Laser Printers: An Overview

Laser printers offer great speed and reliability for demanding business and home users. At their best when put to work in a network setting, laser printers allow multiple users to take advantage of the high speeds and duplexing capabilities of the printer.

But how to weigh those advantages? We've got some tips on shopping for a laser printer if you're in the market for one this holiday season. And we've got a trio of recommendations for models that passed muster in our tests.

Laser printer buying advice

Consider the cost Most quality laser printers run in the range of US$400 to $600 and are on the heavy side (around 50 pounds). They are a bigger investment than standard printers and require more room to operate. Most come with longer warranties than typical inkjet printers, however.

Two sides are better than one Printers that offer duplexing can print on both sides of the page--a useful feature for users who want to maximize speed and efficiency. And printing on both sides of a page ultimately saves you money on paper.

On a related note, laser printers cost less per page to print than their inkjet counterparts; they're also more environmentally friendly.

What to look for When judging a laser printer, there are two key factors you should focus on--speed and text quality. Macworld Lab includes both time trials and jury ratings in our laser printer reviews--make sure to look at both when deciding which model to buy.

A quality laser printer typically prints 10 pages in around 30 to 45 seconds. As for our jury tests of printing quality--which also include ratings on the quality of image and graphics output--a quality laser printer score a rating of "very good" or better in our text-quality test.

Ponder Postscript Postscript capability or emulation is an important ability to consider. Postscript is a print description language that enables laser printers to handle high-quality graphics alongside text. No longer an absolute necessity, Postscript printing is still important as it takes the load off your computer's CPU and allows the use of certain types of fonts.

Our favorite laser printers

oki, laser printer, c6150dn
The Oki C6150dn produces great-looking prints and includes built-in duplexing. It also offers easy network connectivity and quick printing speeds. It's particularly ideal for printing top-quality brochures and handouts with photo elements. Read our full review. [$600 (Get best current price for the Oki C6150dn); Oki Data]

brother, laser printer, hl-4070cdw
The Brother HL-4070CDW is a color laser printer perfect for a small-to-midsize workgroup and comes packed with a ton of useful features--wireless networking, duplexing capabilities, and PostScript compatibility (via emulation). It also delivers speedy performance, ease of use, and excellent print quality for a relatively low price for laser printers. Read our full review. [$500 (Get best current price for the Brother HL-4070CDW); Brother]

The Xerox Phaser 6180/DN is a color laser printer that's also aimed at the small- to midsize-business crowd. It produces clean, crisp copy and features 10/100BaseTX Ethernet networking capability, automatic duplexing, and Adobe PostScript 3 compatibility. Though it's been on the market for a while, the Phaser 6180/DN remains one of the most user-friendly printers out there. Read our full review. [$649 (Get best current price for the Xerox Phaser 6180/DN); Xerox]

[Chris Holt is an assistant editor at Macworld.]

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