Review of the OKI C612dn at Computer ShopperIt’s been a while since we’ve reviewed an OKI Data stand-alone (that is, print-only) color printer. The most recent was the wide-format-capable OKI C831n back in March of 2014. Like the subject of our review here today, this was also a laser-class printer.

We call these machines “laser-class” because, though they look and act like laser printers, they use light-emitting-diode (LED) arrays, rather than actual lasers, to etch page images onto the printer drum, which the toner in turn adheres to. It’s a small technical distinction, but we make it because in places, printers like these are referred to by their proper name: LED printers. Today’s review subject, the $789-list OKI C612n, is indeed an LED-based machine.

For a while there, most of the major laser-printer manufacturers—Dell (really Samsung, behind the scenes), HP, OKI, Canon, Brother—deployed LEDs in some of their laser-class machines. Why? Because LED arrays are cheaper to manufacture, and they’re smaller, allowing printer makers to make less-expensive, smaller, and lighter machines. Nowadays, we don’t see as many LED-based printers as we once did, but OKI still deploys them in a significant portion of its product line.

In addition to being less costly and smaller (since they have fewer moving parts), LED arrays can also be more reliable than their laser counterparts. On the other hand, laser-based mechanisms are typically more precise; they have only one light source, so every pixel gets the same amount of illumination, making for a higher degree of consistency. LED arrays have thousands of LEDs, and, as a result, illumination can and does vary among them. In addition, the number of LEDs in an array determines the printer’s resolution, where most laser printers support more than one dots-per-inch setting.

OKI C612dn (Front)

Does this mean that laser output is inherently superior to LED prints? It’s not that simple. Let’s say that it can be, depending on the consistency of the LEDs across the array, and to an extent that can depend on how well it’s built. What we will say is that we’ve seen some LED-array-based printers, such as the OKI C831n mentioned above, that churn out some darn good-looking prints. So, like in so many things in life, the answer to our question is: It depends.

Which brings us back to the OKI C612dn. Currently, OKI offers two C612-series machines: the model we’re reviewing, the OKI C612dn, and the $649-list OKI C612n. The “d” stands for “duplex,” or automatic two-sided printing. In other words, to get auto-duplexing from a C612 model, you’ll have to fork out an additional $140 (or thereabouts, depending on the street prices of the printers that day). Apart from the duplexing distinction, these two printers are essentially the same.

Compared to some laser printers reviewed recently, such as the $999-list Dell Color Smart Printer S5840Cdn and the $800-MSRP HP LaserJet Enterprise M553dn, the OKI C612dn’s output is slightly subpar. And compared to that pricier Dell competitor, the running costs (the per-page cost of toner) is a little high. (For a detailed description of print quality, see the Output Quality section near the end of this review; for running costs, refer to the Cost Per Page section.) On the other hand, another benefit (aside from smaller machines) of LED-based printers is that they use significantly less power than their laser-based counterparts.

That said, whether the OKI C612dn is right for you really depends on what you’re looking for. The truth is that we’d feel much better about recommending this OKI model were its running costs a little lower. If you print thousands of pages each month, a fraction of a cent for each page can make a big difference in the ongoing cost of ownership. Other than that issue, though, the OKI C612dn is a highly capable laser printer with better-than-passable output for most business scenarios.

Read the entire review at Computer Shopper


 

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Dell’s E525w Color Multifunction PrinterIn all the years I’ve been reviewing printers, Dell’s entry-level and midrange color laser machines look much like they did several years ago. Take the 2010 Dell 1355cnw, for example. Aside from some minor physical size differences, you can’t really tell it from the model we’re talking about here today, Dell’s $329.99 E525w Color Multifunction Printer. (And to be truthful, I thought the design was somewhat archaic-looking five years ago.)

