XEROX & RICOH’S NEW FAST COLOR PRINTERS

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XEROX & RICOH’S NEW FAST COLOR PRINTERS

 user 2006-03-28 at 11:21:00 am Views: 68
  • #14885

    Ricoh and Xerox deliver fast color in a big way
    The
    past couple of years have seen the consolidation of color laser
    printers as affordable, reliable mainstream machines, delivering a big
    boon to office workers who need to produce attractive, informative
    business documents. The next frontier is color machines that can print
    on tabloid or larger paper (up to 12 inches by 18 inches), offering the
    versatility to produce posters, technical illustrations, double-sided
    saddle-stitched booklets, and similar complex documents.
    For this
    review, I looked at two new oversize color printers with revved-up
    engine specs: Ricohs Aficio CL7300D and Xeroxs Phaser 7400DN, both
    specified for between 30 ppm (pages per minute) and 40 ppm on text and
    color. To provide performance and cost perspective, I looked back at
    two similar machines, Lexmarks C920dn and Oki Printing Solutions
    C9600hdn, that Melissa Riofrio and I reviewed on Oct. 3, 2005.
    The
    new Ricoh and Xerox machines run fast, are a pleasure to operate, and
    generate creditable prints. But I uncovered some important differences.
    The Ricohs print quality is a smidgen better, but aggressive pricing
    from Xerox plus faster performance give the Phaser 7400DN a slight lead
    overall.
    Ricoh Aficio CL7300D
    The Ricoh Aficio CL7300D is easy to
    set up and use. For one thing, the company includes instructions for
    both dealer and owner, plus a long, detailed maintenance manual.
    Moreover, the color-calibration sheet has instructions printed right on
    it. (I didnt need the sheet because the automatic calibration function
    worked well.)
    This printer gets mostly good marks for mechanical
    design. It weighs more than 200 pounds, but deep handholds at each
    corner (replaced on duplexer-equipped models, like the one I tested,
    with a sturdy steel bar on one side) make it easy to lift. The paper
    trays adjust smoothly and have stops to prevent them from being dumped
    on the floor. The three trays come in handy for letterhead, second
    sheet, plus plain paper for internal documents. The imaging components
    inside the front door are somewhat inconvenient to remove and replace,
    but the huge toner tubs drop easily into place under a flap on the
    right side.
    Ricohs control panel menus are logically organized so a
    beginner could probably figure out how, for example, to print a
    password-protected document. But the two-line LCD doesnt accommodate
    much hand-holding such as prompts. The printers internal Web site, in
    contrast, provides pages and pages of admin features to authenticate
    users and control access, set up various error-notification schemes,
    and configure network parameters.
    Minor complaints: The printer
    comes with single-use paper-size labels for the paper trays, so if you
    change sizes youll soon resort to sticky notes. Also, with two internal
    trays, the CL7300D is so tall that when I put it on a workbench I had
    to climb on a chair to see the control panel LCD; consider a rolling
    base instead, which costs $175. And one of the jam-clearing doors only
    opens 45 degrees, which makes for an awkward reach.
    The Ricoh falls
    slightly behind the Xerox on text-printing speed, churning out plain
    text at 26.1 ppm, compared with the Xeroxs 27.4 ppm; it falls further
    behind on graphics, at 6.6 ppm versus the Xeroxs 8.5 ppm.
    We scored
    performance and tested print speed using each printers Adobe PostScript
    drivers default settings. It might be possible to coax better
    performance or better print quality from the machines by juggling
    driver settings before each job, but because the printers do not have
    equivalent nondefault settings, I stuck with the common denominator
    settings.
    On print quality, the Ricoh beats the Xerox. It produces
    matte black text with a crisp, sharply focused look, not letting heavy
    text blob together nor dropping fine detail on light text. It prints
    color swatches spot on, although density does drop off somewhat in the
    middle of large areas. It also shades color and grayscale photos well,
    although a dot pattern visible in grayscale photos interferes a bit
    with rendering detail.
    Ricohs Aficio CL7300D costs $5,095 in the
    configuration I tested — $1,746 more than the Xerox Phaser 7400DN. The
    Ricoh does come with an extra internal paper tray plus a hard drive,
    but when you equip the Xerox with those useful items, the Ricoh still
    costs $748 more.
    Ricohs consumables, however, are a bargain. After
    50,000 prints (about a years worth), youll have spent $1,039 to keep
    your Ricoh CL7300D humming (not including paper or electricity),
