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In Living Color

Time to upgrade your color printer? Think about your production needs and budget before choosing.

We've all grown up and accepted that the paperless office is a fairy tale. Printers work overtime, churning out reams of documents in businesses across the country. It's just a matter of time before you'll need to replace that office workhorse, or add another printer to carry the load.

Every network needs at least one color printer. Color isn't only for graphic designers; it's for any workgroup member who wants to see a marketing brainstorm in its full glory without running to the local copy shop. It also gives you the flexibility to make short runs of brochures, marketing materials or handouts for presentations. You've only got to determine which color printer is right for the job.

Generally, business inkjets aren't just inkjets anymore. Take the Dell A960, for example. This affordable $179 printer (all prices street) is ideal for a home office or a small office that needs faxing, scanning and copying capabilities in one compact package. Bear in mind it's only compatible with Windows 2000 and XP, so Windows 98 and Mac users are out of luck.

Depending on your niche, you may want to look at the $399 Epson Stylus Photo R800. For graphic artists or photographers, the R800 turns out archival-quality photo prints and prints directly onto CDs and DVDs for labeling. Canon's $99 i475D is a lower-cost photo printing option with onboard media slots for fast printing from your digital camera storage.

Off in a land of its own is the less-than-$1,000 Xerox Phaser 8400. This solid ink printer has color print speeds of up to 24 ppm, fast for this price range. It also gets the first print out in about six seconds, another plus for impatient producers. Laser printers often take much longer to warm up and get going. Check into the Phaser if your need for speed is being held back only by your budget.

On the other hand, color laser printers are getting more budget-friendly all the time, as the $699 Samsung CLP-500 demonstrates. Its automatic duplexing (a standard feature) is especially nice. The trade-off is its 5 ppm color print speed. You'll still get 20 ppm in black and white, though. Compare that with the $499 (with rebate) Konica Minolta magicolor 2300DL.

At the other end of the price spectrum is the $2,399 Lexmark C752n. This network-ready printer features a respectable 20 ppm in both color and black-and-white modes. Its 85,000-page monthly duty cycle will handle the needs of most small offices or demanding workgroups. At about the same price point is the network-ready $1,999 Brother HL-4200CN. It features automatic duplexing and, although a somewhat slower processor than the Lexmark, somewhat faster print speeds.

We couldn't let this article go by without looking at a monster printing solution for larger offices with more strenuous production needs. You may know Hewlett-Packard for its inkjets, but its network-ready Color LaserJet 9500 won't fit on a desktop. At $6,799, it's not for every business. What you get is a workhorse that won't break a sweat on demanding jobs. It holds 1,100 pages of paper in three trays and has a 200,000-page monthly duty cycle. If your Kinko's bills are getting out of hand, it may be time to check out a big color printer like this one.

Consumable costs for lasers are less than for inkjets, but you'll pay more upfront for lasers. The printer you go with will depend a lot on the number of users and the specific types of printing you do.

Shopping List
When choosing a color printer, specs to keep an eye on include processor speed and memory-the more the merrier.

MANUFACTURER/
MODEL
CONTACTTYPEPPMFEATURESSTREET
price
BROTHER
HL-4200CN
(888) 879-3232
www.brother.com
Laser26 color, 26 blackNetwork ready, automatic duplexing,64MB memory, 400MHz processor$1,999
CANON
i475D
(800) OK-CANON
www.usa.canon.com
Inkjet12 color, 18 blackOnboard media slots, borderless printing$99
DELL
A960
(800) 917-DELL
www.dell.com
Inkjet all-in-one12 color, 17 blackPrint, copy, scan, fax, not Mac-compatible,USB interface$179
EPSON STYLUS
PHOTO R800
(800) GO-EPSON
www.epson.com
Inkjet45 seconds per 5x7 color print, 17 blackArchival inks, direct CD printing$399
HEWLETT-PACKARD
Color LaserJet 9500
(800) 888-0262
www.hp.com
Laser24 color, 24 black160MB memory, 200,000-page monthly duty cycle$6,799
KONICA MINOLTA
Magicolor 2300DL
(800) 523-2696
www.konicaminolta.us
Laser4 color, 16 black32MB memory, USB and parallel interfaces$499
(with rebate)
LEXMARK
C752n
(800) LEXMARK
www.lexmark.com
Laser20 color, 20 blackNetwork ready, 600MHz processor, 85,000-page monthly duty cycle$2,399
SAMSUNG
CLP-500
(800) SAMSUNG
www.samsungusa.com
Laser5 color, 20 blackAutomatic duplexing, 64MB memory, USB 2.0 and parallel interfaces$699
XEROX Phaser
8400
(877) 362-6567
www.xerox.com
Solid ink24 color, 24 black128MB memory, 500MHz processor, USB 2.0 and parallel interfaces$999

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This article was originally published in the March 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: In Living Color.

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