Color Laser Printers for Small Business
What about color laser printers? These used to be very expensive, but recently the price has dropped considerably.
"A growing number of offices are replacing existing monochrome laser machines with color page printers," says Ann Priede, an editor at Lyra Research.
Shulman suggests leaving color lasers alone, however, unless you need to print a high volume of brochures and flyers. Reason: color lasers are more expensive than monochrome, as is color toner. So unless you really need a steady stream of color promotional materials, stick to a monochrome laser.
But again, costs of color lasers are falling. HP designed its LaserJet Pro CM1415 Color Multifunction Printer series ($499) for small businesses with high print volume. Replacement cartridges, though, are pricey. $69.99 for each of three colors (approx 1,300 pages per cartridge) and the same for black (approx. 2,000 pages). That's more than double the cost per page of the HP 8500 inkjet.
Cartridges and Refills
To bring the costs of laser printing down further, you can purchase inexpensive replacement or remanufactured ink cartridges.
"Replacement ink cartridges are cartridges that are manufactured by a company other than the original manufacturer," says Shulman. "A remanufactured ink cartridge is the original OEM cartridge that has been professionally cleaned, refilled with quality ink that is made in the USA and tested prior to leaving the factory."
With so much money being poured into ink cartridges, it's no surprise that hundreds of companies have sprung up offering refill kits for inkjets and replacement/remanufactured cartridges for ink jets and laser printers. Inkjet refills work for some people, but many find them too much trouble -- most people have blackened their hands, injected the yellow ink into the red receptacle or ruined the carpet with refill kits.
Additionally, about 20 percent of black inkjet cartridges can't be refilled or reused. On the other hand, most laser toner cartridges can be remanufactured. A handful of high-end companies produce "compatible" cartridges that equal the quality of the OEMs. At the low-end, a horde of firms offer replacement toner cartridges at a fraction of the cost. From experience, some of these are of dubious value -- they work OK in many cases, but yield seems lower and they are messier than OEM cartridges. SMBs are advised to either stick with OEM toner or only deal in a high-end remanufacturer.
For example, Pendl Companies, manufactures high-quality compatible toner cartridges for HP, Apple, Panasonic, Tektronix, Epson, Lexmark, IBM and Canon printers. Reink is another of the more dependable toner replacement sources.
Be aware, though, that there are plenty of sources around offering ultra-cheap replacements. "Usually going with the cheapest is not the best idea," says Shulman. "Many companies don't even test their cartridges before they are sent out."
HP counters the replacement/remanufactured cartridge point of view saying that HP designs its laser printing supplies to provide maximum value by going beyond yield and estimated cost per page calculation. As well as cost per page, the company touts usability, quality and reliability of its products.
Bottom line: you should avoid cheap replacement cartridges, particularly for inkjets. For toner cartridges, choose between the OEM or a reputable, high-end replacement/remanufactured source.
Match Your Small Business Printing Needs
If you print very little, you can get away with a low-end inkjet. Don’t waste your time with a stuttering old model, however; it costs next to nothing to replace it. But if you print consistently in a reasonable volume, it's probably time to take a serious look at either a monochrome laser printer or a business-class inkjet. HP, Lexmark, Brother, Dell and others offer both in a wealth of choices. While the monochrome laser won hands down half a decade ago, the business inkjet is now a viable alternative.
If you need color printing on a regular basis, go for the business-class inkjet. If you only need black and white (we haven't used color printing in 6 years, so ask yourself if you REALLY need it), a monochrome laser a wise choice. This color versus monochrome question is important. Andrew Lippman, a senior analyst at Lyra Research said that color printing typically costs four to six times more than black-and-white printing. “A SMB should carefully consider where and when they need color documents” said Lippman.
Companies that choose monochrome laser but have occasional color printing needs can keep one old inkjet around. If you do a high volume of color printing, though, a color laser will work out better in the long run. If your business requires demanding, high-quality color printing in large quantity, you should opt for a color laser -- though it is worth testing a business inkjet as it may well be good enough and it will be a lot less expensive.
"For small amounts of color printing it's much cheaper to use an inkjet," said Shulman. "If a business plans on printing a large amount of color it may be worthwhile to buy a color laser printer."
Drew Robb is a Los Angeles-based freelancer specializing in technology and engineering. Originally from Scotland, he graduated with a degree in geology from Glasgow's Strathclyde University. In recent years he has authored hundreds of articles as well as the book, Server Disk Management by CRC Press.
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