When color matches quality and price

The Lab tests six affordable and mostly efficient network color printers

Several years ago, the big news with printers was that most manufacturers were adding color capabilities to their frontline units. I remember doing a review of these early workhorses under the headline “Battleship gray no more.” And while it was nice to see a splash of color on the page, those early units were by no means speedy or cheap.

Products in this review:

Brother HL-4070CDW
Epson B 500DN
Hewlett-Packard Color LaserJet CP3525x
Lexmark C734dn
Panasonic KX MC6040
Xerox Phaser 6280

Of course, the world is a different place now. The cost of color printing is nearly on par with black and white, to the point that most agencies no longer keep their color printing capabilities under lock and key. You can still restrict color printing if you want to, but there really is no need anymore, unless printing in general is monitored.

We put out the call for color printers to major manufacturers selling units to the government. Six responded with printers that can handle everyday black-and-white document printing, splash color for special presentations and even low-end photo printers with adequate output. All of the printers in this roundup were speedy when printing our torturous 30-page color test document, with one notable exception. And for the most part, the output looked good, with colors matching their real-world counterparts on a professional color wheel. We also tested each printer for speed when printing standard all-text documents and recorded variances in quality with that output, too.

But the uniting factor with each of these printers was green — how little of it you need to spend to obtain them. The most expensive printer in the review was only $1,200, which would have been unheard of for this class of printer just a few years ago. The cheapest was just less than $500 for government agencies, yet it still performed reasonably well in most of our testing.

So it looks like color is here to stay.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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Reader Comments

Fri, Sep 18, 2009 JKy West

While any information is better than none when doing some comparison shopping, what I would like to see here is a comparison of per-page, or consumable supply, costs. The initial price can be important, but supplies will quickly overshadow that cost. As an example, a user just printed a few dozen copies of a color report to send at the end of a large cooperative project, using in the process over $1000 of color toner...

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