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Entry-level single-pass colour laser printers

(Article dated July 2007) – New models from Canon, Hewlett-Packard and Xerox add to the choice and the varied pricing strategies available to users.

Four new colour laser printers launched since the latter part of last year and into this year have, together with several strategic adjustments in pricing and marketing, contributed to areas of significant shift in the attractiveness of the product line-up.

Our last review of the single-pass colour market was in November of last year, before full availability of the Canon LBP-5300, before the launch of the Xerox Phaser 6180 in February, the Hewlett-Packard Colour LaserJet CP3505 in June and the availability of Canon’s LBP-5360 also in June.

Canon i-SENSYS LBP-5360Canon i-SENSYS LBP-5360

In this line-up, we look at the single-pass machines that fall into the lower end of the speed range (16 to 21ppm colour print speed) and whose mono print speed falls close to the colour speed. For single-pass printers that would have fallen into this category based on colour print speed, but which have a fast mono print speed (30ppm), please refer to item 2 in this issue.

For the sake of explanation, the Hewlett-Packard Colour LaserJet 2600 series is not included here because they are 8ppm single-pass printers and so fall into a category more suited to ultra low-end customers whose target purchase would tend to be four-pass rather than single-pass. The same applies to the new i-SENSYS LBP-5100 from Canon, with its speeds of 10ppm colour and 12ppm mono.

A surprising omission in this line-up is Brother. Currently, Brother has no single-pass laser device in most markets around the world, though new attractively priced single-pass devices (printer and MFP) are becoming available in the US. So, we will save investigation of these devices for when they are available on a worldwide basis.

There are, however, still 12 models for us to consider, with hardware prices ranging from £289 to £756. All models selected are network-ready and three (Canon’s new LBP-5300 & LBP-5360 and Lexmark’s C530dn) have the added bonus of being duplex-ready out of the box. Several of the others offer optional duplex units or higher level models that include duplexing.

Three models from Lexmark are included simply because, although they are based on the same hardware, they offer quite different yields from their supplies, thus presenting a wide range of costs to respective users.

Amongst the new models, those from Canon (LBP-5300 & LBP-5360) and Hewlett-Packard (CP3505) are built on the same Canon engine, offering 21ppm print speeds in mono and colour but at hardware prices and Total Cost of Printing that vary significantly. (Note that Canon has reviewed pricing on its LBP-5300 and this price is reflected in these charts as an adjustment to the chart published in last week’s issue)

We should first comment again on the market correlation between high hardware price and low supplies price.

Hewlett-Packard Colour LaserJet CP3505Hewlett-Packard Colour
LaserJet CP3505

In particular, hardware pricing on Hewlett-Packard’s two models fall towards the upper end of the group while the nominal CPP for the new CP3505 in particular is the lowest in the group apart only from Kyocera. Even the CLJ 3600n benefits from nominal CPPs that fall at the low end of the range.

This policy, also followed by Epson, is most in keeping with the desire expressed by many users that higher hardware prices are acceptable in return for low direct running costs. It is Lexmark that panders to the other primary desire of users to pay as little as possible for the hardware, while not thinking about high costs to come.

Moving to the long-term Cost of Printing, we see a demonstration of a continued tendency for Hewlett-Packard to gradually shift its market positioning to offer users genuinely lower cost printing than was previously available from the company. Although the hardware pricing for the new model does sit firmly at the high end of the group, whereas previous expectations of overall Cost of Printing would have placed Hewlett-Packard’s models squarely in the middle of any grouping, the CP3505 is now beaten only by Kyocera’s models.

Purchase Price

Entry-level single-pass colour laser printers


Nominal Cost Per Page

Entry-level single-pass colour laser printers


Interestingly, Epson’s AcuLaser C3800N, with a slightly lower purchase price that has benefited from a recent 13.5% price reduction, is actually less costly to run at a low page count than the CP3505 but becomes more expensive at higher page counts. This phenomenon occurs because the Epson uses very high yield colour toners (9,000), each of which is more costly per page than the toners for Hewlett-Packard’s CP3505 (6,000). So, as long as the page count is low enough for Epson cartridges not to need changing more than a couple of times, the C3800 is cheaper to run than the CP3505. But, at higher page volumes, when the cartridges need changing regularly, the situation is reversed.

