By Stephen H. Wildstrom At a time when you can buy a perfectly good color ink-jet printer for $200, why would you spend $3,400 or more for a machine that does essentially the same thing? In a word, output.
The Xerox Phaser 1235 -- which starts at $3,400 and can easily top $5,000 with advanced paper handling, multiple trays, and two-sided printing -- obviously isn't intended as a personal printer. But with a duty cycle of 60,000 pages a month, it can serve a sizable work group as a networked printer.
The Phaser 1235 looks like a laser printer and produces laserlike output but relies on somewhat different technology. Instead of using a laser to draw an image on an electrostatic drum, this printer uses an array of light-emitting diodes.
SINGLE PASS. Color laser printers generally require four imaging steps -- one each for the cyan, magenta, yellow, and black components -- which means they have very fast black-only printing speeds but become painfully slow when printing color. The 1235 does it all in a single pass, with the result that it turns out 20 pages per minute (ppm) in black only and a very impressive 12 ppm in full color, all at 1,200 dots-per-inch resolution. In addition, the 1235 prints its first page just 18 seconds after the download of data is complete, ending what often seems like an endless wait before color lasers start printing.
Another advantage of the single-pass approach is simplicity, particularly in the path the paper takes through the machine, which makes it less prone to jams. I've always found Xerox/Tektronix color printers less likely to jam than rivals from Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark, especially in two-sided printing.
Xerox also has taken on the deficiencies of Microsoft Windows NT and 2000 that made installing a network printer a challenge for the uninitiated. The Phaser 1235 comes with an installation program that takes the mystery out of network setup. It includes support for all flavors of Windows as well as Macintosh and Unix.
You can get cheaper color work-group printers, including Xerox's own Phaser 750, the HP 4550, and the Lexmark C710, all of which start at $2,500 or less. But for a combination of speed, productivity, and simplicity, the Phaser 1235 is tough to beat. Wildstrom is Technology & You columnist for BusinessWeek. Follow his Flash Product Reviews, only on BW Online