Xerox – Tektronix Phaser 860 DP review

Monster office colour laser printer
Photo of Xerox – Tektronix Phaser 860 DP
£3,372 + VAT

Colour inkjet printers are occasionally to be found in the office – we’ve reviewed some here before – but for heavy duty workgroup printing, it’s hard to beat a colour laser printer such as this one. They don’t come cheap, but the performance they offer is as yet unmatched by any other technology.

This particular machine doesn’t use coloured toner like a conventional laser printer though, though. Instead it prints using solid inks; basically coloured wax. These blocks of ink are added to the printer simply by lifting up a flap at the rear and inserting them into the appropriate slot – one each for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. And you get free black ink for the life of the printer, too, so that’s one helpful reduction in the total cost of ownership of the printer.

You might expect this different printing technique to cause a few problems, but the only real difference compared with a conventional colour laser printer is that you have to wait slightly longer than usual for the printer to warm up, to let the wax melt, and leave the machine standing for at least half an hour before moving it, to prevent molten wax from leaking where it shouldn’t. But since this is a huge beast weighing a shade under 40kg, you’re not likely to be moving it much.

An LCD display on the front panel tells you all you need to know and lets you configure most of the printer’s features. This is a very useful system, actually; better than most. You can print sample pages and the menu tree, display and change virtually all the configuration options and check the installed modules. Our review printer was the DP model, which meant it had 128MB memory rather than the standard 64MB, an internal duplexing module (for double-sided printing) and an Ethernet connection, in addition to the mini-parallel and USB connectors.

Four modes – fast colour, standard, enhanced and high-resolution/photo – produce increasing levels of print quality. The high-resolution mode offers 1200 x 600dpi, which may not sound as good as some inkjet printers but because the waxy ink sits on top of the paper rather than leaking into it, the results are fantastic, even on standard office paper. The ‘fast colour’ mode produces the fastest results, as you’d expect. In our tests we recorded print speeds of 13, 10, 5 and 3 pages per minute respectively in the four different quality modes.

There’s the usual array of printer driver software supplied for all major versions of Windows and Macintosh machines, plus there’s a CD of network management tools, which are essential for workgroup printer management. And, because the inks are wax-based, the whole thing smells slightly of candles when it’s in use, which is a big improvement on the smell of fused toner.

Company: Xerox

Contact: 0870 241 3245

Despite the unusual printing technology, or perhaps because of it, this is a fast office printer producing excellent quality output; so good that it can be used for pre-press proofing with RGB or CMYK colour matching. It's easy to use and easy to maintain and adding more ink is far simpler than it would be with any other laser printer. The only real irritation is the price - according to the Web site the UK price appears to be a straight dollar-to-pound conversion. There's scope for a bit of bargaining when you come to buy, we reckon.