When it comes to meeting the high-volume printing needs of a bustling office environment, color laser printers geared for personal or small-office use usually don't offer the performance and features needed to keep up. Stepping up from an entry-level color laser printer gets you more speed and the durability to print many more pages per month. Other workplace-friendly features include higher-capacity paper trays, more memory for faster printing of complex jobs, and often lower overall consumables cost. The trade-offs are larger physical size and a much higher price tag.
The fast, powerful HP LaserJet Enterprise 500 M551dn (Est. $750) takes first prize in this category. It muscles through print jobs with ease, whipping out 33 text pages per minute and nearly breaking the color-laser speed record at PCMag.com. "The fast and quiet operation make this printer a joy to use," writes one owner at Amazon.com, where the HP M551dn earns mostly perfect 5-star ratings.
Printouts look impressive. Even photos really look like photos, says Tony Hoffman at PCMag.com, who wouldn't hesitate to hand them to clients "for simple marketing materials like handouts or trifold brochures, or for real estate handouts showing photos of properties."
Workhorse laser printer features include an automatic duplexer, big paper capacity (a full 500-sheet paper drawer plus 100-sheet multipurpose tray) and a heavy-duty monthly print maximum duty cycle of 75,000 pages (although HP recommends keeping that to 5,000 pages on a regular basis). Toner costs are "reasonably low," Hoffman says, and owners agree: 1.8 cents per black-and-white page and 13 cents for color.
One drawback? No Wi-Fi. Wired Ethernet networking is built in, but HP charges $200 extra for a Wi-Fi dongle to turn the M551dn into a wireless printer. There's no Apple AirPrint support, either, which is a deal-killer for a couple of customers at Amazon.com and Staples.com who use iPads heavily in their offices.
The HP LaserJet Enterprise 500 M551dn can handle legal-size paper. If you need to print bigger, the Xerox Phaser 7100/N (Est. $1,400) color laser printer earns rave reviews for its ability to handle a vast array of media types, all the way up to A3 tabloid paper (11 by 17 inches). Reviewers say it's a great bargain, as color laser printers that can support tabloid-size paper can easily cost twice as much. Text quality is in the eye of the reviewer, but even the harshest critic says it's no worse than average compared to that of other color laser printers. Graphics quality is also pretty good. Photo quality looms slightly above par, which Tony Hoffman of PCMag.com says is easily adequate for basic marketing materials. Reviewers find the Xerox Phaser 7100/N to be quite fast; Hoffman notes that it does very well in his site's benchmark speed tests.
Standard paper capacity consists of a 250-sheet main tray and 150-sheet secondary tray; both can handle 11-by-17-inch paper. Three optional trays are available (Est. $400 each), bumping potential paper capacity to 2,050. Reviewers say the Xerox Phaser 7100/N isn't a consumables hog, and that running costs are average to a little bit better when compared with color laser printers in the same class. With its maximum duty cycle of 52,000 pages per month, the Xerox Phaser 7100/N is not ideal for settings with high printing volume, but it should be a consideration for those looking for a high-end small office laser printer. Ethernet networking is built in, with Wi-Fi available as a $220 option.
Even busier offices might consider the Lexmark C748de (Est. $1,200) . This pricey corporate printer has an even heavier duty cycle (up to 100,000 pages per month, with a recommended usual limit of 10,000 ppm) and roomier max paper capacity: It comes with a 550-sheet tray and 100-sheet multipurpose feed, but you can add an optional 2,000-sheet tray (Est. $600) and 550-sheet trays (Est. $300) to stuff in up to 4,300 sheets. Toner costs even less than for the HP M551dn, but printouts don't look quite as good in PCMag.com's tests.