In keeping with the other models in Xerox's range of laser printers, this one avoids the boring black colour scheme that other manufacturers favour. Instead the main body of the machine is finished in matte white with dark blue used on the top section, which houses the output tray and control panel.
The control panel is fairly basic. It's got a two-line monochrome display with a four-way cursor pad sitting next to it and a couple of extra buttons to handle basic print control tasks. Despite this, the menu system is reasonably quick and easy to use.
The bottom of the machine houses a cassette-style paper tray that can take up to 250 sheets at a time. Rather than having a secondary multi-purpose tray, there's a slot on the outside of the main tray to allow you to feed in single sheets or envelopes. You can add a second 250-sheet tray for around £150 to double its paper capacity if needed.
Sadly there's no USB port on the front for direct printing from memory keys and it lacks the secure printing option that some rival manufacturers offer on their laser machines.
Getting this model up and running is fairly painless. The four toner cartridges are pre-installed, but you have to remove some protective ribbons before you can turn the machine on and start using it.
This model has Ethernet and USB onboard, so you can either connect it into your home office network via a cable or hook it up to your computer directly via a USB lead. The installation CD-Rom includes short video animations that guide you through the entire set-up process on a step-by-step basis, so even if you're a complete novice you shouldn’t find it too hard to get it up and running.
For a model that comes in well under the £200 price mark, the Phaser 6500 doesn't hang about when it comes to printing either black and white or colour documents. It pumped out our ten page black and white text document in 42 seconds, which is faster than the pricier Brother HL-4140CN managed. A colour version of the same document was completed in exactly the same time, so switching to colour printing doesn’t slow this model down.
Its performance with colour graphics was also quite speedy. Our ten page colour graphics test was completed in 48 seconds, while it managed to deliver our ten page colour business presentation in just 43 seconds. Again, those speeds proved faster than more expensive colour rivals, such as the Brother HL-3040CN.
Print quality was well above average, too. As you would expect from a laser machine, text output was superbly clean and sharp. However, it also does an excellent job on colour graphics. Our business presentation had rich and vibrant colours and edges in our graphic documents were pin sharp. Colour accuracy was also well above average.
Unfortunately, the Phaser 6500 does have an Achilles Heel and that comes in the form of print costs. Colour laser printers are always more expensive to run than mono models, but the Phaser 6500 is more expensive than most of its direct competitors. There are normal and high capacity versions of the colour toner cartridges available, with the former good for around 1,000 pages, while the latter will run to around 2,500 pages. The black cartridge is only available as a high capacity cartridge that lasts for around 3,000 sheets.
Using the high capacity cartridges print cost work out at 3p for black and white sheets and 10.15p for colour sheets. That's pretty expensive. As a comparison, the Brother HL-4150CDN has print costs of 1.9p for black and white sheets and 8.4p for colour pages.
There's an awful lot to like about the Phaser 6500. It's cheap to buy, yet delivers excellent print quality. Black and white pages look superb, while its colour output is probably the best we’ve seen from a sub-£200 laser model. However, its relatively high running costs mean that it's not a great option for those with busy offices where there's a requirement to produce lots of printed material.