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Xerox Phaser 8500 review: Xerox Phaser 8500

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MSRP: $2,865.00
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The Good The Xerox Phaser 8500N provides fast color printing; a low-cost, low-waste solid-ink system; great software; and expandable paper handling and memory.

The Bad The Xerox 8500N serves up mediocre print quality.

The Bottom Line Color lasers offer better output quality than this solid-ink printer, but the Xerox Phaser 8500N is faster, less costly to maintain, and kinder to your energy bill.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.2 Overall

Review Sections

The Xerox Phaser 8500N has nearly everything a color business printer should, including speed, solid network handling, and add-ons for paper capacity and memory. It competes with small-office color lasers less than $1,000, but it's technically not a laser printer. Instead of fusing toner to the page with a laser, it uses a process that liquefies solid blocks of nontoxic ink, sprays the ink onto a drum, and transfers the image onto the page. This process offers advantages over laser technology: it prints color faster and cheaper, it makes changing inks easier, and it generates far less waste. It's also supposed to provide better graphics. The Xerox Phaser 8500 replaces the Xerox Phaser 8400B, which CNET users gave high marks. However, the output quality of the Xerox 8500, while adequate, doesn't measure up to that of color lasers such as the Dell 3100cn.

There's no way to tell by looking at the Xerox Phaser 8500 that it's any different from a color laser printer. The putty-white hulk measures 16 by 14.5 by 21 inches (WHD) and weighs 60 pounds. A door on the front panel reveals a 100-sheet paper-input tray that also takes envelopes and manual-feed jobs; another door exposes the guts of the printer so that you can clear paper jams. On top is a 300-sheet output tray, and at the bottom is a big 525-sheet paper drawer. You can add up to two 525-sheet trays at $399 each if your workgroup prints frequently; consider the 8500DN if you need a duplexer for automatic two-sided printing. Along the right side of this machine, behind a plastic pop-off panel, are the power plug, USB 2.0 and 10/100BaseT Ethernet connectors, and a Xerox SIM card that holds configuration data for the printer, making it easily transferable to a new Xerox printer.

On its top panel, the Xerox Phaser 8500 has a backlit LCD and a cluster of buttons for navigating through the various print menus. You can access most functions for paper handling, network setup, and basic troubleshooting through the software drivers. You'll still complete secure or personal print jobs through the physical interface to prevent others from accidentally picking up your work from the output tray.

A door on the top reveals the ink-feeder slots. Adding ink to the Xerox Phaser 8500 satisfies one's inner child, as the ink comes in solid, crayonlike blocks packaged in cups that resemble pudding containers with peel-off lids. Insert each block into its matching hole and slide it down the tube, queuing up to three blocks at a time. As with many color laser printers, every now and then you must clean waste ink by opening a compartment on the side of the printer.

In our tests, we needed only a couple of minutes to get the Xerox Phaser 8500N running. The well-organized, easy-to-use print drivers let you set basic options, such as custom paper size. The drivers also include a TekColor tab with color-correction options, including Office Color (sRGB Display, sRGB Vivid) and Press Match (SWOP Press, Euroscale Press, Commercial, SNAP Press). The color tab also lets you calibrate lightness, saturation, contrast, and individual color levels. The printer-install process puts an icon link to the Xerox Support Centre on your desktop. This umbrella program has a searchable interface that contains all kinds of information about the printer (from the user guide to troubleshooting to ordering supplies) and also houses the printer-status monitor. The printer comes with great network-management software, including CentreWare, which tracks any printer on the network, gives usage statistics, and lets you change printer settings. You also get an accounting tool that tracks print jobs and a diagnostic tool that sends data to Xerox for troubleshooting.

This printer comes with true Adobe PostScript 3 and PCL 5c printing languages and works with many operating systems (Windows 98 SE/Me, NT 4.0, 2000/XP, Server 2003; Mac OS 9.x, OS X version 10.2 or higher; Novell NetWare 5.x/6.5; Linux Red Hat 9, SuSE 9, Fedora Core 1; Unix Sun Solaris 2.8, 2.9, 2.10, HP/UX 11.x, IBM AIX 4.3.3). For graphics pros, the Xerox 8500N is compatible with a variety of color-matching systems.

The Xerox Phaser 8500N's grayscale-text speed of 12.07 pages per minute (ppm) is average for devices in its class and in line with that of the Oki C5200n, but it falls a dozen pages per minute behind the similarly priced Dell 5100cn. Even so, the Xerox 8500N's 11.05ppm color-graphics speed was zippier than that of the HP Color LaserJet 3550. This Xerox lays all colors down at once, so it's faster than most color lasers that apply each color separately.

CNET Labs color laser speed  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Text  
Graphics  
Dell 5100cn
24.48 
13.43 
Lexmark C762
15.00 
13.63 
Oki C5200n
12.81 
11.45 
Xerox Phaser 8500N
12.07 
11.05 
Brother HL-2700CN
11.27 
6.48 
HP Color LaserJet 3550
8.68 
8.83 

When it comes to print quality, the Xerox Phaser 8500N's solid-ink technology produces mixed results. Text prints in CNET Labs' tests looked fine from reading distance but fuzzy up close, much like the output from an inkjet printer. The 8500N's monochrome graphics looked mottled and grainy. Color graphics were good overall, with accurate colors, but skin tones weren't well blended, and we could easily see the ink dots that made up the image. We don't recommend this printer if you plan to make lots of full-page color prints. If that's what you need, try a high-end color inkjet, such as the HP Business InkJet 2800, or a color laser, such as the Dell 3100cn. In any case, this mixed bag of output won't cost your office much. According to Xerox's estimates, monochrome printing will run you about a penny per page, and color printing a low 3 cents per page.

CNET Labs color print quality  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Graphics  
Color text  
Grayscale graphics  
Grayscale text  
HP Color LaserJet 3550
Good 
Good 
Excellent 
Excellent 
Lexmark C762
Fair 
Fair 
Good 
Excellent 
Oki C5200n
Fair 
Fair 
Good 
Excellent 
Brother HL-2700CN
Fair 
Good 
Good 
Good 
Xerox Phaser 8500N
Good 
Fair 
Good 
Fair 
Dell 5100cn
Fair 
Fair 
Good 
Good 

The Xerox Phaser 8500N comes with a one-year warranty that includes convenient onsite service. You can upgrade the warranty to two or three years with onsite service or purchase an installation-and-training option if your IS people need help deploying the printer. Toll-free phone tech support is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. The Xerox Web site provides a knowledge base, manuals, instructional videos, FAQs, and recycling instructions.

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