The top 10 business printers
23rd Nov 2012 | 11:23
The best printer for your business from a mono laser to a high-end multifunction printer
The sheer range of printers is bewildering and with the many manufacturers in the market after your money, making the right decision can be tough. It's doubly tough when you realise why there's so much competition; the real money is made on the many consumables your business will be purchasing to maintain that new printer purchase. What might initially seem modest costs can soon add up over time.
So where do you need to start? Even the most modest of offices will likely be networked and sharing a resource as useful as a printer is an essential. So you should only be looking at printers that are capable of networked use. Wired offers speed and robust function for a fixed office. Wireless is flexible, cheap to deploy but not as fast in use.
Multi-function features can be found across the board and at all cost scales. Basic features start with USB Key and card readers for PC-free printing, moving to scanner and copier functions. At the higher end automatic document feeders (ADF) can manage 50 copies in a single go and produce booklets including duplex printing, stapling and folding. Often the basic ADF features will accommodate most medium-sized offices.
In the past there has been a marked difference in Cost Per Page (CPP) between lasers and inkjets but in recent years inkjets have managed to drop their prices to compete. Either way it's important you carefully assess the CPP of each device. Manufacturers measure the toner or cartridge yields with an industry standard ISO rating. So you can safely assess the total price of replacing all the cartridges or toners divided by the print yield across all the potential models.
The total volume of prints you're going to make also needs to be taken into account. Devices often quote a "duty cycle" monthly maximum and recommended figures. These are the total number of prints it's designed to handle per month. If possible assess the number of prints per employee for the office and ensure the device is capable of meeting your current and future demands.
Finally in the past colour especially for laser printers has demanded a premium, that's not so much the case these days. However these models are still more expensive due to the additional materials required for the toners and printer manufacture. There's still a big enough differential that if you don't need regular colour you should opt for a mono model, perhaps using a cheaper inkjet or even out-of-house printing for occasional colour requirements.
Here in no particular order, are the top ten printers for businesses large and small, from a basic monochrome lasers suitable for a small business and a home office through to a small departmental multifunction printer.
1/ Dell C3765dnf Colour Laser Printer
From £500 Ex VAT
The Dell C3765dnf simply does so much, so well that it's hard not to heartedly recommend. That's not to say it's going to suit every office perfectly but then that's why we have nine other choices.
To start this is a workgroup-class fast multi-function colour laser with a suitably-high duty cycle of 80,000 pages and an optional extra-high capacity black toner with a 11,000 page print yield. It's these types of features that help this service a large busy office without breaking into a sweat.
Digging a little deeper for a colour laser Dell gets you pile more functionality, this Gigabit Ethernet network printer offers a 550-sheet and 150-sheet input tray with an optional second 550-sheet tray for a maximum 1250 sheets.
It's no slouch in use rated at up to 35 pages per minute for both colour and mono documents. It has full-auto duplex printing too that only drops the speed to 23 page per minute. For full compatibility it offers the standard PCL6 and Postscript 3 driver support alongside XPS. In general use the print quality of the Dell is sound with its graphics if anything being slightly ahead of its text. What's also impressive is that print costs are low for such a class of colour laser printer.
Additionally the Dell comes with Nuance's PaperPort Pro 14 to help manage your businesses work flow, and includes security features such as LDAP, Kerberos authentication and the ability to add 10-digit passwords to documents for printing.
2/ Lexmark T650n
From £161 Ex VAT
Sometimes compromise won't do and the Lexmark T650n is a no compromise type of mono laser printer.
Suitable for any workgroup sized installation everything about the Lexmark T650n is robust. It has a maximum monthly duty cycle of 200,000 pages with a recommended number of 20,000 pages. It has a flexible dual-input tray system and 350-page output tray. The default input trays offers 100- and 250-page trays, but these can be boosted up to a maximum 4,000 pages with an optional base-unit.
This model lacks a duplexer but that's found on the Lexmark T650dn, while the T650dtn offers the extended paper trays as default.
