Xerox ColorQube 8570DN Solid-Ink Printer Is Easy Alternative to Laser Models
At a Glance
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The easy solid-ink consumables are a selling point, but the grainy color quality is disappointing.
Xerox's ColorQube printers, including the $899 (as of October 19, 2010) ColorQube 8570DN, are unique in using solid-ink supplies rather than liquid ink or powdered toner. Unfortunately, the simplicity and economy of this technology come at the expense of its performance. The Dell 3130cn, which now offers a duplexing model for $600, is a compelling alternative, as is the Oki C610dtn.
Our hands-on time with the ColorQube 8570DN was a mixed but largely positive experience. The power-up process is long and somewhat noisy; Xerox recommends using sleep mode instead of turning the printer completely off. You'll catch a slight whiff of molten wax as the printer operates. We also observed an intermittent whining between print jobs; Xerox is working to correct this in manufacturing. On the PC, using the default PostScript driver, we ran into slow dialog-box responses, intermittent PostScript errors, and (after one rocky reinstallation) a balky multipurpose tray. After restoring the test bed and reinstalling the printer, the multipurpose tray worked fine. A test of the ColorQube 8570DN with its PCL driver was painless and successful. The Mac installation was nearly flawless, though the instructions neglected to mention that you have to add the printer manually.
The printer's performance test results were also up and down. Pages consisting primarily of text but with a smattering of simple monochrome graphics printed at 14.8 pages per minute on the PC and 10.2 ppm on the Mac--average speeds. The quality was pretty good: deep black, but with slightly jagged edges on thinner fonts. The unit's photo-printing speed was impressive: Our Mac-based 22MB, full-page color photo exited at about 2.1 ppm--twice as fast as we normally see-and the snapshot-size photos we print on letter-size paper on the PC averaged 2.6 ppm. Unfortunately, photo and color-graphic quality are noticeably grainier than the norm, and the palette looked slightly washed out at default settings. For business graphics, however, the quality is acceptable.
The ColorQube 8570DN's configuration includes a bottom, 525-sheet cassette; a front, 100-sheet multi-purpose tray; and a top, 200-sheet output tray. The unit we tested supported ethernet and USB. Its price is $200 higher than its $699 ColorQube 8570N cousin because it can duplex (print on both sides) automatically--even on the Mac (a rarity). The $1149 ColorQube 8570DT adds a second 525-sheet input tray. An empty SODIMM slot is available for upgrading from the printer's standard 512MB of memory, but you should try a standard DDR2 module before paying $719 for Xerox's own 512MB module. Other options include a hard-drive kit ($499), a 525-sheet paper tray ($300), and a system cart with a storage drawer ($299). The standard warranty is for one year, onsite.
A six-line, backlit monochrome LCD and the standard array of buttons make up the control panel. The menu structure is somewhat complex and the language is jargon-heavy; printing out the menu map helps.
The solid-ink supplies look like a cross between crayons and building blocks. They load easily into their color-specific chutes, which are hidden under the printer's output tray. Solid ink is both economical and environmentally friendly, since it lacks the plastic housing and other nonbiodegradable components of toner or ink cartridges. The unit ships with starter cubes and a pack of replacement cubes specced to last for a total of 3000 pages. All colors are sold in pairs that should handle 4400 pages of output. Black costs $100 or 2.3 cents per page; cyan, magenta, and yellow cost $150 or 3.4 cents per page. In total you can print a four-color page for about 12.5 cents. If you use a lot of black, you may want to take advantage of Xerox's offer of a package of four black cubes for $150; that bundle should last for 8600 pages, which works out to just 1.74 cents per page. A drum and fuser kit that lasts for 30,000 pages is priced at $99, adding approximately a third of a cent to the cost of each page. A waste tray to collect leftover ink, replaceable as needed, costs $46.
It's difficult to recommend the ColorQube 8570DN over a midrange color laser or LED printer. Buy it if you like what the solid-ink technology offers--convenience, economy, and low environmental impact--and you can tolerate the middling speed and print quality.