Xerox Phaser 6500DN

Xerox‘s Phaser 6500DN colour laser printer for small and medium-size workgroups carries a temptingly low price of $499 (as of February 22, 2011). But given the volume of output that such users are likely to generate, it’s unfortunate that the Phaser 6500DN’s replacement toner costs are so dear. (In contrast, Xerox’s larger Phaser 7500DN, which we reviewed back in mid-2009, has an extremely high selling price but offers very reasonably priced replacement toner.)

The Phaser 6500DN provides the usual workgroup-level features: USB and Ethernet connectivity; a 250-sheet main input tray and integrated manual-feed slot; and a top, 150-sheet output tray. An additional, 250-sheet input tray costs $199 from Xerox. Duplexing (two-sided printing) is standard, but Mac users must enable it manually. The Phaser 6500, a lower-cost model without duplexing, costs $399.

In our tests, the Phaser 6500DN delivered midrange speeds on the PC platform: It produced 14.8 pages per minute of plain text, and 1.8 ppm of snapshot-size colour photos on letter-size paper. Mac performance was slower than average: 13.1 ppm when printing plain text; 2.7 ppm when printing a document with mixed text and graphics; and a sluggish 0.4 ppm when printing a high-resolution, full-page colour photo.

Though the unit’s print speed numbers weren’t bad, our sample output revealed a few print quality challenges. Plain, black text was perfectly crisp, but solid areas in either grayscale or colour showed slight banding on the PC platform, and inkjet-printer-like graininess on the Mac platform. Colour quality was realistic, but initially we encountered registration problems (the four colours failed to line up), making images look blurry or off-kilter. The printer has automatic and manual methods for fixing this, but after a couple of rounds of attempted corrections, we still couldn’t perfect it. Per Xerox, it might take two or three cycles to set things straight.

Even when you get the colours right, the cost of printing with them will be high, to judge from the pricing released by Xerox at press time. The printer ships with 1000-page cartridges for all four colours. The 3000-page replacement black cartridge costs $106, or a pricey 4.2 cents per page. The two sizes of colour cartridges include 1000-page models for $65 apiece (6.5 cents per colour), and 2,500-page models for $110 apiece (4.4 cents per colour). A four-colour page would cost between 17.4 and 23.7 cents. These prices more closely resemble those of a typical colour inkjet printer than of a typical colour laser.

The Xerox Phaser 6500DN is equipped for busy workgroup use. Unfortunately, its colour costs make higher-volume usage prohibitively expensive. The Oki C610dtn, or a lower-cost variant, is a similar model with lower-priced toner (but other shortcomings).

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