These models all offer the same 45 page per minute print speeds, which isn't the fastest printer we've seen, but it certainly delivers enough throughput to remain impressively fast. If you do want more speed the Lexmark T654 has a more powerful print engine.
With good graphics and text output alongside it's low running costs this mono laser will happily keep any office running smoothly, while it retains a very low cost of ownership.
3/ OKI MB471 mono LED
From £316 Ex VAT
A long-standing but perhaps lesser known brand, OKI, offers a huge range of multi-function printers such as its OKI MB471 mono LED printer.
Coming in office-grey it's exactly the type of functional design you'd expect from an office workhorse designed to service a medium-sized office. This is reflected in its 70,000 page monthly duty cycle and an optional large input paper tray takes capacity up from a modest 250 to a far more functional 880 pages.
This is a printer, scanner, copier and fax machine with duplex capabilities and a 50-page ADF sat atop of things. This model offers wired Ethernet but a 'w' model can also offer wireless networking too.
Quoted prints speeds hit 33 pages per minute, however in use it feels somewhat slower than that, but remains fast enough for its segment. Considering its reasonable price, the text and image print quality is solid and the real winner for this OKI is the very-low running costs making it an excellent office purchase.
4/ Epson Workforce Pro WP-4025
From £183 Ex VAT
Epson is attacking the office in full force and at the frontline is the Epson Workforce Pro WP-4025. This is a multi-function colour inkjet printer, one of the new generation that can actually undercut lasers on print costs when it's kitted out with a high-yield black cartridge the Workforce range is hard for most lasers to touch on black print costs.
The Workforce Pro is designed to service modest-sized offices with wired and wireless networking built-in. A duty cycle of 20,000 pages per month is certainly adequate but can't quite match the best lasers.
A mono ISO print speed of 16 pages per minute is just enough for a small office and can be maintained from the basic main 250-page paper tray and an ancillary 80-sheet tray for specialist papers. There's auto-duplex on board too, which helps extend its usefulness.
Set-up is hampered a little by the lack of any onboard display; however in use it produces first-class black text and colour material including photos.
While it can't complete entirely on office features, its low running costs and print quality do propel the Epson Workforce Pro WP-4025 up our list for the smaller office. If you need ADF features then consider the Epson WP-4535 DWF model.
5/ Samsung CLP-775ND Colour Laser
From £535 Ex VAT
Costing more than most printers upfront, the Samsung CLP-775ND will pay for itself in the long run through cost savings on its consumables and efficiency in the workplace.
It's a straight up colour laser printer designed for medium sized offices or small to medium workgroups. For this it has a reasonably high duty cycle of 120,000 monthly prints and offers the option for high-yield 7,000 page toners. These large capacity toners also give it a low running cost.
Unlike many newer lasers it does require the replacement of a transfer belt every 50,000 prints, taking the sheen of its running costs and adding to potential downtime.
In use it's a fast printer, living up to its 30 page per minute advertised print speeds, and all without compromising print quality, that remains satisfyingly good. It provides a large 500-page input tray alongside a secondary 100-page tray and it offer full duplex printing on top.
It's a wired Ethernet printer with an expensive wireless option available.
6/ Lexmark OfficeEdge Pro5500
From £290 Ex VAT
Lexmark OfficeEdge Pro5500 is going up against the stalwart office lasers such as the HP LaserJet Pro M1217 and taking them on at their own game.
Offering laser-like quality the Lexmark OfficeEdge Pro5500 is one of the new breed of inkjets that can match lasers for speed, quality and consumable costs. It also brings with it the heritage of inkjets, which is photo-quality printing, consumer ease-of-use and features with this printer, copier, scanner and fax machine.
Looks wise for a multi-function device it's a lovely bit of kit and will fit into any modern office. The front colour touch controls offer an attractive and intuitive way of using the machine.
