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Color Laser Printers: Fast and Affordable!

Performance And Cost Per Page

PerformanceColor LaserJet 2600nColor LaserJet 3600Magicolor 5430DLLexmark C522n
Average speed with office documents6.2 ppm15 ppm14.2 ppm6.4 ppm
Printing Excel graph, one page00:2100:1300:1700:17
Printing 300-dpi Illustrator document00:2500:1600:2200:55
Printing 300-dpi Photoshop image00:2400:1900:2101:04

Don't believe the speeds claimed in manufacturers' specifications. Even though some models can come close to them, actual measurements are always slower. Sometimes they are much slower, as in the case of the C522n, which claims to be among the fastest.

Cost Per Page

Cost per pageColor LaserJet 2600nColor LaserJet 3600Magicolor 5430DLLexmark C522n
Cost of black page, 5% coverage$0.04$0.01$0.01$0.03
Cost of color page, 20% coverage$0.17$0.08$0.08$0.13
Cost of 10,000 pages (70% black, 30% color)$755.79$344.09$354.60$575.93

The cost spreads show that the initial purchase cost of the printer ultimately has little impact once you get past a few thousand pages; the more expensive models are amortized and so become more economical. You should choose your printer based on your estimated printing volume.


While the purchase prices of one-pass color laser printers may vary greatly, you should be careful not to use purchase price as your only criterion in choosing a printer. The Lexmark C522n has a lot going for it ergonomically, but its performance is too disappointing. The Konica Minolta Magicolor 5 430DL is a very complete printer, but its bulk limits its possible applications. The HP Color LaserJet 2 600n is mostly for people who don't need to print a lot, given its very high cost per page. The Color LaserJet 3600 represents the best compromise between ergonomics, quality, speed, and cost per page; it's a shame that its network version costs so much.

Join our discussion on this topic

  • veffari
    I honestly don't feel any closer after going through this interview. Consumer-end color laser printers have their real limitations. I have one (Minolta) that's been very useful for years but not useful enough.
    How about sticking an envelope in the printer. What happens then, does it come out wrinkled? Does the text get evenly put on? Or a cardstock, does the printer handle it and what weights and types? Does the cardstock come out bent? Do the printers handle vellum paper, transparencies, do they have to be hand-fed or does the printer jam when the user gets more creative than your average office drone?
    Is the program interface quick and easy to understand or a time-eater?
    I feel the reviewers should get a little more creative here. A review measuring speed is ok, but in reality versatility is more important than a sceond or two here or there on paper outputs. It makes no real-world difference if one machine does 23 seconds or the other 24 seconds, really. Unless were talking 1 minute per page vs 45 seconds: In the end, is the machine going to print nice brochures that have not to bright colors or certain colors that become to vivid and muddy? Or is it just good for a quick presentation for an informal meeting? Does it easily perform on commonly found laser copy paper? Is it easy to calibrate colors with Photoshop? Do you recommend certain paper types that produce beautiful results and guide us to who makes them so we can use the machine better after we buy it on your recommendation?
    And how about doing a review on professional level color laser printers? Like $1000-$4000 models. Some of those have really amazing qualities in text and photos, but I'd like to know how they compare. After all my dozen broken inkjets I realized long time ago they are there to perform temporarily and designed to not really be workhorses.
    So how does it last? Does the printer last and does the output last? Do you put printouts in the sun, on the radiator, or spray steam on them for humidity simulation and such?
    The output image files are a bit confusing and could be expanded on. Side by side comparisons where the reviewer notices differences. Not just stick them in the article.
    Boy, I have more questions after reading the review than when I started reading. Much of the info is in semi-techno or owners manual style. It would be nice to get beyond it and TEST the machines and have strong opinions and say why.