March 04, 2008

How Do Xerox Solid Ink Printers Compare to Laser Printers?

By Jason Sattler

PrinTip: Everything You Need to Know About Xerox's (Edible) Solid Ink Technology (Except a Good Wine Pairing)


As laser printers continue to dominate the workplace (Memjet, where are you?), the debate about inkjet versus laser still arises again and again. Which costs less? Which is more efficient? Which should you buy thinking two, three years down the line?

Xerox wants to further complicate this ongoing soap opera with another print technology — solid ink.

Tektronix Color Printing and Imaging Division produced the first solid ink Phaser printer at . cost of over $10,000 in 1991. Xerox acquired the Tektronix technology in 2000 and with it the ability to produce the only solid ink printers on the market. Now Phasers sell for as low as $700, which still makes them pricey compared to lower end inkjets and laser printers.

So why does Xerox think you should make the switch to solid ink? What's in it for you?

Xerox's answer to the solid ink question can be summed up in one line that you'll find all over its marketing materials: Print color for the cost of black and white — the classic "pay more initially to pay less eventually" argument. Xerox wants you to know the more images you print and the more people who use your printer the more you'll save by switching to solid ink. Hence this handy online cost-saving-calculator gizmo.

So, why hasn't everyone switched to solid ink?

Vince Ferraro, a senior HP LaserJet executive and one of our Printer Pundits, believes that when it comes down to the final analysis, solid ink will not cost less than color laser.

"What is really important," Vince writes in his HP Laserjet Blog, "is Total Cost per Page (TCPP) — where you look at hardware prices, cost per page, up time, support costs, down time, etc., to derive the real cost of printing." He thinks that when you add up all the variables, color laser wins.

Not so fast, according to fellow Printer Pundit M. David Stone who recently reviewed the Xerox Phaser 8560MFP in PC Magazine, calling it "one of the more impressive laser-class all-in-ones I've seen lately."

Our friend Vince may subscribe to the never let them see you sweat philosophy, but HP as a whole is concerned enough about Xerox's solid ink Phasers to create this head-to-head comparison of the two technologies.

HP touts the quick two minute warm-up time of color laser printers compared to twelve minutes for solid ink printers. It also points out that Phasers, unlike laser printers, do not have an Energy Star certification as a power-saving device. Yet Xerox says that solid ink proves to be more environmentally friendly than laser and inkjet printing.

This battle of the specifications highlights the complexity of the solid ink versus laser debate. While laser printers use less power, solid ink demands less packaging, does not produce any ozone, and creates almost no waste while being completely non-toxic. In fact, in the one bit of printing industry lore that brings to mind Ozzy Osbourne's bat-biting antics, Tektronix's CEO once allegedly ate a part of a solid ink stick to demonstrate its safety. No word on whether he washed it down with a glass of Cabernet or something lighter.

The issue of quality also presents quite a conundrum for anyone comparing the two technologies. Xerox claims that solid ink compares to high-quality offset printing since ink covers the whole page. The print quality does not depend on paper quality as it does with lasers and inkjets.

HP counters that solid ink printers have a higher likelihood of developing problems, and lack PostScript drivers in the more affordable Phaser line. Additionally, moving solid ink printers can be very difficult or impossible.

And so the debate continues. Please share your thoughts.

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Sometimes useful, sometimes fun, and always interesting, PrinTips enable you to get more out of your ink jet or laser printer. That said, we don't profess to have a monopoly on printer tips so if you have anything to add, please do so below.

Article Filed Under: HP Laser Toner PrinTips Xerox-Tektronix
  • April 08, 2008 jay kole

    i think by you stating that Xerox would like to futher complicate things is actually incorrect, seeing as solid ink has been around since the early 90's and is not a "new" technology by any means. and in the next paragraph you mention it has been around since the 1991?

    as well comparing machines of older technology as well gives people misguided and misleading information as well, the 7300 is a LED machine and the 6250 which is a Laser machine.

    jay kole

  • October 03, 2008 Ken Blosser

    We have been using the Xerox 8400 since 2004 and now an 8560 since 2007. The 8400 has 250,000 pages (and still going strong) and the 8560 has 100,000 pages. For our purposes, which includes printing colour documents virtually every weekday, I do not believe there is a better machine on the market. The quality is great - printed reading material is virtually the same as high end toner ($60,000+ digital machines), the consumables have averaged about $.04 per page over the 350,000 pages (virtually every page has colour (no photos) and the coverage is in the industry standard range of less than 5%) and the repairs...well, I'm still waiting for the first repair.

    The HP comparison about first page out is laughable...because you never turn the 8560 just goes into "sleep mode" and takes less than 1 minute to warm up in the morning. And if you want to talk environmentally friendly, I can put a years supply of consumables in a desk drawer and still have room for a couple of telephone books. No toner cartridges, no drums to wear out, just a bunch of blocks of crayons that give great colour and quality.

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