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Lexmark and Epson business inkjets challenge Officejet Pro on Total Cost of Printing but can’t match it

Issue 0932/2 – As promised, this is the first of two articles comparing Total Cost of Printing between the new inkjet All-in-Ones from Hewlett-Packard, Epson and Lexmark with others on the market. Here we focus on the business inkjet sector and a further article will consider home-oriented devices. Devices considered are: Brother MFC-6490CW; Canon PIXMA MX860; Epson Stylus Office BX610FW; Hewlett-Packard Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless; Hewlett-Packard Photosmart Premium Fax; Lexmark Platinum Pro905

This is a strange category, really emphasising how the industry and the market is trying to get to grips with this high-end business inkjet market. There are no givens and there is a wide range of prices and Cost of Printing across the products available. For that matter, there is really a very wide spectrum of product capabilities available, sometimes making comparisons difficult.

In this line-up, we’ve gone for business machines with fax capability and both wired and wireless network interfaces as standard. The additional basic features common to all machines are individual inks and memory card slots, together with USB 2.0 and PictBridge interfaces.

In some instances it has been fairly clear which device in a range to choose, while in others there are choices to be made.

Brother MFC-6490CWBrother MFC-6490CW

With Brother, we have two generations of hardware available and also the choice of standard A4 format or the new, and still exclusive to Brother, A3 format. So, we chose the A3 MFC-6490CW because its hardware price is well within the range of the group but it offers A3 format printing, scanning and copying as a huge bonus to the business environment. We could just as easily have gone right to the top of the range with the duplex-ready MFC-6890CDW (but, at a price of €485, it rather stands apart from others in the business inkjet category).

On the point of duplex, the Brother model selected here, in addition to Epson’s Stylus Office BX610FW, are the only models without auto-duplex printing capability. Hewlett-Packard’s Photosmart Premium Fax and Officejet Pro 8500, together with Canon’s PIXMA MX860, all have a duplex ADF on the scan unit in addition.

Hewlett-Packard Photosmart Premium FaxHewlett-Packard
Photosmart Premium Fax

In the case of Hewlett-Packard, the model chosen is the only fax capable model in the new Photosmart line-up, Photosmart Premium Fax. However, when talking about the business inkjet AiO market, it is impossible, and would be irresponsible, not to include the latest iteration of the original and longest-standing business inkjet range, the Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless. The reason for choosing the wireless version, despite a price-tag that is €95 higher than the basic wired version, is purely because all other models here have both wired and wireless interfaces. One could, of course, reduce Total Cost of Printing by choosing the wired-only version.

Lexmark Platinum Pro905Lexmark
Platinum Pro905

Remarkably for business-targeted printers, only two models offer a business-friendly second paper feed as standard. These are Brother’s MFC-6490CW and Lexmark’s Platinum Pro905, further elevating Brother’s model as a heavyweight business-oriented device, taking maximum paper capacity to an impressive 400 sheets and allowing both A4 and A3 paper to be loaded at the same time (just a shame the duplex version costs so much more – I’m sure this will change in time). In general, paper capacity within this group is very disappointing, with two devices (Epson’s Office BX610FW and Hewlett-Packard’s Photosmart Premium Fax) accepting only 120 or 125 sheets of A4 at one time.

Hewlett-Packard’s Premium Fax, being a Photosmart device, takes the route of adding an automatic, motorised 13x18cm photo paper tray – leaning more towards its home office targeting rather than pure business targeting. Complementing this feature is the ability to print directly onto CD and DVD surfaces – the only machine in this group to have this capability.

As touch screens begin to be used on inkjet devices, in this grouping we only see this on three devices but this does include Lexmark’s remarkable web-enabled touchscreen with SmartSolutions (see for detailed comments).

Brother
MFC-6490CW
Print speed
Inks
Paper input
ADF
Duplex printing
Max Duty Cycle
Other
 
35/28ppm draft
4-ink, pigment black
2nd paper feed = 400 sheets
50 sheets
No (available on MFC-6890CDW)
Not quoted
8.4cm widescreen touch screen
A3 printing, copying and scanning
Canon
PIXMA MX860
Print speed
Inks
Paper input
ADF
Duplex printing
Max Duty Cycle
Other
8.4 / 5.6 ipm (ISO 24734)
5-ink, pigment black
150 sheets
Duplex – 35 sheets
Automatic standard
Not quoted
Mobile phone direct printing
Epson
Stylus Office BX610FW
Print speed
 
Inks
Paper input
ADF
Duplex printing
Max Duty Cycle
Other
38/38ppm draft
15 / 9.3 ppm (ISO 24734)
4-ink, pigment
120 sheets
30 sheets
No
Not quoted
 
Hewlett-Packard
Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless
Print speed
 
Inks
Paper input
ADF
Duplex printing
Max Duty Cycle
Other
35/34ppm draft
15/11ppm (ISO 24734)
4-ink, pigment
250 sheets
50 sheets
Automatic standard
15,000 pages per month
8.76cm touch screen
Hewlett-Packard
Photosmart Premium Fax
Print speed
Inks
Paper input
 
ADF
Duplex printing
Max Duty Cycle
Other
 
33/32ppm draft
5-ink, pigment black
125 sheets
plus 20 sheets 13×18 photo paper
Duplex – 50 sheets
Automatic standard
2,500 pages per month
DC/DVD printing
Bluetooth
Lexmark
Platinum Pro905
Print speed
Inks
Paper input
ADF
Duplex printing
Max Duty Cycle
Other
 
33/30ppm draft print speed
4-ink
2nd paper feed = 300 sheets
50 sheets
Automatic standard
10,000 pages per month
Web-enabled touch screen
with SmartSolutions

So, let’s put hardware pricing into this picture. We see a wide range of pricing on the devices, in some respects reflecting the degree of sophistication built into them.

