Thursday, September 27, 2007

Color laser printers – down, down, up!

We’ve been looking back at issues of the Better Buys for Business Color Laser Guide, and are struck by the amazingly rapid changes in the market.

First, we looked at some typical models from major vendors in 2002. All of these models are letter/legal-size printers and come network-ready. Note that tandem color printers, those that ran at or near the same speed in color and black-and-white, were just coming on the market. These printers are all suitable for small workgroup use and they are pretty representative. At this point, there were very few printers that could print faster than 20ppm in color.
Vendor Product Speed Street price Est. cost per page
Brother HL-2400CeN 16ppm black/ 4ppm color $1,999 2.7 cents (black)/ 10.6 cents (color)
Hewlett-Packard Color LaserJet 4550 N 16ppm black/ 4ppm color $2,369 2.2 cents (black)/ 12.7 cents (color)
Lexmark C750n 20ppm black/ 20ppm color $3,399 1.4 cents (black)/ 8.9 cents (color)
OKI C72000n 20ppm black/ 12ppm color $2,279 1.9 cents (black)/ 9.5 cents (color)
Xerox Phaser 750N 16ppm black/ 4ppm color $1,999 1.9 cents (black)/ 9.5 cents (color)
Now we’ll look at some parallel models from our upcoming 2007 guide. Note that there are many more models available, and lots of very speedy tandem models, running at 40ppm and faster in color. These models are again small workgroup-oriented, network-ready printers.
Vendor Product Speed Street price Est. cost per page
Brother HL-2700CN 31ppm black/ 8ppm color $450 3.3 cents (black)/ 13.4 cents (color)
Hewlett-Packard Color LaserJet 3600n 17ppm black/ 17ppm color $1,199 2.2 cents (black)/ 12.0 cents (color)
Lexmark C532n 24ppm black/ 22ppm color $499 1.4 cents (black)/ 9.8 cents (color)
OKI C6000n 24ppm black/ 20ppm color $700 2.6 cents (black)/ 16.3 cents (color)
Xerox Phaser 6180/N 26ppm black/ 20ppm color $500 2.4 cents (black)/ 12.2 cents (color)
Two things are noticeable. First, and most obviously, the staggering drop in unit prices along with a major increase in color printing speed. Second, there’s an overall rise in cost per page for these lower-priced units. Note that the most moderate prices belong to the HP models, which has a far higher price tag than the others.

Conclusion: The decline in prices has been countered by a general increase in costs. And as, color printers get faster and users print even more pages in color, the lower unit prices are an enticement for users to buy more and more machines and eventually high-cost toner.

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