Colour laser printers–Are they a luxury or not?

I have received two colour laser printers from Brother International on loan for me to review for this site. These are able to turn out large runs of high-quality colour documents very quickly but a lot of mainstream business users are hesitant to deploy them in the office. They may be used by people in the publishing sector as another tool for turning out proofs of publications. As well, larger organisations may provide a single machine for use by the marketing department for printing up marketing material. But typically, a lot of businesses limit their use because of the cost to buy and run these machines. There is also a fear that employees will use the colour laser printer for running off party invitations or publication material for their own school or community effort, rather than to further the needs of the employer’s business. As well, not many small businesses and community organisations do consider the purchase of a colour laser printer even though they may need to turn out larger colour print runs. Often they end up overworking a colour inkjet multifunction printer or outsource the job to a printing service whenever they do a large print run. A key user case for these printers would be anyone in the real-estate business. This also includes anyone who specialises in short-term or long-term property rental. These people would be relying on these kinds of printers as they turn out many different documents associated with the sale or rental of a property. But most users could use these machines for creating “as-needed” colour business stationery. Similarly, they could be useful for using colour in the reports and accounts that your business sends out. This could include preserving colour in your organisation’s logo.

Main benefits

Like its monochrome brethren, the colour laser printers have the ability to turn out high-quality printouts of documents and publications in a very quick time. But these units can do the same thing in colour and can work to a standard for proofing or short-run multiple-copy publishing. As well, like the monochrome laser printers, most of these printers can run for a long time before they need the toner replaced. They are also designed to handle large amounts of paper thus allowing for long intervals before you need to replenish the supplies. This also allows the printers to be considered on a “per page” level as being cheap to run and is more so with newer equipment.

Drawbacks

One main drawback is that the printers are initially expensive to buy and the cost to replace parts can mount up considerably. As well, because the mechanism has to print the four colours for process printing (cyan, magenta, yellow and black), it is a lot more complicated and this can be of concern with serviceability and reliability. Another limitation is that the availability and cost of special printing media may be limited compared to that for inkjet printers. This is because of the fact that these units use heat to “fix” the image to the media and the special media has to be designed to cope with this situation. In some cases, certain media like vinyl adhesive stickers wouldn’t be available for this class of printer due to the use of plastic as a writing media and also the use of an adhesive in the same media.

Features to look for

There are certain feature that should be considered essential for one of these printers, whether as a dedicated printer or as a multifunction unit. One is for the printer to be able to be connected to the business’s network via a Cat5 Ethernet “blue cable” at least. They may also come with an 802.11g or 802.11n Wi-Fi wireless network that works with WPA2 security and, preferably, WPS quick-setup. Another is for the printer to have an integrated auto-duplex mechanism which allows you to print on both sides of the paper. These should allow the whole of the paper face to be printed on when printing both sides and preferably there should be no time penality for doing double-sided printing. As well, you should be able to buy a high-capacity paper tray for the unit, whether as standard or as an optional extra. There should also be the option to buy high-yield toner cartridges so, with the combination of the high-capacity paper tray and these cartridges, you don’t have to attend to the machine frequently.

Conclusion

It is still worth considering putting the colour laser printer in your printing technology landscape especially if you intend to turn out a large number of short-run or application-specific documents. So have a look at the reviews of the Brother HL-4150CDN colour laser printer and the Brother MFC-9840CDW colour laser multifunction printer and stay tuned to this site for more networked colour laser printer reviews. While you are waiting, any of you can leave comments after this article about your experiences with buying or using a colour laser printer.

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