From the December 2005 issue of Entrepreneur

It's a colorful world, and sometimes your business documents need to reflect that. From brochures to invoices, color adds interest and gives you a professional edge. There are many routes you can take to add color to your printing options: inkjet, color laser, solid ink, personal printer or workgroup printer. For the most flexibility within your company, a networkable color printer is the ticket, and that usually translates to a color laser. We're going to browse through a variety of colorful options, including a couple of multifunctions as well as a solid-ink offering from Xerox.

The cost of running a printer is something to consider. The $1,759 (all prices street) Kyocera Mita FS-C5020N, for example, may not be an absolute speed demon, but it features a superefficient toner system that keeps your cost per page down. A toner-save feature like the Brother HL-2700CN offers is a smart way to extend the life of your consumables. The Lexmark C760n lets you designate which users are allowed to print in color--an easy way to conserve your color toner.

Memory is important for users who throw large files at their color printers. A good chunk of built-in memory will keep the printer from getting brain freeze when you toss a graphics-heavy brochure at it. Most printers over $1,000, like the Lexmark C760n, come with 128MB RAM that can be upgraded if necessary. The C760n, for instance, maxes out at 512MB.

At the lower end of the cost spectrum is the Brother HL-2700CN. It skims in at $500 with print speeds of up to 8 pages per minute in color and 31 ppm in monochrome. That's pretty affordable for a network-ready color laser printer. For about $400, the Samsung CLP-510N gives you slightly slower speeds of up to 6 ppm in color and 25 ppm in monochrome; its built-in automatic duplexing is a nice extra.

Printer speed involves more than just pages per minute--there's also the time it takes to get the first page out. That's where the $899 Xerox Phaser 8500/N flexes its solid-ink muscle. It can get the first color page out in less than 6 seconds, compared to 19 seconds for the Brother HL-2700CN. Solid ink technology also tends to produce very vivid colors and fast speeds overall.

When your needs go beyond printing, a multifunction could be right up your alley. The $800 Epson AcuLaser CX11NF covers faxing, scanning and copying as well as printing. One trade-off for all that functionality is speed. Color speeds top out at 5 ppm. Compare to the $999 Hewlett-Packard LaserJet 2840, which comes in at 4 ppm in color and also comes stocked with direct digital photo printing. The Canon ImageClass MF8170c multifunction features high-quality flatbed scanning for $899.

Lasers still can't quite beat specialty inkjets when it comes to photo printing, but their speed and the cost of consumables make them a good choice for companies that focus on brochures and business documents. Throw in networking capability, and you get a versatile solution that will handle the needs of your small office or workgroup--and make your business more colorful.

Shopping List Pick the color printer that fits your business best, and paint the town red-or blue, or green, or purple . . .
MANUFACTURER/
MODEL
CONTACT TYPE PAGES PER
MINUTE
FEATURES STREET
PRICE
Brother
HL-2700CN
(800) 276-7746
www.brother.com
Laser 8 color,
31 monochrome
64MB RAM $500
Canon ImageClass
MF8170c
(800) OK-CANON
www.usa.canon.com
Laser
multifunction
4 color,
16 monochrome
Print, scan, copy, fax $899
Epson
AcuLaser CX11NF
(800) 463-7766
www.epson.com
Laser
multifunction
5 color,
25 monochrome
128MB RAM,
print, scan, copy, fax
$800
Hewlett-Packard
LaserJet 2840
(800) 888-0262
www.hp.com
Laser
all-in-one
4 color,
19 monochrome
96MB RAM, print, scan,
copy, fax, 30,000-page monthly duty cycle
$999
Kyocera Mita
FS-C5020N
(866) 596-2372
www.kyoceramita.com
Laser 17 color, and
monochrome
128MB RAM,
85,000-page monthly duty cycle
$1,759
Lexmark
C760n
(800) LEXMARK
www.lexmark.com
Laser 25 color, and
monochrome
128MB RAM,
70,000-page monthly duty cycle
$1,000
Samsung
CLP-510N
(800) SAMSUNG
www.samsungusa.com
Laser 6 color,
25 monochrome
64MB RAM, duplexing standard $399
Xerox
Phaser 8500/N
(800) ASK-XEROX
www.xerox.com
Solid Ink 24 color and
monochrome
128MB RAM, 85,000-page
monthly duty cycle
$899