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Entry-level colour lasers are not cheap but some can be less costly

Issue #0904/1 – In the past year, since we last looked at entry-level colour laser printers (), there have, of course, been several new models come to market. But, there are a surprising number of the original models still available, usually representing the cheapest machine to buy from the manufacturer concerned. In this article we revisit the entry-level category but both restrict and expand it a little to include only the cheapest machine in the range but from each of the major manufacturers to show just what ‘entry-level’ means in each instance.

This means that a couple of the models from last February’s selection have been dropped because either they are no longer the cheapest from that manufacturer or because there were two models that were relatively close in price and both were included. Hewlett-Packard’s CLJ2600 ad Samsung’s CLP-300N have been replaced, while Samsung’s CLP-350N and Xerox’s Phaser 6125N have been omitted this time because they are not the cheapest from those manufacturers.

We are left, therefore, with three of the original seven products still available – Dell’s 1320cn, Konica Minolta’s magicolor 2530DL and Xerox’s Phaser 6110N. Only two of the original models (CLJ2600 and CLP-300N) are actually superseded by new, cheaper models.

On top of these three pre-existing models, we have added eight additional printers that represent the entry-level from the manufacturer concerned. More than half of these are single-pass models that would not usually be categorised in the same entry-level class as the other four-pass or low-speed single-pass pass models – Brother’s 20ppm HL-4040CN, Epson’s 20ppm AcuLaser C1100N, Kyocera’s FS-C5015N, Lexmark’s C532n and Oki’s C3450N. Of these, Oki’s C3450 is the newest and even that is at least a year old now. Some of the others, like Epson’s C1100N, are literally years old now – December 2004.

So, this selection represents the ‘lowest priced’ network-ready models from each manufacturer. There are models costing not very much more to buy but costing less to run over a three-year period of ownership than models in this selection. There may also be models that are on their way out, being replaced by new models that currently cost a little more to buy.

Kyocera FS-C5015NKyocera FS-C5015N

For instance, Kyocera’s FS-C5015N is being replaced by the FS-C5100DN but it is still available in Germany and has a purchase price that is a little lower than the new FS-C5100DN.

Because the market is always changing, we can only take a snapshot in time when preparing comparisons for TCPglobal and, when the older models are replaced or withdrawn, the picture will change.

Xerox Phaser 6110NXerox Phaser 6110N

Including the lowest priced model from each manufacturer means that we have quite a wide range of purchase prices to consider. There is a very clear grouping around the €200 mark, with the Xerox Phaser 6110N undercutting all of those by 20% or more. At the other end of the scale, Kyocera’s FS-C5015N is costing €500 – more than double the price of most of the other printers and 37% more than the closest competitor, Epson’s C1100N.

What sets the FS-C5015N apart from many of the other models, and certainly all of the lowest-cost models, is three-fold. Firstly, it is both PCL 6 and Postscript 3 compatible rather than host-based. Secondly, it has a higher duty cycle than the other printers and is therefore suitable for higher print volumes. And, thirdly, it has a range of paper input options that boost maximum paper capacity to 1,100 sheets from three sources. Indeed, standard paper capacity is 600 sheets from two sources, double or more the standard/maximum capacity of all but two of the other printers, up to four times the capacity of some, and not very far short of the maximum capacity of both Epson AcuLaser C1100N and Lexmark C532n.