Hardware Purchase Price

4-Function Wireless Business Inkjet AiO

Note: All prices are Median Street Price with tax, sourced in Germany.

For instance, Epson’s Office BX610FW is a straightforward and basic business 4-function All-in-One with no fancy features. It is perhaps a little under-specified for the serious and demanding business user, particularly with its low paper capacity and lack of duplex printing capability – but, it is available at the lowest price within the group (€200) and also has the fastest print engine (as quoted – draft printing).

Canon PIXMA MX860Canon PIXMA MX860

Canon’s MX860 is also a rather basic device but, again, at a low purchase price. In its favour, Canon does have a reputation for high build quality and fast, high quality printing and this device is duplex-ready and with a duplex ADF. Comparing the ISO print speeds quoted though, this device does not even begin to touch the BX610 or Premium Fax print speeds – surprisingly being rated at not much more than half the speed of these two.

At the other end of the scale, Lexmark has turned its back on its former low-cost pricing strategy. This Pro905 model is the most expensive in the group at €380 – meaning there is almost a 100% price differential between the Epson and Lexmark models.

In the middle, we find the two most serious business models, Brother’s A3 MFC-6490CW and Hewlett-Packard’s Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless. The Photosmart Premium Fax also sits in this space.

Now – when we come to supplies prices and Cost Per Page, there are some surprises. While we have covered the exceptionally low cost of Lexmark’s black #105XL Return Program ink in article , colour inks for the Platinum Pro905 are somewhat expensive (to compensate for the low cost of black ink!) – very typical of Lexmark.

However, more remarkably, these colour inks are not the most expensive in the group. Nominal colour CPP (which includes all four inks – five in the case of Canon!) on Canon’s MX860 comes out even higher than Lexmark’s – but, this is heavily influenced by the low cost of the Lexmark black compared to the high cost of the Canon black.

Also exceptionally high is the nominal CPP for both black and colour printing on the Hewlett-Packard Photosmart Premium Fax – almost as high as the Canon machine and also pushing the long-term CPP almost as high as the Canon machine when printing 500 pages per month over three years.

Total Cost of Printing

4-Function Wireless Business Inkjet AiO

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 500 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.

Lexmark’s Pro905 actually comes out of this situation fairly well in the long-term, despite its high nominal colour CPP and high hardware purchase price, purely on the strength of the low-cost black ink – meaning that it scrapes in slightly below the cost of Brother’s MFC-6490CW even though the nominal colour CPP is higher. Note, Return Program supplies from Lexmark have been used throughout, with many outlets not stocking the regular supplies.

Epson Stylus Office BX610FWEpson
Stylus Office BX610FW

It is down to Epson’s low hardware cost and well-priced supplies that the BX610FW occupies such a good position within the group throughout – making it attractive as a general purpose office device – while Brother’s MFC-6490CW is also fairly well positioned as a serious business contender, considering that it offers A3 capabilities.

Hewlett-Packard Officejet Pro 8500 WirelessHewlett-Packard
Officejet Pro 8500 Wireless

However, there is still no sign that anything can challenge the Officejet Pro range as the most serious business inkjet AiOs for low-cost office printing. Nominal black CPP is 46% lower than the nearest competitor (excluding Lexmark’s #105XL cartridge), nominal colour CPP is 29% lower and overall, long-term CPP is 14% lower – Epson being the nearest competitor in all instances!

As we move on to consider a range of monthly print volumes, to give a good indication of the most cost effective devices for most small business environments or corporate departments, we see that the Officejet Pro is still in a dominant position from all but the very lowest of usage volumes. Equally though, for businesses with both low volume requirements and simple functional needs, Epson’s BX610FW is a clear winner below the 300 pages per month level.

It must be clearly noted, though, that Lexmark’s Platinum Pro905 becomes the main challenger to the Officejet Pro at about 800 pages per month but still leaving the Epson very much at the more economical end of the scale.

Total Cost of Printing

4-Function Wireless Business Inkjet AiO


Brother’s A3 MFC-6490CW comes in as being just a little more costly than the Epson at higher page volumes but is still very well-placed throughout for its capabilities. This leaves the Canon MX860 and Hewlett-Packard Photosmart Premium Fax machines as the most expensive in the group by a considerable margin – around 22% above the Brother MFC-6490CW – and about 95% more costly that the Officejet Pro!

Clearly, this is Lexmark’s best challenge in the business inkjet segment yet but the company still has some way to go to challenge Hewlett-Packard with the Officejet Pro. Where the Platinum Pro905 does score very highly is in its SmartSolutions implementation, backed by a generally high level of specification.

Sadly, Hewlett-Packard’s Photosmart Premium Fax is a disappointment with its high cost, while Brother’s MFC-6490CW and Epson’s Stylus Office BX610FW both have a lot to commend them, in different respects. As we’ve stated previously, the MFC-6490CW is particularly exciting as part of the only A3 inkjet AiO range in the market.

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