Nope. Not much about Dell’s latest round of laser-class machines helps you tell them from previous versions, but then most of us don’t buy printers based on how modern or stylish they look. (Although that does tend to have a sizable influence when folks are shopping for office appliances at the local electronics store.) Smart shoppers, though, buy printers based on what they do, and how well they do it—or at least they should…

Overall, this is a great little printer, and well worth the discounted price of $249.99 (for a difference of $80) on Dell’s site at the time I wrote this. It is, however, a low-volume printer, so the cost per page, or CPP, is high, but that’s pretty much expected when you buy an entry-level laser-class printer these days.

Read entire review at About.com

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Brother HL-3170CDW Review and Ratings‘Tis the season of the single-function laser-class printer. Over the past several months, several entry-level, “personal” LED-based color printers have passed through our labs. The two most recent of these low-cost, low-volume devices we’ve tested, the  and the were from Dell. Hot on the heels of these, Brother sent us its newest entries in this niche class of small- and home-based-office machines: the $249.99-list HL-3140CW and the $279.99-list HL-3170CDW.

Here, we’re looking at the slightly faster, more versatile (and, of course, more expensive) of the two, the HL-3170CDW. (Watch for our review the HL-3140CW in the next week or two.) These two printers are much the same, except that for its $30 price premium, the model we’re reviewing here gains you an auto-duplexer (for printing two-sided pages without requiring you to flip them over manually), as well as an Ethernet connector and twice the memory (128MB versus 64MB). As we see it, these additional features are well worth the minimal difference in price, making this slightly more expensive version a better fit for small offices and workgroups.

Brother HL-3170CDWBefore we go on, though, let’s talk about what makes LED-based printers like this one “laser-class” devices, as opposed to being simply laser printers. Although an LED printer is technically not a laser printer, it looks and acts very much like one. The difference between them centers on the basic print technology. Instead of using a laser, LED-based machines use an LED array (an array of light-emitting diodes) to charge the page image onto the print drum. Printer makers substitute LEDs for lasers because they have fewer moving parts, are smaller and lighter, and cost less to manufacture. Otherwise, LED models operate much the same as laser printers do, including in their use of toner.

Historically, small and home offices have chosen laser and laser-class printers over inkjet models because they print faster and cost less to use over the long haul, despite their somewhat heftier upfront purchase price. Nowadays, though—due to the onslaught of high-volume, low-cost-per-page inkjets—you typically have to buy a relatively high-volume (and high-priced) color laser printer to see much speed or per-page cost benefit. Many lower-volume, lower-cost color lasers no longer have the speed and operational-cost advantages over their inkjet counterparts.

Why? Some inkjet models claiming “laser-quality” output, such as the $499.99-list Epson WorkForce 4590 and the $199.99-list HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 Plus, really do print business documents on par with high-volume laser models, in terms of both quality and speed. In addition, these relatively new high-volume inkjets perform their magic at a very reasonable cost per page (CPP), which, as you’ll see in the Setup & Paper Handling section of this review, the HL-3170CDW does not. Furthermore, these inkjets are multifunction machines, which means that you get the ability to scan, copy, and fax, as well as print for about the same price, or sometimes even less.

Compared to some other personal LED printers we’ve reviewed lately, such as the two Dell models mentioned above, the HL-3170CDW comes with a respectable feature set. For about the same price, this Brother offers, as mentioned, automatic two-sided printing, as well as a wide range of options for printing from cloud sites and wireless devices. It’s also considerably faster than Dell’s most recent single-function models.

Brother HL-3170CDW Front ViewHowever, this Brother unit’s print quality, as we discuss in the Print Quality section later on, isn’t quite up to what we saw from the Dell LED models. In addition, the HL-3170CDW has a relatively low recommended monthly print volume, and the cost of its toner cartridges make for, compared to some inkjet counterparts, a high CPP for both monochrome and color prints. We wouldn’t recommend this machine as a serious high-volume workhorse printer. It’s best for occasional, light-duty color printing.

See the entire review at Computer Shopper.

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Dell C1660w Color Printer Review and RatingsSome of us here at Computer Shopper have been analyzing computers and peripherals long enough to remember when color laser printers cost upward of $7,000. At that price, very few small offices and home-based businesses could justify buying one. Even for many years after, color laser printers were considered more a luxury item than a sound business expense. Still, owning a color laser printer was then, as it is now, akin to having a small printing press in-house.