Entry-level network
colour laser printers
Duty cycle

(max/month)
Print Speed Max paper

capacity
Print Language
Brother

HL-4040cn
Not specified Mono
Colour
20 ppm

20 ppm
300 sheets PCL 6 emulation
Canon

LBP5050n
25,000 pages Mono
Colour
12 ppm

8 ppm
151 sheets Host-based
Dell

1320cn
35,000 pages Mono
Colour
16 ppm

12 ppm
251 sheets Host-based
Epson

AcuLaser C1100N
45,000 pages Mono
Colour
25 ppm

20 ppm
680 sheets Host-based
Hewlett-Packard

CLJ CP1515n
30,000 pages Mono
Colour
12 ppm

8 ppm
151 sheets PCL 6

PS 3 emulation
Konica Minolta

magicolor 2530DL
35,000 page Mono
Colour
20 ppm

5 ppm
700 sheets Host-based
Kyocera

FS-C5015N
50,000 pages Mono
Colour
16 ppm

16 ppm
1,100 sheets PCL 6 emulation

PS 3 emulation
Lexmark

C532n
75,000 pages Mono
Colour
21 ppm

21 ppm
800 sheets PCL 6 emulation

PS 3 emulation
Oki

C3450N
35,000 pages Mono
Colour
20 ppm

16 ppm
251 sheets Host-based
Samsung

CLP-310N
20,000 pages Mono
Colour
16 ppm

4 ppm
150 sheets Host-based
Xerox

Phaser 6110N
24,200 pages Mono
Colour
16 ppm

4 ppm
150 sheets Host-based

So, the Kyocera would not strictly be considered to be an entry-level printer. But, it is the cheapest printer available from Kyocera. Interestingly, the new FS-C5100DN costs a few Euros more to buy and has a Cost of Printing that is also slightly higher than the FS-C5015N.

What makes an entry-level machine is the hardware purchase price – supposedly ‘affordable’. What makes a low-cost printer is the Total Cost of Printing and, as we’ll see later, the Total Cost of Printing of the FS-C5015N is the lowest by a margin of at least 12.6%. Therefore, as the cheapest printer available from Kyocera, and the least costly to own out of the whole group, it is a valid entry-level competitor but usually is left out of entry-level comparisons.

Purchase Price

Network-ready Entry-level Colour Laser Printers


Note: all prices and costs in this article are based on Median Street Price, including Tax, sourced in Germany.

Other printers in the group, however, also offer PCL and PostScript at a price lower than the FS-C5015N. These include Brother’s HL-C4040cn, Hewlett-Packard’s Colour LaserJet CP1515n, Konica Minolta’s magicolor 2530DL and Lexmark’s C532n. All of these have purchase prices below the €300 level and two (CP1515n and magicolor 2530DL) are actually two of the lowest priced printers in the group after the Phaser 6110N! Curiously, the second highest hardware price is the C1100N from Epson – which is host-based and not PCL/PS compatible!

Epson AcuLaser C1100NEpson AcuLaser C1100N

Epson’s C1100N does, however, benefit from its higher paper capacity and greater paper flexibility than most of these models and also a duty cycle that falls not far short of the FS-5015N. Lexmark’s C532n is the other printer with a high duty cycle and some flexibility of paper input.

Clearly, at this end of the market, the area in which design and manufacturing costs are cut, with a view to minimising hardware purchase price, is primarily with regard to the mechanics of paper handling – the fewer moving parts involved in the printer, the lower the manufacturing costs. Secondly, print speed is significant in determining purchase price, each of the higher-speed printers here commands a higher price. Finally, the presence of PCL and PostScript printer languages also plays its part, as described above.

Of course, when we come to toner costs, we see an extremely wide variation in nominal Cost Per Page between the printers. Whereas the nominal cost of a colour page on the FS-C5015N is only about 8 cents, the cost per colour page on the Phaser 6110N is almost 2½ times that of the FS-C5015N, at a massive 20 cents.

No printer other than the FS-C5015N can boast a nominal colour CPP less than 10 cents but the HL-4040cn can join the FS-C5015N in boasting a nominal mono CPP below two cents. Because its mono CPP is so low, its colour CPP is only just over the 10 cent level and its purchase price is acceptably low, Brother’s HL-4040cn competes hard with Kyocera’s FS-C5015N for low long-term Total Cost of Printing.

Konica Minolta magicolor 2530DLKonica Minolta magicolor 2530DL

With its overall Total Cost of Printing only just over the five cent mark, the HL4040cn only loses out to the FS-C5015N on its long-term Total Cost of Printing by 14% in comparison to a typical 40% amongst several other printers and the massive 88% of the Phaser 6110N.

Konica Minolta’s magicolor 2530DL is the next closest competitor with a Total Cost of Printing very close to Brother’s, at 5.31 cents, despite its lower purchase price, and Canon’s LBP-5050n is also not too far behind at 5.99 cents on a very similar purchase price.

