State of the Union with color printers
July 8, 2010 11:57 AM   Subscribe

Have <$1000 color printers (including inkjet and laser) gotten any better since 2003 in terms of output quality?

I'm wanting to print about 50-100 color brochures per month. All I have is a 2003-era HP Deskjet 6800, which still works perfectly. Is it better to stay with this printer and print my brochures onto gloss paper? Or has inkjet & laser technology gotten a lot better since then? I would consider a new printer purchase if current-generation quality is better or the cost of quality (i.e. nonclogging, nonfussy viz. no continuous flow) consumables is a lot lower.

I mention gloss paper since printing inkjet color spreads onto copier paper tends to produce minor wrinkling due to ink absorption, and I get that faded, dingy look unless I'm using gloss paper. I saw some color laser units around 2001-2002, and they delivered a nice "dry" look on standard copier/bond paper but color saturation was terrible. Is that still how it is?

Finally, if I opt to go with a print shop like an average Kinkos, what print technology do they currently use for color output and is it any better in terms of color saturation and quality?
posted by crapmatic to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Current generation and previous generation workgroup-level colour lasers do a pretty good job on brochures, these have gotten better over the last five years. Workgroup inkjets are still for shit as far as consumables cost; and there is no marked improvements in quality except for printing photos on photo paper.

All of the quick-turn print shops are using xerographic colour for small jobs; think Docucolor 242 level machines and upward. Many big shops are using monster xerographic machines for almost-press quality colour (but that's a religious war waiting to happen.)

If you're happy with your current machine, stick with it. Know that the cost of short run colour (again, xerographic) from local print shops has come down significantly in the past year or two, so you might want to run the math again on your consumables and hassle vs. just farming it out.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:20 PM on July 8, 2010

Our home-office HP 2605dtn was cheap (<$300 in Canada) and yet has good quality output; I wouldn't hesitate to use it for commercial brochures. Toner is expensive (~$100 per cartridge x 4), but still beats hell out of inkjet costs (and lasts for 2000 pages instead of a few hundred for inkjet). It's about five years old and still working fine. I think they're still being made.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 12:56 PM on July 8, 2010

Several printer manufacturers are really cranking out printers that have great color and low replacement ink costs - very important if you're printing 100 brochures a month. I'd suggest just stopping in at a Best Buy (or wherever) and hitting the "test/demo" button on at least a few Kodak and HP printers.
posted by carlh at 1:57 PM on July 8, 2010

Even the worst color laser printers today produce better plain-paper output than all but the best inkjets.

I have a Samsung CLP-315W. As far as color lasers go, it's crap. However, it was cheap, wireless, and the output quality is perfectly acceptable for what I use it for. It'd be just fine for running off 50-100 brochures a month.
posted by schmod at 1:58 PM on July 8, 2010

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