On top of this, the Epson has additional Fuser and Transfer Belt units that need changing at 100,000-page intervals that the CP3505 does not have. It is here that the design intent of the low-end Hewlett-Packard machines does definitely score, benefiting the customer despite spurious advertising messages (see Issue #0721), and offering a lower overall Cost of Printing as page counts rise.

Uk Entry-level
Single-pass colour
Purchase Print Speed Nominal
CPP
Mixed mono/colour
CPP over 3 years
Canon
i-SENSYS LBP-5300
£560 Mono
Colour
21ppm
21ppm
1.50 pence
7.25 pence
4.18 pence
Canon
i-SENSYS LBP-5360
£756 Mono
Colour
21ppm
21ppm
1.50 pence
7.25 pence
4.61 pence
Epson
AcuLaser C3800N
£578 Mono
Colour
25ppm
20ppm
1.40 pence
7.03 pence
3.71 pence
Hewlett-Packard
Colour LaserJet 3600n
£522 Mono
Colour
17ppm
17ppm
1.30 pence
7.18 pence
3.94 pence
Hewlett-Packard
Colour LaserJet CP3505n
£610 Mono
Colour
21ppm
21ppm
1.30 pence
6.37 pence
3.92 pence
Konica Minolta
magicolor 5430DL
£410 Mono
Colour
20ppm
20ppm
1.42 pence
7.70 pence
4.08 pence
Kyocera
FS-C5015N
£595 Mono
Colour
16ppm
16ppm
0.93 pence
5.13 pence
3.44 pence
Kyocera
FS-C5025N
£756 Mono
Colour
20ppm
20ppm
0.90 pence
3.97 pence
3.49 pence
Lexmark C530dn £289 Mono
Colour
22ppm
21ppm
2.00 pence
10.72 pence
5.80 pence
Lexmark C532n £319 Mono
Colour
22ppm
21ppm
2.00 pence
8.91 pence
5.09 pence
Lexmark C534n £405 Mono
Colour
22ppm
21ppm
1.50 pence
7.37 pence
4.44 pence
Xerox Phaser 6180 £335 Mono
Colour
25ppm
20ppm
1.56 pence
8.31 pence
4.21 pence

Note that for this level of machine, the mixed mono/colour CPP over three years shown in the accompanying table is calculated on the basis of 1,250 pages per month; 70% pages in mono and 30% pages in colour; is based on the use of maximum capacity supplies; takes into account any standard, or starter, supplies shipped with the device; and also includes the cost of purchase. All prices are manufacturer’s recommended prices without tax.

Using our standard 70/30% (mono/colour) ratio in our cost algorithm, Epson’s maintenance units require a change after three years when the monthly page count reaches 2,780 pages. The unusual phenomenon continues though, in that the lower cost of mono pages counterbalances these extra costs at higher page counts, resulting in the C3800N tending to narrow the gap with the CP3505 as page counts rise.

Total Cost of Printing – by Monthly Page Volume

Entry-level single-pass colour laser printers


At the bottom of the group though, Lexmark’s C530dn is a massive 62% less costly to purchase than Canon’s LBP-5360 and Kyocera’s FS-3025 but, as we’d expect from Lexmark, the C530dn not only has the highest supplies costs but is the most expensive to run overall by a large margin. Fortunately for Lexmark customers, there are less expensive options in the form of the C532n and C534n that each use higher-yield supplies to offer lower Cost of Printing. At the top end of these three, the C534n competes fairly well with several of the competitors.

Cost of Printing at the high end of the scale is expected of Xerox also. Purchase price is very competitive but colour CPP (at well over 8 pence per page), in particular, lets the side down.

So – what are the significant features of the new hardware?

Probably the most significant fact to note is that all machines in this category make use of toner cartridges with a yield that is high enough to substantiate the notion that these models are aimed at serious business colour users rather than casual or home office users.

At 6,000 pages per cartridge, the Canon engine – used in the Canon LBP-5300 & LBP-5360 and the Hewlett-Packard Colour LaserJet CP3505 – is actually not overly generous on toner.

Xerox Phaser 6180Xerox Phaser 6180

We see Xerox’s Phaser 6180 offering yields of 6,000 pages colour and 8,000 black; Lexmark’s C534 offering 7,000 and 8,000; Kyocera’s FS-C5025 offering 8,000 all round; and Epson’s C3800 offering 9,000 and 9,500 pages.