Fast-forward about 20 years, to today, and here we are reviewing an under-$200 single-function color laser—well, in this case, technically a laser-like—printer, Dell’s C1660w. (We say “laser-like” because the C1660w is actually an LED printer, making it a “laser-class” device. We’ll talk more about this distinction in a moment.) The list price on this model is $199.99, but when we wrote this in the first week of April 2013, it was selling on Dell’s Web site for $154.99. If you’d told us 20 years ago that we’d be reviewing $200 color printers that were faster, lighter, and smaller than those four-figure models (and sold for less than the toner cartridges inside them), we’d have been more than a little dubious.

Dell C1660w Color PrinterGranted, the C1660w isn’t the first color-laser-class machine we’ve seen limbo under the $200 bar, but this phenomenon is new enough that we haven’t yet lost our sense of wonder. In most cases, what makes this possible is the print mechanism inside. These devices rely on LED arrays, rather than lasers, to draw the page image onto the print drum. Among other advantages, LED technology uses less power, has fewer moving parts, takes up less space inside the printer, and costs less to manufacture. And it does all these impressive things without compromising print quality.

The C1660w is on the low end of a line of entry-level LED printers Dell offers. The next step up in the family is the $279.99 C1760nw Color Printer we reviewed last month, which, at this writing, was selling for $259.99 on Dell’s site. Like the C1760nw, the C1660w is quite basic; it lacks a snazzy-looking color LCD for facilitating PC-free printing, it has no support for printing from cloud sites, and it can’t print two-sided pages automatically. What you give up in the $100 price delta between this model and the C1760nw is some print speed, as well as Ethernet connectivity and a few other, less-significant features.

Dell C1660w Color Printer Three QuartersNeither model is designed to be a high-volume workhorse. They print at similar speeds, and the two models’ figures for toner cost per page (CPP) are only a few tenths of a cent apart. If you don’t need the ability to connect to a wired network, the lower-cost C1660w is likely the better buy. (In short, if you use your printer enough that the speed and CPP differences between these two machines matter, you’re probably looking at the wrong class of printer altogether.) Their high CPPs make them poor choices for small offices and home-based businesses with even moderate print-volume requirements. If you print more than, say, a couple hundred pages per month, you’d be much better off, in terms of the ongoing cost of ownership, choosing a more expensive, higher-volume machine.

Like the C1760nw, the C1660w does have its high points, though. It turned in competitive scores on our speed tests, for a printer in this price range. Its output looked good overall, and the chassis is small and light. As we said about the more costly C1760nw, the C1660w works for us as a light-duty personal printer in environments where laser-like speeds and near-typesetter quality are what you need, but only when your print volume is minimal.

See full review at Computer Shopper.

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Dell C1760nw Color Printer Review and RatingsOver the past few years, we’ve been watching with interest as Dell’s stable of entry-level and midrange LED printers has continued to grow. Considered “laser-class” devices, machines that employ LED technology rely on LED-based lamp arrays, rather than lasers, to draw the page image to be printed on the machine’s drum. Replacing the lasers with LEDs allows for smaller, trimmer, and lighter printers that consume less energy and have fewer moving parts, without compromising on speed and print quality.

Historically, businesses tend to favor laser or LED printers because they print faster than inkjets. Also, they’re capable of much higher volumes for longer periods, and the cost of using them is typically cheaper over the long haul. (The machine usually costs more up front, but the cartridges cost less per page than most inkjets.) However, much like Dell’s 1250c Color LED Printer we looked at back in November 2010, as well as the 1355cnw Multifunction Color Printer from January 2011, Dell’s $279.99-list C1760nw Color Printer bucks that trend. The device itself is moderately priced for a color-laser-class machine, but the per-page cost is as high as or higher than most inkjets, making it suitable only for small or home offices that need color laser output but don’t print a lot.

