From the October 2006 issue of Entrepreneur

When it comes to reports, brochures, charts and marketing materials, color creates emphasis and impact that grayscale can't convey. With color printers reaching a new level of affordability, there's no need to stay stuck in a black-and-white mind-set. It can cost you less than 10 cents per page for living color. Share a color printer or multifunction device on a network to really get some bang for your workgroup buck.

You'll notice some radically different prices in the chart. The higher-priced models tend to net you printers with higher monthly duty cycles, faster color printing, larger paper capacity, bigger hard drives, expandable memory, built-in finishing options like automatic duplexing, and high-end printer management features. If you don't need extra copying, scanning or faxing features, look to a model like the $399 (all prices street unless noted) Lexmark C500n. It's a network-ready laser with a reasonable 8 ppm output in color and a snappy 31 ppm in monochrome. For a comparably affordable multifunction, check out the $750 Brother MFC-9420CN. It covers printing, copying, scanning and faxing. And it does double duty as a stand-alone fax, a nice extra feature for the price.

Having color printing available for your employees is both a privilege and a responsibility. Businesses that are concerned about excessive color printing can keep track of how much their employees are printing. The $5,999 Xerox WorkCentre 7132 comes with Xerox Standard Accounting software. IT managers or network admins can access reports that show how much each employee is printing and whether it's in color or black and white. That information can help you keep a handle on printing costs.

Unlike inkjets, which are cheap to replace, your workgroup color printer will need regular maintenance. Still, it's nice to go as long as possible between paying for maintenance visits. The $11,730 (MSRP) Kyocera Mita America is a heavy-duty copy/scan/print multi-function printer with a long-life drum that rates a preventive maintenance cycle of 300,000 impressions. Also in this price range is the $13,100 (MSRP) Konica Minolta Bizhub C352, which is designed to crank out 35 ppm in both monochrome and color. It features high-speed scanning-up to 65 black-and-white originals per minute or 50 in color. Either machine is geared to handle very demanding workgroup environments with high-volume color needs.

Smaller workgroups that specifically want to address printing needs could put the affordable $499 Hewlett-Packard Color LaserJet 2605dn to work. It won't break speed records at 12 ppm in monochrome and 10 ppm in color, but it offers robust performance for the price. The automatic duplexing feature is a nice bonus. OKI Printing Solutions' C6100n is another printer-only option that comes stocked with a healthy 256MB memory to handle graphics-intensive print jobs. At $899, it serves up pretty quick color printing that maxes out at about 26 ppm.

The chart below illustrates the wide range of options and prices available for networked color printing. Where your business fits in depends on how demanding your in-house printing needs are. If you're planning to crank out 1,000 high-quality color brochures per month, start looking toward the higher end. If you just need the occasional splash of color to liven up your mostly monochrome documents, you'll likely be fine on the lower end of the price scale.

Shopping List Need a wi-fi upgrade? If you're looking for faster speeds, more range and better coverage, draft-n might do the trick.
MANUFACTURER/
MODEL
CONTACT TYPE PAGES PER MINUTEDUTY CYCLE FEATURESSTREET PRICE
Brother
MFC-9420CN
(800) 276-7746,
www.brother.com

Multifunction print/copy/scan/fax

31 b/w, 8 color

30,000 pages per month

Stand-alone fax capability, PC faxing

$750

Hewlett-Packard
Color LasterJet 2605dn
(866) 625-1176,
www.hp.com

Printer

12 b/w, 10 color

35,000 pages per month

64MB memory, duplexing, Instant-on technology

$499

Konica Minolta
Bizhub C352
(866) 767-9200,
www.kmbs.konicaminolta.us

Multifunction print/copy/scan

35 b/w, 35 color

100,000 pages per month

40GB hard drive, duplexing, high-speed scanning

$13,000
(MSRP)

Kyocera Mita America
KM-C2520
(973) 808-8444,
www.kyoceramita.com

Multifunction print/copy/scan/fax

25 b/w, 20 color

85,000 pages per month

40GB hard disk, duplexing, long-life drums, optional fax

$11,730
(MSRP)

Lexmark
C500n
(800) LEXMARK,
www.lexmark.com

Printer

31 b/w, 8 color

35,000 pages per month

64MB memory, independent color density control

$399

Oki Printing Solutions
C6100n

(800)OKI DATA,
www.okiprintingsolutions.com/us

Printer

32 b/w, 26 color

60,000 pages per month

256MB memory, job accounting utility, WebPrint Solution

$899

Xerox
WorkCentre 7132
(800) ASK-XEROX,
www.xerox.com

Multifunction print/copy/scan

32 b/w, 8 color

100,000 pages per month

Xerox Standard Accounting, optional scan and fax

$5,999