As the summer of 2012 heats up, the monochrome (black-and-white) laser printer market is suddenly on fire. In recent weeks, a bunch of printer stalwarts, including HP, Brother, and Dell, have offered to send us not just one, but a bunch of new laser models for review—ranging from entry-level single-function devices to pricier multifunction machines (capable of printing, copying, scanning, and faxing), and everything in between.
One of the first of the wave to hit our labs was Dell’s entry-level $149 B1260dn, a mono laser model. The B1260dn is the third model up, in terms of price, speed, features, and print-volume rating, in a group of five monochrome lasers that the computer giant launched in late June. The two less-expensive siblings, the $99 B1160 and $119 B1160w, are “personal” laser printers similar to Samsung’s $129.99 ML-2165W, which we reviewed back in April 2012. Dell’s two new higher-end machines, the $249 B1265dnf and the $599 2355dn, are multifunction devices. (We’ll be taking a look at the B1160w and the B1265dnf over the coming weeks.)
While the B1260dn prints fast and churns out good-looking output (both common traits among today’s laser printers, budget models or otherwise), the operative term here is “entry-level.” The low up-front purchase price of economically priced laser printers usually buries their real cost: the toner. With these models, their manufacturers make a profit on the back end, when you buy replacement cartridges. In addition, low-cost laser printers usually have relatively low maximum monthly duty cycles. (“Duty cycle” is the number of pages the manufacturer says you can print each month without excessive wear on the machine.)
All the signals around the B1260dn flash “budget laser”: the $149 selling price, a somewhat high cost per page (CPP), and a fairly low 20,000-page-per-month duty cycle. If your small office or small business prints significantly more than 10,000 pages each month, you’d be better served by a more expensive model, such as Samsung’s $299.99 ML-3712DW, which we reviewed earlier this month. That impressive little single-function monochrome laser printer has an 80,000-page duty cycle, and, if you shop around for toner, it delivers a CPP that’s under 2 cents.
All of this is not to say that the B1260dn is subpar printer—quite to the contrary. It’s just not a high-volume workhorse designed to print thousands of pages every day. Laser printers in this class are simple devices, designed to do one thing—print, and lots of it. In that regard, this model doesn’t break new ground or advance monochrome printer technology, but it keeps the price pressure on its competitors. And, once again, it’s speedy and prints great-looking business documents, as well as gray-scale graphics and photos. It’s also easy to use, sturdy, and dependable. We can’t ask for much more than that from a laser printer at this price, apart from a lower CPP.
If a low-cost, printer-only laser is what your small office or business needs, and your print-volume needs are moderate, this model is a strong pick. However, over years of service, a more expensive high-volume model may actually cost you less, overall. It all depends on just how much you print. (More math on that later.)
Read the full review at Computer Shopper.