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Xerox Phaser 860DX review:

Xerox Phaser 860DX

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MSRP: $5,342.00
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The Good Good color output; free black ink sticks for the life of the printer; fast color print speeds.

The Bad Distracting shiny ink; only fair mixed text and graphics output.

The Bottom Line Despite its potentially intimidating purchase price, the Phaser 860DX is fast and easy to manage. This is a good buy for midsized businesses that do a lot of color presentations and lack a dedicated IT staff.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.0 Overall

You don't have to shell out for a laser printer to add color to presentations, marketing collateral, and other office documents. Xerox's Phaser 860DX offers fast, easy color printing and comes in a variety of configurations that cost as little as $1,999 (although the premium model we reviewed is more expensive), making it an affordable second printer to accompany your workhorse monochrome laser. And the Phaser's unique, solid-ink technology achieves fast color print speeds and decent output, with much simpler maintenance requirements. Administration is simple, too, with the CentreWare embedded Web server software. If your office wants to print color presentations and other documents cheaply and simply, the economical Phaser 860DX could be the perfect fit. You don't have to shell out for a laser printer to add color to presentations, marketing collateral, and other office documents. Xerox's Phaser 860DX offers fast, easy color printing and comes in a variety of configurations that cost as little as $1,999 (although the premium model we reviewed is more expensive), making it an affordable second printer to accompany your workhorse monochrome laser. And the Phaser's unique, solid-ink technology achieves fast color print speeds and decent output, with much simpler maintenance requirements. Administration is simple, too, with the CentreWare embedded Web server software. If your office wants to print color presentations and other documents cheaply and simply, the economical Phaser 860DX could be the perfect fit.

Not your average network laser
The top-of-the-line $4,399 Phaser 860DX is not your typical laser printer. In fact, it doesn't even use a laser. This line of color printers uses solid-ink technology to produce text and graphics. Solid ink--supplied in colored blocks that look like big, fat crayons--is melted and fired through printheads onto a drum, then transferred and fixed to the page surface. The advantage? You can produce a full-color image in just one pass at a fast clip. A typical color laser printer, on the other hand, uses four passes (one for each color) to create a color document. Also, laser printers tend to have more moving parts that require frequent replacement, including photo conductors, transfer rollers, fuser rollers, fuser oilers, waste toner bottles, and four toner cartridges. The Phaser 860DX just needs to be fed periodically with more color sticks. And color costs are low: $40 per stick, except black ink, which is free--yes, free--for the life of the printer. Xerox also claims a high duty cycle for the Phaser 860DX: 65,000 pages per month.

The Phaser 860DX works with Windows 95, 98, NT, 2000, Mac OS, and Unix/Linux machines. You'll also find a PhaserPrint plug-in for Photoshop. A 5GB internal hard drive (preloaded with drivers, manuals, help videos, and fonts), 128MB of RAM (256MB maximum), 136 internal fonts, and support for legal-sized and booklet printing help to ensure that the 860DX is able to juggle the busiest and most demanding workgroup tasks. Although a similarly configured laser printer, such as the top-of-the-line Hewlett-Packard LaserJet 4550 hdn, costs a little less at $4,349 (read our review of the Color LaserJet 4550n model), the Phaser 860DX also has lower-cost configurations ranging from $1,999 to $3,399--prices that a color laser would find hard to beat.

Office printers aren't usually known for their eye-catching looks. But as far as networkable color printers go, the Xerox Phaser 860DX's shapely design and small footprint will add flair to any small to midsized business environment. Looks aside, however, the Phaser 860DX is still heavy, so have someone help you unbox this 80-pound behemoth, attach the 500-sheet second paper tray, and move the unit into place.

You'll find everything you need to get started right in the box (except for the USB, parallel, or Ethernet cables). The illustrated installation poster helps you through the setup process in a matter of minutes, though a user guide includes more detail as well as maintenance and troubleshooting hints. Insert the black, cyan, magenta, and yellow ink sticks into their cassette-type holders under the paper output deck; you can load several sticks at a time into each color compartment. Next, connect the printer to the computer's parallel or USB port or your Ethernet hub, then turn on the Xerox; the Phaser 860DX requires an initial 12-minute self-test/warm-up period. Use the front panel to select your menu language. Once the printer is ready, insert the companion CD-ROM, and load your drivers and network management tools.

Easy to manage
The Phaser 860DX includes a lot of helpful management and usability features. For instance, it comes with Intelligent Ready software, which keeps track of the printer's usage. Over time, the printer automatically enters or exits standby mode based on your company's usage patterns. This avoids delays while the printer warms and saves you money on energy bills (especially important to California businesses).

The CentreWare embedded Web server makes managing and maintaining the Phaser 860DX a pleasant experience for even the networking novice. To connect to the Phaser 860DX, simply type the printer's IP address into your Web browser. From this page, you can gather valuable information such as the status of paper trays, toner usage, and pages printed. You can also find links to Web sites for getting support and ordering more supplies.

The Phaser 860DX prints on a variety of 16- to 32-pound business media, including paper sizes such as letter, legal, A4, A5, and executive (7.5 by 10 inches); transparencies and labels; and envelopes such as #6, #10, DL, Monarch, and C5. It also supports two-sided (duplex) printing, in addition to Adobe PostScript 3 and PCL 5C print languages with automatic switching.

Fast color prints
In CNET Labs' tests, the Phaser 860DX delivered on its speed promise. It printed a little less than 10 pages per minute (ppm) of text, comparable to other printers in this class, such as the Brother HL-2400CeN. On our mixed text and graphics document, the Phaser 860DX took first place with a speed of 8ppm. Color printing speeds also came in at an impressive 4.4ppm.

The Phaser 860DX's print quality couldn't quite match its speed. Text looked good, but the ink appeared very shiny, which some users may find undesirable; we'd still prefer a laser for simple documents. Although the Phaser 860DX's strength supposedly lies in printing presentations, mixed text and graphics printouts looked only fair. Color quality on full-page photo samples looked good, but the printer had trouble with gradients. As you might expect, printing results appear considerably better at 1,200dpi on photo-grade paper.

Xerox backs the Phaser 860DX with a one-year onsite warranty (parts and labor). Unlimited toll-free phone support is available Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. Extended service plans are also available for one to three years. The printer itself is designed with internal help menus, which might help resolve typical problems such as media jams. The Xerox Web site offers manuals, driver updates, software patches, FAQs, QuickTime videos, and a searchable InfoSmart knowledge base.

The Phaser 860DX is a well-rounded alternative to a color laser for offices that want something smaller, simpler, and less expensive. The CentreWare embedded Web server lets you manage the printer quickly and easily, no matter what your level of expertise. The printer also delivers quick output and decent quality on color and graphics documents. Add in free black ink for life and the Phaser 860DX could make your accountants happy, too.

Editor's note: This page has changed from our original version. Please see the corrections page.

The Xerox Phaser 860DX's text speeds were comparable to those of other workgroup printers in this class. However, on mixed text and graphics tests, the Phaser 860DX leaped ahead of the competition, placing second only to the Xerox Phaser 2135DT. Color print speed was also impressive at 4.4 pages per minute.
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