The Xerox Phaser 8400B color laser costs $200 to $300 more than the other sub-$1,000 printers we've reviewed recently, but those extra bucks buy you a slightly better base feature set, including more memory, a greater paper capacity, fast color-graphics print speeds (due to the use of solid ink instead of toner), and a removable SIM chip that stores your printer's configuration settings for future upgrades. Unfortunately, the Phaser 8400B produces merely fair color and monochrome print quality, and its monochrome text print speeds are too slow for most small businesses wanting to share network laser printer resources. The typical small office looking for fast monochrome text speeds and better all-around image quality should consider the instead.
The Xerox Phaser 8400B doesn't break any new design ground: it's your standard boxy workgroup laser printer, weighing 60 pounds and measuring 16.3 inches wide by 14.5 inches high by 21 inches deep. The Phaser 8400B comes with a parallel port and a USB 2.0 connection but not the cables themselves. The paper trays include a generous 525-sheet paper input drawer on the bottom of the printer, a 250-sheet output shelf on top, and a panel that opens up on the front to feed up to 100 sheets of nonstandard paper such as card stock or envelopes.
What makes the Phaser 8400B different is its solid-ink technology. The Phaser 8400B uses a solid, resin-based ink instead of the traditional laser toner, which makes replacing the Xerox ink sticks incredibly easy. Just open a panel near the top of the printer, drop in the oddly shaped blocks of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink, then slide the sticks down a track until they come into contact with the print head--much like those fit-the-shape-in-the-right-hole toys you had when you were young. A big advantage to this system is that you can load up to four ink sticks per track, so you don't have to wait until one runs out to replace it. Another advantage is that the waste cartridge collects leftover ink into a solid block that you can just dump in the trash (it's nontoxic).
On the top panel, an LCD lets you set up the printer, change paper type and print quality, tweak the connection setup, troubleshoot problems, and access detailed information about such things as when and how to add more ink and how to cope with error messages.
While the Xerox Phaser 8400B costs $200 to $300 more than other entry-level color lasers, the Lexmark C510 and the in particular, it offers a more comprehensive feature set. The combined paper capacity out of the box is 625 sheets (the other two start at 250 sheets) and you can add two more 525-sheet cassettes ($399 each) for a total capacity of 1,675 sheets. The printer comes with 128MB of RAM that's expandable to 512MB, a fast 500MHz PowerPC processor, and native PostScript 3 and PCL5c emulation. That's a lot of power for a standalone printer without a network connection, so you'll need to add an Ethernet print server for $349 right away.
You can also add a 20GB hard drive for $499 and a duplexer for $319 or just buy the corresponding 8400N, 8400DP, or 8400DX models, which come with these features already installed.
With solid-ink technology, the Phaser 8400B's overall ink costs are less than those of toner-based color laser technology. A three-pack of each color costs $100 and prints approximately 1,100 pages per stick, or about 3,400 pages per package. A three-pack of black ink costs $65, and a 6,800-print six-pack of black costs $100. This works out to about 10.8 cents per page with 20 percent fill, according to Xerox. A maintenance cartridge, which keeps the imaging drum cleaned and oiled lasts 10,000 pages, can be replaced for $100 or $150 for a 30,000-page drum.
Taking a page from the cell phone manufacturers' book, the Phaser 8400B comes with a tiny SIM card that stores the printer's network ID and firmware, making it easy to transfer your printer configurations should you upgrade or repair the printer. The SIM card also includes Xerox's CentreWare IS embedded Web server software, which you can easily access by typing the printer's IP address into a Web browser. This software allows you to check the status of the printer, reconfigure it, access and generate usage reports, and check out an online job log from any browser with an Internet connection.
The Phaser 8400B comes with drivers for Windows, Mac, Novell, Linux, and Sun operating systems.
The Xerox Phaser 8400B is the first color laser we've seen that prints color graphics faster than monochrome text. That's because solid-ink technology uses fewer moving parts than traditional color laser technology, which must switch among four toner cartridges. But the speeds obtained by CNET Labs were nowhere near the vendor-rated 25 pages per minute (ppm) for monochrome and color.
On monochrome text, the Xerox came in at 8.06ppm, which is slow compared with the Lexmark C510n at 19.2ppm, although not entirely out of line with the HP LaserJet 3500 at 8.6ppm. On monochrome graphics, the Xerox came in at 8.1ppm for the Xerox, again well behind the Lexmark at 19.2ppm, and much closer to the HP at 8.6ppm.
On the other hand, the Phaser 8400B's color text speed was a very respectable 8.1ppm compared to the HP's 7.0ppm, and the Lexmark's 6.8ppm. But the Xerox Phaser 8400B excelled with color graphics at 11.0ppm, where the Lexmark C510n clocked in at only 6.4ppm, and the HP Color LaserJet 3500 came in at 8.8ppm.
Unfortunately, the Phaser 8400B's print quality was uneven and, in general, fell below the high quality expected with laser printing. All of the documents were shiny, as if they had a layer of wax coating them, giving each a distinctive and "expensive" look. Monochrome text looked very dark and, thanks to the solid ink, bore an almost engraved quality. However, the curves of most letters looked jagged, especially in italic fonts viewed under the loupe. Monochrome graphics were also disappointing because the shiny, waxy coating was distracting; the gradients in our test document looked both dithered (meaning you could see that the picture was composed of individual droplets of ink) and mottled. Although the color gradients looked better and the color matching overall was quite good, color graphics were extremely dithered, especially in the photo elements, but the shiny, textured ink gave a nice crisp finish to the line drawings.
One quirk of solid-ink technology is that you can't write over the ink with a pencil or a ballpoint pen because the waxy coating scratches off--inconvenient when you need to make corrections on a hard-copy document. Instead, you'll need a felt-tip pen.
We tested the Xerox Phaser 8400B with its default factory settings. For additional tests, we adjusted the software driver to counter the above-mentioned problems and were able to improve the print quality. Learn more about how CNET Labs tests printers.
Performance analysis written by CNET Labs project leader Dong Van Ngo.
|Color graphics (ppm)||Color text (ppm)||Black graphics (ppm)||Black text (ppm)|
|Color graphics||Color text||Black graphics||Black text|
Xerox backs the Phaser 8400B with an industry-standard one-year warranty, which you can upgrade by one to three years with onsite service. Toll-free phone support is available under warranty, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. PT.
Xerox provides the Phaser 8400B with an abundance of printed documentation, from a setup poster to four copies of a Quick Reference brochure to an on-CD user manual complete with video setup instructions, troubleshooting tips, and a Usage Analysis tool for generating specific-usage reports. Xerox's &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex_1&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eofficeprinting%2Exerox%2Ecom%2Fperl%2Dbin%2Fproduct%2Epl%3Fpage%3Dsprt%26product%3D8400">Web site has drivers, a product-specific knowledge base with step-by-step solution guides, access to PhaserSmart (a Web-based troubleshooting device that your printer can communicate with if it's networked), FAQs, and video instructions.