Color Laser Printers: Fast and Affordable!


Sales of color laser printers are expected to increase by 20% annually in the years ahead, while monochrome laser printer sales remain level. What's happening with color laser technology parallels the history of inkjet printers, but on a smaller scale. In a few years, there's a good chance that color laser printers will outstrip monochrome printers in sales. For two years now, manufacturers have been offering some particularly economical models, and HP has even broken new ground by launching a color laser - the Color LaserJet 1600 - selling for less than $300 in mass-retail chain stores.

Beyond the usual distinctions between color and monochrome laser printers, there's another important difference within the category of color models: one-pass versus multi-pass. With a one-pass printer, the page makes a single pass over all four of the toner cartridges that deliver the four primary colors (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black), which makes for faster printing. With multi-pass printers, the same sheet travels a longer path, going through four successive printing phases (one for each color). Multi-pass theoretically reduces the cost of a printer, because there's only a single drum for all the toner cartridges, whereas one-pass printers need a drum for each toner color. But of course, printing times in color are at least four times as long with multi-pass.

This roundup focuses on one-pass printers. While they currently account for only 46% of the market, they're clearly the way of the future, and several entry-level models from HP, Oki, and Canon are one-pass printers. Other manufacturers will have to go the same route very soon if they want to stay competitive.

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.