The Winner’s Circle – 2010

Wirth Consulting publishes exclusive Head2Head Comparison Reports that are designed to help end-users, decision makers, and purchasing agents make the best decision when purchasing business-imaging equipment. Head2Head Comparison Reports compare and rank printers, All-in-Ones, and MFPs, and are presented in a convenient side-by-side format. These are the only reports in the industry that actually pinpoint a device that is best in its category.

Following are imaging devices that scored the highest overall rating and were awarded Best In Class for 2010.

Summer 2010 – Entry-Level B/W Network MFPs Over $300

When Wirth Consulting decided to perform a comprehensive Head2Head Comparison Report on entry-level monochrome network MFPs, we found that the category was more complicated than we initially thought.  We define “entry level” as the lowest-priced monochrome MFP offered by each vendor, with network capability (as we believe networking capability is essential in any shared office environment).  And, we only selected models available through the retail channel.

We did our research and came up with 10 models that qualified from Brother, Canon, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Konica Minolta, OKI Data, Panasonic, and Xerox.  Prices for these systems ranged from $189 to $399.  However, once we began our evaluation, we noted that there were two classes of devices within this group that were not readily apparent.

We determined that the four devices that cost in excess of $300 had a considerably lower Cost Per Page (CPP) and that some could be upgraded to a larger media capacity.  Consequently, we determined that it was not realistic to compare Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) between low-cost/moderate-to-high CPP devices and high-cost/low-to-moderate CPP devices.  We also noticed that these four devices were available from vendors that primarily support the office-dealer channel:  Konica Minolta, OKI, Ricoh, and Xerox.  Consequently, we decided to split this group in two:

  • Entry-Level B/W Network MFPs Under $300
  • Entry-Level B/W MFPs Over $300 (below)

The following summarizes the findings in our Head2Head Comparison Report for Entry-Level B/W Network MFPs Over $300:

As stated, the Cost Per Page for these devices is for the most part considerably lower than those from vendors who supply low-priced devices primarily through the retail channel.  Among entry-level MFPs over $300, the Ricoh Aficio SP 3400SF, had the lowest CPP of the group—2.08¢—which is also among the lowest among any device sold through the retail channel.  This translated into the lowest TCO across the board at any monthly volume.  We also noticed that Ricoh did not skimp on business-quality features (Web Image Monitor for network management, scan to e-mail servers and network folders, etc).  Other useful features that we noted include: the ability to print from and scan to USB flash memory devices; Universal, PCL 6 and PostScript 3 print drivers; an all-in-one print cartridge; and the ability to add a second 250-sheet media drawer to facilitate higher print volumes.

All things considered, the Ricoh Aficio SP 3400SF’s very low CPP and TCO, plus the aforementioned features and benefits, makes it our Best In Class selection for not only small offices and businesses, home offices, but for enterprise use in satellite offices as well.

Summer 2010 – Entry-Level B/W Network MFPs Under $300

Panasonic’s KX-MB2030 sets a new benchmark in this Head2Head Comparison Report for Entry-Level B/W Network MFPs Under $300.  As the system with the lowest list price ($189) in this group, the KX-MB2030 allows users who were previously priced out of this segment to obtain fast laser printing up to 24 ppm, and a robust, fully equipped All-in-One with standard automatic document feeder, walkup and PC fax, color network scan/scan to e-mail server functions, and large, easy-to-use control panel.  The ability to scan directly to network folders is a key advantage, as most competitors in this segment don’t offer this capability.  The KX-MB2030 is also equipped with software that has proven easy to use and works the first time when evaluated by Wirth Consulting.  Consequently, Wirth Consulting awards the KX-MB2030 its Best In Class rating and highly recommends it for very small workgroups (up to three users), small offices, home offices, small businesses, and satellite offices.

Summer 2010 – Ink Versus Toner Entry-Level Office MFPs

In our latest Head2Head Comparison Report on Ink Versus Toner Entry-Level Office MFPs, we took on perhaps one of our most interesting tasks, facing off ink-jet versus toner-based laser and LED entry-level MFPs for the office.

Contrary to some current perception, virtually all but one of the ink-jet MFPs has a lower black cost per page compared to toner-based MFPs’ black cost per page.  Similarly, all of the ink-jet MFPs’ color cost per page is lower than that of their toner-based counterparts.  In fact, two toner-based systems have color cost per page as high as 18.5 and 21.4 cents.  Consequently, Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) was considerably lower for nearly all of the ink-jet systems.       At the same time, the ink-jet MFPs’ energy consumption was as little as 4 percent  of toner-based systems’ energy consumption.  (In fact, we recently performed an analysis using our TCO calculator that shows $300+ annual energy-cost savings when using an ink-jet versus toner-based system at a print volume of 4,000 pages per month.)      One area where the toner-based MFPs seemed to have an advantage is monthly volume, with the toner-based systems having the highest maximum monthly volumes, typically from 25,000 to 35,000 pages–however, they may not necessarily print faster or have higher consumables and paper capacities that would best support higher volumes.  Hewlett-Packard’s Officejet Pro 8500 Premier has the highest maximum monthly volume among the ink-jet MFPs at 15,000 pages.