Dell C1760nwIn addition to the single-function C1760nw, Dell also sells a multifunction (print/scan/copy/fax) version, the $349.99-list C1765nfw Color Multifunction Printer, built around the same print engine. (We’ll be reviewing that model shortly.) In terms of overall value, gaining the ability to scan, copy, and fax for an additional $70 seems like a good deal to us, making the C1765nfw a better value, even though both machines are quite basic. (All the C1760nw can do is print.)

Indeed, “basic” is the word that sums up the C1760nw best. It lacks an eye-catching color touch-screen control panel with apps for connecting to cloud sites or downloading and printing Internet content. It has no front-panel USB port for flash drives or, for that matter, support for any other type of memory device, and it doesn’t even support auto-duplexing (the ability to print two-sided pages unassisted). Here in 2013, color-printer feature sets don’t get any more basic than this.

If you don’t need the extra features, of course, basic can be good. But what really concerned us about the C1760nw was its ongoing cost of operation, namely the cost per page (CPP). Like preceding LED printers from Dell, this one costs too much to use, which, despite Dell’s maximum duty-cycle rating of 30,000 pages per month, relegates it to light-duty personal printing, not heavy business output. If you actually printed thousands of pages per month on this machine, the per-page cost would, compared to higher-volume machines with lower CPPs, cost you plenty over time—much, much more than you’d save with this model’s relatively low purchase price.

Dell C1760nw Front ViewStill, this printer has its high points. The C1760nw performed respectably on our speed tests; its output looked up to snuff for a laser-class device; and it’s light, small, and easy to set up and use. The bottom line for this printer is, the more you use it, the less value it provides. It’s best suited for environments where laser-like speed and text quality are required, but only when you need to print a few pages here and there. It works for us as a personal laser printer, or for home-based and small offices where print volume is very light.

See the full review at Computer Shopper.

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Brother HL-3075CW

Brother HL-3075CW Review and Ratings

As we’ve noted in a few printer reviews of late, 2012 has seen the line between sharp-printing color lasers and color inkjets get mighty blurry. Some inkjet models claiming “laser-quality output,” such as the $399.99 Epson WorkForce 520 and $199.99 HP LaserJet Pro 8600 Plus, really do print business documents on par with high-volume laser models, in terms of quality and speed. In addition, these new high-volume inkjets perform their magic at very reasonable per-page costs.

Historically, small and home offices have chosen laser printers because they print faster and cost less to use over the long haul, despite their somewhat hefty upfront purchase price. Nowadays, though—due to the trend of high-volume, low-cost-per-page inkjet models—you typically have to buy a relatively high-volume (and high-priced) color laser printer to see much speed or per-page cost benefit. Many lower-volume (and lower-cost) color lasers no longer have the speed and operational-cost advantages over their inkjet counterparts. The case in point is Brother’s $299.99 HL-3075CW, a color LED printer.

Although technically an LED printer is not a laser printer, it looks and acts just like one. The difference between LED-based devices and laser printers centers on the basic print technology. Instead of lasers, LED-based machines use an LED array (an array of light-emitting devices) that charges the page image onto the print drum. Printer makers substitute LEDs for lasers because they have fewer moving parts, are smaller and lighter, and cost less to manufacture. Otherwise, LED models are much the same as laser printers, including their use of toner.

Overall, we liked the HL-3075CW. It printed great-looking business documents and images at respectable speeds for an entry-level LED printer. However, it has a relatively low recommended monthly print volume, and the high cost of its toner cartridges make for, compared to its inkjet counterparts, a high cost per page for both monochrome and color prints. We wouldn’t recommend it as a serious pound-’em-out workhorse printer; it’s best for occasional and light-duty color printing.

Read this review at Computer Shopper

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Dell 1350cnw LED (Laser Class) Printer ($299.99)

Dell 1350cnw LED (Laser Class) Printer ($299.99)

There was a time when color laser printers  cost upwards of $20k. They were huge devices, expensive to use–well just not that practical for most businesses. Check out this color laser I reviewed for Computer Shopper. Great quality at a low price.

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