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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