In the end, we found that the system that provides Best in Class performance among the group is the HP Officejet Pro 8500 Premier, with its low cost per page and TCO, plus an office feature set that virtually matches (and often surpasses) that of its toner-based competitors.  This feature set includes easy-to-use color touch screen, color scanning, network scanning, automatic duplex printing and scanning, network connectivity, and value-adds such as memory-card slots, PictBridge port, 500-sheet media supply, high-yield ink cartridges, and wired and wireless network connectivity.

Spring 2010 – B/W Workgroup Printers From 31-40 PPM

In our latest Head2Head Comparison Report For B/W Workgroup Printers From 31-40 PPM, Wirth Consulting determined that from the nine units evaluated and compared, that the $699 Konica Minolta pagepro 4650EN provides the best balance of the group of A4 B/W workgroup printers.  The pagepro 4650EN earned Best In Class designation based on:

  • Sufficient consumables’ capacity to support multiple users:  high-yield toner cartridge (10,000 pages) and sufficiently generous paper capacity (700 pages expandable to 1,800 pages).  This means these consumables won’t have to be as frequently replaced as with some other printers, thus reducing downtime and bottlenecks.
  • Sufficient printing power to support multiple users–including Konica Minolta’s Emperon print platform, which Wirth Consulting has tested and found to be very productive and capable of impressive image quality; 500 MHz CPU; and Gigabit Ethernet network interface for fast transfer of jobs to the printer.
  • Budget-friendly cost per page of 2.2 cents, and low TCO at higher monthly print volumes.
  • Capable feature set, including USB port for printing from flash-memory drives, PageScope suite for capable management and monitoring on the network (as well as compatibility with HP’s Web JetAdmin), and optional offset tray for keeping users’ jobs separated.

Altogether, the Konica Minolta pagepro 4650EN brings together an unbeatable combination of quality engineering, printing horsepower. and workgroup features that make it a solid choice for any user in virtually any office environment.

Spring 2010 – SMB Ink-Jet MFPs

In Wirth Consulting’s latest Head2Head Comparison Report For SMB Ink-Jet MFPs, we were faced with an interesting challenge–try to pinpoint the best ink-jet MFP/All-in-One for use in small and mid-size businesses.  Moreover, which of these devices could also serve as a workgroup device in the enterprise?

Our roundup included devices from Brother, Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark, Ricoh and Xerox.  They ranged in price from $349.99 to $1,299.00.  In spite of the price difference, the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the more expensive units was lower than the cheaper units because of significantly lower cost per page, especially at higher monthly print volumes.

In the end, we determined that the Hewlett-Packard Officejet Pro 8500 Premier earned Best in Class as it provides the best balance of the group:

  • Sufficiently high ink yields (1,500 pages for black, 1,000 pages for each color) and sufficient paper capacity (500 sheets standard) to handle moderate print volumes;
  • A color touch screen that provides very easy, no-fuss operation;
  • The ability to send scanned documents to network folders and e-mail servers;
  • Duplex scanning and automatic duplex printing.
The Officejet Pro 8500 Premier also has a rich feature set that includes media card slots, as well as photo-editing and management software, very good photo reproduction, support for a wide range of media, etc., all of which is perfect for creative and graphic-arts applications. Another plus is the ability to equip the Officejet Pro 8500 Premier with optional HP JetDirect network interfaces, expanding the system’s ability to be managed via HP’s Web Jetadmin, the gold standard for enterprise device management.

Winter 2010 – Entry-Level Toner-Based Color MFPs

InfoPrint Solutions Color 1826 MFP dn earned the Best in Class designation in Wirth Consulting’s latest Head2Head Comparison Report on Entry-Level Toner-Based Color MFPs.  While the Color 1826 MFP dn is one of the higher priced units in this segment at $799, in the long run, its comparatively low cost per page translates into an overall low Total Cost of Ownership, so that real cost is competitive.  At the same time, it provides all of the basic features found in this class–color network print and color copy, as well as color network scan, fax, plus other features not always provided in this segment, including a duplexing automatic document feeder and automatic duplex printing, as well as support for legacy applications and alternative operating systems.

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