Entry-level network
colour laser printers
Median Street

Price (inc. Tax)
Nominal CPP Mixed mono/colour
CPP over 3 years
Brother
HL-4040cn
€269.90 Mono
Colour
1.75 cents
10.86 cents
5.23 cents
Canon
LBP5050n
€224.31 Mono
Colour
2.24 cents
12.86 cents
5.99 cents
Dell
1320cn
€242.76 Mono
Colour
2.68 cents
14.99 cents
7.11 cents
Epson
AcuLaser C1100N
€369.08 Mono
Colour
2.19 cents
12.4 cents
6.51 cents
Hewlett-Packard
CLJ CP1515n
€226.50 Mono
Colour
2.98 cents
15.81 cents
7.55 cents
Konica Minolta
magicolor 2530DL
€221.90 Mono
Colour
2.19 cents
12.04 cents
5.31 cents
Kyocera
FS-C5015N
€504.20 Mono
Colour
1.53 cents
8.35 cents
4.57 cents
Lexmark
C532n
€283.95 Mono
Colour
3.38 cents
13.99 cents
7.32 cents
Oki
C3450N
€290.77 Mono
Colour
2.81 cents
13.29 cents
6.41 cents
Samsung
CLP310N
€202.29 Mono
Colour
2.82 cents
15.82 cents
7.25 cents
Xerox
Phaser 6110N
€162.96 Mono
Colour
3.91 cents
19.69 cents
8.57 cents

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 median street price in Germany and include tax.

Total Cost of Printing

Network-ready Entry-level Colour Laser Printers


Other printers, such as the Dell 1320cn, Hewlett-Packard CP1515n and Samsung CLP-310N in particular, and also Lexmark’s C532n and Oki’s C3450N to a lesser degree, demonstrate the typical high supplies costs on low hardware purchase price, leading to higher than average Total Cost of Printing.

Epson’s higher than average purchase price combines with average supplies costs to deliver a Total Cost of Printing that is around the average.

To wrap up, we have seen that Kyocera’s FS-5015N is rather pricey to buy but has a higher specification and, in particular, better paper handling flexibility than any other printer and is the least expensive to own over a typical period of ownership.

Brother HL-4040cnBrother HL-4040cn

Standing out for other reasons is Brother’s HL-4040cn, which commands a competitive purchase price, has the second lowest mono and colour printing supplies costs and the second lowest Total Cost of Printing, all after the FS-C5015N. And yet, it is fast at 20ppm in both mono and colour, is PCL capable and has an acceptable standard paper capacity of 300 sheets. It also benefits from SSL, ensuring data security, a front USB slot for direct printing from USB stick or PictBridge compatible camera and availability of high capacity toner units delivering 5,000 pages in black and 4,000 pages per colour at 5% coverage.

Unfortunately, the disappointing side of the HL-4040cn is that it has no paper handling options to expand the paper capacity and input sources. It does, however, represent a truly entry-level printer because of its low price, which delivers excellent value for money and low Total Cost of Printing.

Konica Minolta delivers the best value amongst the host-based printers, with its 20ppm mono print speed, high maximum paper capacity and some degree of paper handling flexibility. Canon’s LBP5050n would also compete for this accolade if it weren’t for the miserable 151 sheet paper capacity that it shares through the Canon engine with Hewlett-Packard’s CP1515n.

At the opposite end of the scale, Xerox’s Phaser 6110N still presents itself as an expensive option despite its exceptionally low hardware purchase price. Being host-based and having a very low paper capacity also work against this otherwise very usable printer.

Therefore, whereas ‘entry-level’ as a concept simply means the lowest-specified and therefore lowest-priced model from the manufacturer, even if we take Kyocera’s FS-C5015N out of the equation (together with Epson’s C1100N), reckoning that it is not truly ‘entry-level’ because its purchase price is so high compared to others, we still see a wide range of overall costs from a group of machines where purchase prices are all low.

But, entry level does not need to mean sacrificing specification just to achieve low cost – quite clearly, small businesses can acquire a higher specification without spending more than a few Euros more at the outset AND end up paying a lot less over a three-year period of ownership by buying a model such as the Brother HL-4040cn instead of any one of five of the other models shown here.

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