Only the lower end machines from Lexmark and Kyocera offer cartridges with yields of less than 6,000 pages and Kyocera’s machine (FS-C5015) is a 16ppm device and only the colour cartridges are rated lower at 4,000 pages (black = 6,000).

Both LBP-5300/5360 and CP3505 share other features as well, of course. They are fitted with instant-on induction fuser units, which reduces power consumption and the time in which the first print is received when the printer is in standby or sleep mode.

Standard paper capacity of these printers is 250 sheets from the main paper tray with a further 100 sheets available from the multi-purpose tray. Maximum capacity is 850 sheets by adding the optional 500-sheet feed.

Canon and Hewlett-Packard take different approaches when it comes to duplex printing, however. Whereas Canon has taken the bold and progressive move of presenting its printers with both auto-duplexing and network interface as standard features out of the box, Hewlett-Packard has stuck with its traditional approach of offering a base machine without either network interface or duplex unit, requiring users to specifically buy up the range if they want those features.

For a printer that is designed specifically for workgroup use, I still believe this approach by Hewlett-Packard is short-sighted and detrimental to the customer base. At least the device offers manual duplexing through the driver when the auto-duplex unit is not installed.

Hewlett-Packard also ships the CP3505 with 256MB of memory, fully PCL ready with PS3 emulation and direct PDF printing capability – hence the high purchase price.

Canon, on the other hand, offers the keenly priced LBP-5300 with a basic controller that is GDI only. The device has only 16MB of memory and relies on the users’ PC to undertake the data processing tasks required for printing.

Move up to the LBP-5360 and users not only receive a network-ready and duplex-ready printer but one with PCL 5c and 6 with 128MB of memory. But, the purchase price reflects this specification.

To put this in context, Hewlett-Packard’s CP3505dn model is priced at £814 – a higher price than the LBP-5360. However, put that into the long-term Cost of Printing engine and the CP3505dn still works out some 8% less expensive to run than the LBP-5360 and offers PostScript emulation as an extra.

Whereas the Canon and Hewlett-Packard printers provide 21ppm printing in both mono and colour, Xerox’s Phaser 6180, with its low purchase price, drops one page in colour but adds four in colour – 20ppm mono / 25ppm colour.

Paper input on the Phaser is slightly higher than on the Canon and Hewlett-Packard models, with the same 250-sheet main tray but a capacity of 150 sheets through the multi-purpose feeder. An optional 550-sheet feed provides a maximum capacity of 950 sheets.

Surprisingly for Xerox, the Phaser 6180 does not appear to offer a manual duplex capability on the base model, a DN model providing auto-duplexing is required, but even the base model is network-ready out of the box. This model goes the extra mile in providing a parallel interface in addition to the network and USB interfaces. This is unusual for a mid to low-end printer these days – the vast majority have dropped the parallel port in favour of USB only.

Genuine Adobe PostScript 3 is provided by Xerox along with PCL 6 emulation. For those users needing accurate colour, PANTONE® Colour approved simulations should ensure accurate solid colour rendition on documents. Xerox also offers its wide-ranging and sophisticated tool kit for easy installation and printer management and also facilitates easy printing with Secure Print, Proof Print and Ram Collation facilities.

In conclusion, if we remove the two lower-end Lexmark printers and focus on those with high toner capacity, we find a tight little bunch of devices sitting in the middle range of the chart. Just Kyocera’s models benefit from significantly lower Total Cost of Printing while Lexmark’s other two models sit way out on a limb at an unacceptably high cost.

It has to be said that Hewlett-Packard’s new CP3505n is the interesting machine here. The price reduction of nearly 20% from its predecessor, the CLJ 3800n, has resulted in the CP3505 being pitched as a low-cost machine when compared to the bulk of the competition.

With all four new machines being quite highly specified, customer choice is sure to be based largely on which set of features are more desirable – Duplex/Network or PCL/PS. Taking costs into account though, with the duplex-ready Hewlett-Packard CP3505dn costing £814 (7.7% more than the LBP-5360), the feature set just beats the Canon and the overall Total Cost of Printing is still lower (5%), at 4.38 pence per page at a monthly print volume of 1,250 pages.

To bring in some other dynamics, part of Hewlett-Packard’s competitive stance is due to a recent 5% reduction in the pricing of its consumables. Also, the effect of Lexmark’s high price position on the C530dn is minimised by some significant supplies price reductions for that model alone but Konica Minolta, on the other hand, has recently increased its supplies prices by around 4%.

~End~