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Small-office class color lasers
11 x 17 color lasers < $2,500
11 x 17 color lasers < $3,000
11 x 17 color lasers < $6,000
Printer Buying 101

Buying a Color Laser Printer? Here are some things to know

The color laser printer landscape is more crowded than ever. The task of navigating through all the different makes and models is daunting to say the least. To make things worse, much of the information available on line is very outdated or misleading. It is indeed very easy to buy the wrong printer. Here, our expert staff has compiled some of the most important things to know and look for when shopping for a color laser printer. This should help you find the right printer and save you time.

Knowing what you want and the Process of Elimination
Before you look at specs or specific printer features you should take a few minutes and list all the things you or your office mates need from this new printer. Do you need to print on 11X17 size paper? You just eliminated 95% of all color lasers. Do you need to print envelopes? Again most printers were just eliminated from contention. Sometimes the application or operating system may narrow things down for you. There is nothing more frustrating than finding out of a printer’s inability to do something very important until the end. Maybe printing on heavy card stock, or having great print quality are the most vital features for you. If you know that you need to duplex 12X18 size paper or that you need a one GB Ethernet interface it will really narrow your choices way down. Once you have this list you need to arrange it in order of importance. You will more than likely have to choose between some features as you narrow your search. At this point you can start your research. On this site you will find links to printer comparisons and reviews. If you have time you should consult with a printer expert at Printer Showcase via email or by phone. They are knowledgeable, frank, unbiased, and have a super reputation

Resolution VS Print Quality (or Myth VS Fact)
Most all color laser printers are built on 600 dpi engines, (600 dots per inch). Many people reading this may be surprised to know that given all the big resolution numbers thrown around by manufacturers like 1200X600, 2400X600, 9600X600 to name a few. All of them are 600X600 with some sort of optical enhancements. There are a few color laser printers that will print 1200X1200 but they are not the norm. The bottom line is that resolution does not equal print quality. In other words believe your eyes not the specs. Most major brands do have good print quality that is more than adequate for office use. If print quality is your top priority however, we recommend that you get to see actual output from the printer(s) you are considering. Ideally these print samples should be from your own files. If finding printers locally is a challenge you will need to rely more heavily on printer reviews and mailed print samples. These are sometimes available from manufacturers. Printer Showcase also provides a Color-Laser-Test-Drive service using your files.

Supplies, Maintenance Kits, and Other Consumables
The actual prices of the consumables used by color laser printers tend to turn people off. However, if you do the math you will discover that color laser printers are the least expensive way to print on the desktop. Generally, the more expensive printers will have the higher speed and the lower cost per page. The real cost per page for most color laser printers is in the range of 9-14¢ per page. This estimate is based on letter size paper at 20% coverage and takes into account toners, drums, transfer units, fusers, and any other maintenance kit. Right now there is not a big price difference between an office class color laser yielding a low cost per color page and a small office printer with an operating cost as much as 200% to 400% higher.