1,250/3,750150,000$2,529
Optra W810n35200-MHz RISC, 16M to 384M1,200/1,200Optional/yes1,250/3,750150,000$2,699 to $2,759
Optra W810dn35200-MHz RISC, 32M to 384M1,200/1,200Yes/yes1,250/3,750150,000$3,329
Minolta Corp.
Mahwah, N.J.
PageWorks 181866-MHz PowerPC, 4M to 68M600/1,200Optional/optional250/1,25060,000$899
PageWorks 18LN1820-MHz RISC, 2M to 18M600/1,200N/A250/1,25060,000$1,099
PageWorks 18N1866-MHz PowerPC, 4M to 68M600/1,200Optional/yes250/1,25060,000$1,299
PageWorks 18 Plus18100-MHz RISC, 4M to 68M600/1,200Optional/yes250/1,25060,000$1,499
Mita Copystar America Inc.
Fairfield, N.J.
DP-180018166-MHz PowerPC, 16M to 64M600/1,200Optional/optional350/1,35050,000$1,216
NEC Technologies Inc.
Itasca, Ill.
SuperScript 180018100-MHz PowerPC, 12M to 132M600/1,200Yes/optional250/75065,000$799
SuperScript 1800N18100-MHz PowerPC, 12M to 132M600/1,200Yes/yes250/75065,000$999
Okidata Corp.
Mount Laurel, N.J.
Okipage 1818100-MHz RISC, 16M to 80M600/1,200Optional/optional630/1,79065,000$989 up
Okipage 18n1840-MHz RISC, 32M to 80M600/1,200Optional/yes630/1,79065,000$1,319
Okipage 202040-MHz RISC, 4M to 68M600/1,200Optional/optional630/1,79050,000$989 up
Okipage 20DX2040-MHz RISC, 4M to 68M600/1,200Yes/optional630/1,79050,000$1,044 up
Okipage 20DXn2040-MHz RISC, 12M to 68M600/1,200Yes/yes630/1,79050,000$1,319
Okipage 24DX24120-MHz RISC, 16M to 80M600/1,200Yes/optional630/1,79065,000$1,429 up
Okipage 24DXn24120-MHz RISC, 32M to 80M600/1,200Yes/yes1,169/1,79065,000$1,869
QMS/Minolta Inc.
Mobile, Ala.
2060 FX20100-MHz RISC, 8M to 128M600/1,200Optional/yes400/1,15050,000$2,499
2560 BX2580-MHz Power PC, 8M to 192M600/1,200Optional/yes750/3,50075,000$2,299
2560 FX/EX2580-MHz PowerPC, 32M to 192M600/1,200Optional/yes750/3,50075,000$2,499 up
326032150-MHz RISC, 16M to 384M600Optional/yes1,050/2,500150,000$3,199
3260 EX32150-MHz RISC, 32M to 384M600/1200Optional/yes1,050/2,500150,000$3,699
403240150-MHz RISC, 32M to 384M600/1200Optional/yes1,050/2,500200,000$3,699
4032 EX40150-MHz RISC, 32M to 384M600/1200Optional/yes1,050/2,500200,000$4,199
Ricoh Corp.
West Caldwell, N.J.
Aficio AP270027167-MHz RISC, 16M to 80M 600Optional/yes500/1,50065,000$2,195
Aficio AP 450040100-MHz RISC, 8M to 72M400/600Yes/yes500/3,550150,000$4,095
Samsung Electronics America Inc.
Ridgefield Park, N.J.
QL-7000 Series17100-MHz PowerPC, 4M to 68M600/1,200Optional/optional600/1,00065,000$867 up
Tally Printer Corp.
Kent, Wash.
T911616125-MHz RISC, 4M to 68M600/1,200Optional/optional550/65075,000$999
T91323250-MHz RISC, 40M to 128M600Optional/optional1,050/2,000150,000$3,495
T91404050-MHz RISC, 40M to 128M600Optional/optional1,050/2,000200,000$3,995
Xerox Corp.
Stamford, Conn.
DocuPrint N17b17Embedded, 16M to 104M600/1,200Optional/optional350/1,35065,000$1,080
DocuPrint N1717Embedded, 16M to 104M600/1,200Optional/yes350/1,35065,000$1,300
DocuPrint N2424Embedded, 24M to 128M600Optional/yes1,000/3,550100,000$2,150
DocuPrint N3232Embedded, 24M to 128M600Optional/yes1,000/3,550150,000$2,650
DocuPrint N4040Embedded, 24M to 128M600Optional/yes1,000/3,550200,000$3,250


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