All color lasers self-regulate for color consistency by performing regular calibration routines. The process helps to ensure that the twenty-fifth copy of your brochure will look basically the same as the first. High-end printers recalibrate after 40 or 50 copies; less-robust printers do it after printing several hundred copies. If your printer will be for an in-house graphic design or publications department, however, or if you have to make a sample for an outside printing service, you should look into the availability of color-matching utilities. You will know if you need these more-sophisticated tools — your users will ask for them.
Another contributor to color quality is the toner you use. Every printer vendor recommends sticking with its brand-name consumables to maximize print quality and fidelity. The third-party replacements you see at office superstores sure are cheap, though. What’s the trade-off?
In short, you’ll have to decide whether color variation tolerance or low cost of ownership is worth more to you. If you choose remanufactured cartridges, keep in mind that many third-party vendors offer an exchange rather than a refund if you are dissatisfied with their product.
Once you’ve decided on a printer, study the buying process to make sure you’re covered if something goes wrong. You should also confirm the return policy at the store where you’re making the purchase, to ensure that you can bring the printer back if it doesn’t meet your needs. If you purchase the printer from an online vendor, make certain ahead of time that you won’t get stuck paying a restocking fee. Also, don’t expect to be able to recoup the cost of shipping the printer back.
The color laser printer market continues to offer more, better, and even greener products. According to a recent IDC report, color lasers at the highest end will reach 45 ppm by next year, though 20 to 30 ppm remains the sweet spot for print speeds until at least then. Continued competition in the consumables market will help keep operating costs in line — if you’re willing to forgo brand-name toner. Eco-friendly choices include recycled laser paper and toner cartridges, two-sided printing options, and lower power-consumption levels. The upshot is, whatever your need might be — speed, versatility, or a lower cost to operate — it’s a great time to buy.