Tektronix Phaser 2135DT review:

Tektronix Phaser 2135DT

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MSRP: $6,959.00
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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Lightning-fast color printing; sharp text quality.

The Bad Expensive; poor color quality at the default resolution, especially on photographs.

The Bottom Line If you can sacrifice color output quality for speed, the Xerox Phaser 2135DT will serve your network well.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.0 Overall

The promise of LED and color laser printers is alluring: They print faster and generally better than inkjets, offer lower costs per page, and are designed to handle the rigors of a busy network. But even so, the time it takes to print a 20-page PowerPoint presentation makes color lasers nearly impractical for busy offices. This isn't so with the Xerox Phaser 2135DT, a color LED that boasts rated engine speeds up to 21 pages per minute (ppm) for color--yes, color--documents. So what's the catch? An enormous up-front cost and unimpressive color print quality at the printer's default resolution. The promise of LED and color laser printers is alluring: They print faster and generally better than inkjets, offer lower costs per page, and are designed to handle the rigors of a busy network. But even so, the time it takes to print a 20-page PowerPoint presentation makes color lasers nearly impractical for busy offices. This isn't so with the Xerox Phaser 2135DT, a color LED that boasts rated engine speeds up to 21 pages per minute (ppm) for color--yes, color--documents. So what's the catch? An enormous up-front cost and unimpressive color print quality at the printer's default resolution.

Built for business
The Phaser 2135 ships in three configurations with varying prices, but none are cheap. The DT model we tested runs $7,299. The lower-end N model costs $5,999, while the top-of-the-line DX has a price tag of $8,399. By comparison, the top-of-the-line HP LaserJet 4550hdn and the Minolta-QMS Magicolor 2200 DP cost $4,289 and $4,199, respectively, almost $2,000 less than the Phaser 2135N model.

Setting up the printer wasn't overly difficult once we got the 250-pound monster out of the box. We had to connect the imaging drums to the toner cartridges and take care of a few other details, but the illustrated setup poster helped. Installing the network software is a bit trickier but easy enough for the network-savvy to figure out. Xerox includes a Quick Network Install Guide booklet, plus advanced features and troubleshooting manuals on the printer's CD-ROM.

The printer ships with an integrated 10/100BaseT Ethernet card and supports a direct parallel-port connection. Supported platforms include Windows NT 4.x, 9x, 2000, and Me; Macintosh EtherTalk; Novell Netware 3.1x, 4.1x, and 5.x; OS/2 Warp, Warp V4.0, and Warp Connect 3.0; and Unix. The Phaser 2135DT supports PostScript 3, PCL5C, and PDF printing languages, and it ships with 192MB of RAM, which is expandable to a whopping 512MB. The printer also includes a 5GB hard drive (a $599 option on the N model) for storing fonts and forms, for example.

Right at home in any office environment, the Phaser 2135DT includes more than enough options to keep the printer humming with minimal user intervention. Paper handling is impressive: The Phaser supports media sizes up to 12 by 18 inches, as well as a variety of stocks, including transparencies and envelopes. The two input trays support up to 550 sheets each, plus an additional 100 sheets in the multisheet bypass feeder, for a total of 1,200 sheets. The DT and DX models also ship with an automatic duplexer, which you can purchase for the N model for $779.

The toner capacity is awesome, rated at 7,500 pages for the $69 black and $189 color cartridges, putting the cost per page at .9 cents for black and 2.5 cents for color. High-capacity cartridges, rated at up to15,000 pages, are also available at $109 for black and $299 for color.

Built for speed
All of these features are well and good, but the Phaser 2135DT proves that it's more than just a good configuration. While it didn't measure up to its rated 21ppm engine speeds, the Phaser blasted by every other color laser we've tested. In CNET Labs' tests, the Phaser printed color business documents at 7.4ppm and 600 by 600 dots per inch (dpi), compared to a paltry 2.2ppm for the HP LaserJet 4550n and 2.8ppm for the Minolta-QMS Magicolor 2200 N. At the same resolution, our combined text and graphics document came in at 7.4ppm and text speeds were an impressive 15.4ppm, compared to 3.2ppm and 12ppm, respectively, for the Magicolor 2200 N.

What's underneath the hood?
What makes the Phaser 2135DT so much faster than the color lasers we've tested? Rather than printing a document in four passes--one pass for each color (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black)--the Phaser 2135DT prints all four colors in a single pass. This faster printing method is due in large part to the printer's LED (light-emitting diode) technology. LED printers use linear arrays of digitally controlled, light-emitting elements to form an image on a page. Laser systems, on the other hand, use rotating mirrors and lenses to form the printed image. Laser technology has dominated the market, but LED has its potential benefits, including greater reliability (fewer moving parts to break) and, in this case, blazing speed. Both technologies, however, are capable of producing the same high-quality output.

Faster isn't always better
At its default resolution of 600 by 600dpi, the Phaser produced razor-sharp text, even at the smaller three- and four-point font sizes. In samples that combined monochrome text and graphics, the overall print quality was good, but there were some problems with gradational shading. The big disappointment came from the mixed-color photo and graphics document, which looked poor due to horrendous dot patterns, rough colors, and splotchy images. However, color quality improved significantly when printing in enhanced mode (600 by 1,200dpi), producing much smoother and eye-pleasing colors. To be fair, while the Phaser 2135DT had trouble with photos, it performed fine on CNET's business-oriented, color test document.

When considering a network printer, tech support is as important as speed. Fortunately, the Phaser 2135DT includes a one-year onsite warranty, and Xerox offers toll-free telephone support from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT Monday through Friday. In addition, the Xerox Web site offers current drivers, troubleshooting via the Infosmart knowledge base, and printer documents in 16 different languages.

The Xerox Phaser 2135DT is expensive, but it delivers well on one of its promises: It is the fastest color printer CNET's tested, far surpassing the laser printers with its LED technology. Unfortunately, color quality falters when printing photos. If your color printing needs lie mostly in the less-complex realm of presentation slides, borders, and the occasional small photo, the Phaser 2135DT should do just fine. And its monochrome text printing is outstanding. But if color quality has to be good across the board, and you can wait a bit longer for prints to come out, you'd be better off with the HP Color LaserJet 4550n.

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

The Xerox Phaser 2135DT blew by the competition, reaching unheard-of speeds on text and color test documents. However, you have to pay to play: The Phaser 2135 line of printers is double the price of the HP LaserJet 4550n and the Minolta-QMS Magicolor 2200 N. Also, the LaserJet 4550n delivered higher-quality color output than the other two printers.

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