It's aimed at the smaller office in terms of capacity and speed. The maximum duty-cycle is a modest 30,000 pages per month but the recommend 1,500 page is less impressive. Paper input is an average 300-page tray with an option for a standard 550-page one and we're impressed it comes with a 50-sheet ADF.
It's also a speedy worker with a draft throughput of 40 pages per minute in mono and an ISO output of 21 pages per minute. With a high-yield cartridge delivering 2,500 prints per page this can certainly take on mid-range lasers in terms of capacity and speed, while performing well on print quality.
7/ OKI C822 A3 colour laser
From £685 Ex VAT
Paying a premium for A3 printing is expected, but at least the OKI C822 A3 colour laser manages to take most of the sting out of that premium.
It's a wired Ethernet networked printer and with a monthly duty cycle of 50,000 pages and recommended usage of 5,000 per month making it suitable for a medium-sized office. This is backed up by its decent 23 page per minute throughput and its base 400-sheet input and the option to expand this to a solid 930-sheets.
It has the usual bland OKI office styling, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Running costs for an A3 printer are actually excellent with A4 mono and colour costs as good as most smaller lasers.
The main disappointment for the OKI is its colour output that's somewhat washed out, text however is excellent, making it useful for producing presentations and in-house drafts. This model does lack duplex printing but that is available on the more expensive OKI C822dn model.
8/ HP Photosmart 7510
From £83 Ex VAT
Ideal for the home office this inkjet-based HP multi-function printer offers all the base features you want in a printer/scanner/copier with the added features of ePrint, fax and a good dose of photo-quality. It's based on HP's 5-ink print engine that comes with borderless prints and duplex printing as standard.
While it does excel for mono and colour print quality, a number of key points do position the HP Photosmart 7510 firmly in the home office zone. There's only wireless networking available no wired Ethernet connection is available. Secondly print speed is acceptable but hardly zippy at ISO 13.5 page per minute. Finally it's also limited in terms of its 125-sheet input and 50-sheet output with no second tray to speak of.
With a recommended monthly page volume as low as 500 pages it doesn't win any awards for endurance and if you plan on this being shared by more than a couple of people it could let you down.
Read the full TechRadar review of the HP Photosmart 7510
9/ Samsung ML-2165W
From £50 Ex VAT
The notion of the large, expensive laser printer should have long been dispelled and if nothing else can do that then the Samsung ML-2165W will. This small-footprint mono printer costs less than many inkjets but has the capability to provide basic wireless-based print services to a home office or smaller office.
With a rating for up to 10,000 pages per month and an A4 print speed of up to 20 pages per minute its small size shouldn't hide the fact that this could be a little workhorse. Its biggest main limiting factor is the single 150-sheet paper tray.
With an equivalent 1200 dpi printer output it makes a good job of producing clear, crisp text in no time. The single consumable is the printer toner that comes in 1500 page yield capacity. These are well priced and easily replaced. Beyond these basics the Samsung ML-2165W has little to offer, which does limit its appeal even for home office users never mind a smaller sized office.
10/ HP LaserJet Pro M1217nfw
From £133 Ex VAT
The HP LaserJet Pro M1217nfw isn't going to win any design awards but what it lacks in aesthetics it really does make up for in functionality. This entry-level office multi-function mono laser printer offers all the standard print, copy, scan and fax features you'd want to see in an office workhorse. Add to that wired Ethernet networking alongside wireless networking and it has all the connectivity too.
More than capable for the home office, it's of questionable service even a smaller-sized office thanks to its rather low duty cycle of 8,000 pages per month. The main attributes holding it back from a busy office is its lacklustre 18 page per minute print speed and its basic 150-sheet input tray with accompanying 100-sheet output.
Making up for this is the inclusion of a 35-sheet automatic document feeder, its ability to multitask with print and copy jobs and the low running costs. Print quality is also excellent in terms of both its text and greyscale images. Oddly for HP the built-in controls are somewhat lacking, with just a two-line LCD display.