Laser Tags

With prices falling quickly, you can afford to print beyond black and white.

Faster than a speeding inkjet, more colorful than a monochrome laser and now showing at an office near you-color laser printers! They're the business blockbuster of the season. Sure, laser printers have always been big-but when you add some color to the palette, the possibilities are endless.

But before we start digging into all that fun hardware, you may be asking, Are color laser printers even affordable? They sure are. What used to cost well over $10,000 can today be had for less than $2,500. In fact, all the lasers in our chart ("Shopping List") check in at less than $2,600, and the least-expensive Minolta-QMS Magicolor 2200 DeskLaser costs just $1,299 (all prices street). While that looks like a lot compared to a $300 color inkjet printer, there's no contest when it comes to consumables.

Every time you replace one inkjet cartridge, you pay about $30 for the privilege. For a high-use printer, the bill to change both black and color cartridges every month or two could exceed $360 over the course of a year. By comparison, a black toner cartridge for the Brother HL-2400CeN runs $130 and lasts for 10,000 pages at 5 percent coverage. The Cyan, Magenta and Yellow cartridges cost $125 each for 6,000 pages at 5 percent coverage. Combined, they last much longer than any inkjet replacement around.

"Solid ink" sounds like an oxymoron, but it's actually the name for an unusual technology that shows up in some Tektronix/Xerox laser printers. Rather than standard toner cartridges, the Phaser 850N uses small blocks of solid ink. The individual ink sticks get used up faster than regular cartridges, but the cost is lower. A package of two cyan sticks and one black stick goes for around $81.

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This article was originally published in the June 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Laser Tags.

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