    compared with $1,520 for the Xerox Phaser 7400DN; after 250,000 prints,
    the Ricoh bill will amount to $7,639 — $10,215 for the Xerox. By that
    time, youll have long recuperated the higher purchase price. For my
    calculations, consumables costs reflect a running total of all
    purchases of replacement components at specific break points. They are
    not based on a generalized cost per page.
    Note that pricing for
    Ricoh products is not entirely transparent because the company sells
    through a dealer network and often under a monthly contract that
    includes supplies. You may be able to negotiate better deals than the
    list prices quoted here.
    Xerox Phaser 7400DN
    The 7400DN shows
    some nice design touches. One of my favorites is the hinged control
    panel, which swivels from horizontal to vertical to accommodate tall
    and short people. The controller cover is also on hinges; you loosen
    two captive thumbscrews, and the door folds out of your way. A bracket
    over the output tray keeps prints in place if you open the case to
    clear a paper jam.
    All the flaps and doors are labeled to match
    illustrations in the maintenance documentation. The external auxiliary
    feed and the main paper tray both feel fairly sturdy, but the size
    guides on it are somewhat balky. A slot on the tray holds reusable
    plastic size labels, which Xerox provides.
    The LED-array design
    hangs the light sources from the ceiling of the printers paper path, so
    that opening the lid lifts much of the innards out of your way. And a
    cage that holds the drums and toner cartridges can raise a couple of
    inches to allow you to access paper jams at the image transfer belt
    without gutting the whole printer.
    Xerox made the 7400DN friendly
    for users and system admins alike. A big backlit LCD displays six lines
    of text and takes advantage of the real estate to show prompts and menu
    paths. Users can also print some help files that are stored permanently
    on the printer, such as tutorials on color calibration and paper types.
    Extensive on-screen manuals fill in for brief, oversimplified printed
    documentation.
    One minor UI flaw: The installation CD includes a
    useful tool called SupportCentre that displays video tutorials, FAQs,
    manuals, and so on, but it isnt documented in the install guide; I just
    stumbled upon it by luck.
    As an admin, if you already use Xerox
    CentreWare for managing a fleet of Xerox printers, the Phaser 7400DN
    will drop right into place; if not, an internal Web site provides a
    wealth of security and admin features, including a job-accounting
    database and fine-grained control over which control-panel features to
    lock or leave accessible. You can set the printer to sleep and wake up
    at specific times each day or tell it to track its own usage patterns
    and figure out the most efficient schedule.
    Print quality is where
    the Xerox stumbles, and there only a bit. It prints text in an
    attractive solid black, but with a hint of soft focus or fuzziness. At
    the same time, the curves and diagonals of letters show a slight
    choppiness, although serifs and other details come through well. Color
    ramps show slight crosshatching but transition smoothly from light to
    dark shades; however, diagonal lines look wavy because they are not
    cleanly defined. Also, in my tests, I noticed some trapping problems
    that left blank spaces between abutting blocks of solid color. My
    grayscale test photo seemed tonally flat and had moire patterns but
    preserved fine detail, while my color test photo looked dotty and
    lacked detail.
    Xeroxs Phaser 7400DN fits into this competitive
    environment at the low end of the cost spectrum: Its $3,349 price tag
    ($4,347 fully configured) undersells not only Ricohs CL7300D but also
    the Lexmark C920dn and Oki C9600hdn, equivalently equipped models from
    our Oct. 3 review. And although Ricohs consumables cost much less over
    time, Lexmarks and Okis cost somewhat more.
    Xerox, however, doesnt
    compensate by delivering an underperforming machine. Its 27.4-ppm
    text-printing speed beats both the Ricoh and Lexmark, although not the
    Oki; its 8.5-ppm graphics-printing speed takes first place.

    Which big printer for you?
    Either
    printer is a fine machine but a big investment, and the differences
    between them are subtle. The Xerox Phaser 7400DN performs somewhat
    better, especially on graphics, whereas the Ricoh Aficio CL7300D has a
    slight edge on print quality. The Xerox costs less to purchase, but its
    operating costs add up faster. If purchase cost matters more than
    speed, look at Ricohs slightly slower and much less expensive Aficio
    CL7200.
    The PC World Test Center contributed methodology, staff, and resources to this project.
    Related ArticlesRicoh and Xerox deliver fast color in a big way