The Winner’s Circle – 2011

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 2011.

Summer 2011 – Entry-Level Monochrome A4 Office MFPs

In this Head2Head Comparison, we defined Entry-Level Monochrome A4 Office MFPs as the least expensive model from each vendor that: 1) is available via the retail channel; 2) has standard print, copy, scan and fax; and 3) is equipped with networking, duplex printing and automatic document feeder.  Using this criteria, our search revealed eight vendor models that range in price from $299 to $499 and in speed from 26 to 35 ppm.

All of the competitors consistently offered full small-office functionality, while several others provided office and enterprise-level functionality. However, the biggest differentiator was found in Cost per Page which ranged from 2¢ to nearly twice that—3.9¢ per page. We also noticed that although several had been compared in an older Head2Head Comparison, price reductions and new entries had changed the playing field.

Our extensive research and rating methodology showed that the Lexmark X264dn‘s list price and Cost per Page is among the lowest in this group, and its Total Cost of Ownership is second-lowest, but it still provides an extensive feature set—including PCL and PostScript (not GDI) print drivers, and (color) scanning to e-mail and network PCs from the control panel, making it a very attractive price proposition. Suitable for small and mid-size offices, it’s also suitable for enterprise use with its support for Lexmark’s MarkVision network- and fleet-management solution. Consequently, the Lexmark X264dn is the Best In Class choice for any installation where a small workgroup monochrome MFP is required.

Summer 2011 – Office Entry-Level A3 Color MFPs

You know that your company has reached a certain level once you need to invest in an A3 Color MFP.  In our latest Head2Head Comparison of Office Entry-Level A3 Color MFPs, we compare the least expensive models from the spectrum of vendors and manufacturers that serve the office-products industry: Canon, InfoPrint, Konica Minolta, Kyocera Mita, Lexmark, OKI, Ricoh, Sharp, Toshiba and Xerox. It was a difficult process, as list prices for these entry-level but highly modular units ranged from $3,999 to $11,998, and many differ greatly in the range of enterprise-level security, workflow and manageability features available.

Overall, we found several MFPs provided a superior value/feature set ratio in this class compared to others. Another consideration was that since these devices are supplied by the dealer channel, there is generally no set pricing, especially when it comes to supplies. However, most dealers will offer a competitive Cost per Page or MPS plan. Consequently, we examined the availability of more advanced functions, focusing on which device offered the best overall value for the cost of acquisition.

In the end, we determined that the Canon imageRUNNER ADVANCE C2020 offers the best value. Not only does it boast one of the lowest list prices in this class, but it’s equipped with Canon’s MEAP open-development platform for integrating advanced workflow solutions, and can be configured to match the enterprise-level features found on Canon’s high-end imageRUNNER ADVANCE systems. This makes its integration into an existing network infrastructure easier than most, especially if there are other Canon products on the network. Add to that our extensive experience with the hands-on testing of scores of Canon imaging systems, and we are confident that the imageRUNNER ADVANCE C2020 will offer the performance that we expect from Canon: above average design, build-quality, usability, image quality, and productivity.

All of this considered, we are confident that the Canon imageRUNNER ADVANCE C2020 will deliver a Best In Class performance experience among this class of products.

Spring 2011 – Office Entry-Level A3 Color Printers

This evaluation of Office Entry-Level A3 Color Printers includes the least-expensive A3 office color workgroup printers available from Canon, Hewlett-Packard, Konica Minolta, Lexmark, Oki, Ricoh, and Xerox authorized dealer and direct channels. This particularly tough crowd was composed of printers from the most experienced producers of office printers.  Price ranged from $1,999 to $3,699, and print speeds ranged from 30/30 to 40/36 ppm (black/color). In this roundup, we noticed that unit and supply pricing has come down since the last instance we evaluated this group two years ago.

In the end, we determined that Konica Minolta’s magicolor 7450 II ultimately outclassed its competitors due in part to its combination of comparatively low acquisition price and low Cost Per Page and Total Cost of Ownership. Moreover, with the magicolor 7450 II, users can expect a versatile feature set and rock-solid printing performance (we have tested other Emperon-based units and found their performance superior). It also provides competitive manageability, especially when used in network environments with other Konica Minolta products. For graphic-arts applications, it provides printing on up to 140 lb. index from all sources, tabloid-size printing of full-bleed 11″x17″ images with crop marks on up 12.25″x18″ media, a maximum media length of up to 47.2″ for banner printing, Pantone color-matching, press emulations, etc. All this considered, the versatile Konica Minolta magicolor 7450 II is Best In Class for any office or enterprise looking for an entry-level A3 and tabloid-size color workgroup printer for office and/or graphic-arts applications, and receives our highest endorsement – Best in Class.

Spring 2011 – Entry-Level Laser/LED Color Office Printers

This Head2Head Comparison Report for Entry-Level A4 Laser/LED Color Office Printers includes the least-expensive office printers available (note that as office printers, we consider automatic duplex printing and network connectivity to be essential features). This group included printers from Brother, Canon, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Konica Minolta, Lexmark, Oki, Ricoh, Samsung and Xerox, for a total of 10 printers. Our analysis showed that this class of printers offers an attractive feature set sufficient for virtually any office application. However, we also noted competitive disparities in two areas in particular: 1) Cost Per Page (CPP) and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), and 2) degree of network manageability.

In our evaluation, we found that there were huge differences in CPP and resulting TCO. This resulted in a handful of printers that were knocked out of contention simply because of their operating costs, rather than their performance. Differences in manageability were more subtle, and we noted when a device was capable of enterprise-level manageability, which we valued the highest. Note, however, that most users do not require enterprise-level manageability, and will be satisfied with basic feedback and management features.

In the end, we found it impossible to ignore the Ricoh Aficio SP C232DN, which had the lowest CPP and TCO. It also boasts a businessclass feature set that includes not only auto duplexing and network connectivity, but support for Citrix Meta Frame and UNIX environments (as well as Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh), along with support for Ricoh’s Universal Print Driver, direct printing from PictBridgecompatible cameras, and optional wireless 801.11 b/g connectivity. This, combined with typical Ricoh product strengths such as solid design and construction, make it clear that the Ricoh Aficio SP C232DN deserves our Best In Class rating.

Spring 2011 – Ink Versus Toner Entry-Level Color Office Printers

It’s now become almost impossible to ignore ink-jet printers’ competitive advantages of low Cost per Page, low Total Cost of Ownership, and low energy consumption. In this Head2Head Comparison for Ink Versus Toner Entry-Level Color Office Printers, we directly compared color printers from the retail channel that have two features that we deem necessary for the office: 1) Ethernet networking; and 2) automatic duplex printing. Since most enterprises require printers with effective deployment, manageability, and tracking, we also gave major consideration to deployment and remote-management capabilities.

The $199.99 Hewlett-Packard Officejet Pro 8000 Enterprise Printer outperformed other contenders due to  its compatibility with industry-standard HP deployment and management software, very low Cost Per Page, very low Total Cost of Ownership, very low energy consumption, lowest acquisition price, and compelling feature set. Indeed, in our Value category, the Officejet Pro 8000 Enterprise Printer received our highest score to date, 5.0. While several other non-HP devices in this class also have notable management features, their CPP and TCO is much higher than this HP printer’s Cost per Page of 1.6¢ (black)/7.2¢ (color) —with some competitors’ black and color Cost per Page almost twice as much, and also consuming up to 20-times more energy. Moreover, these other printers typically don’t provide the same degree of manageability—that is, 100-percent compatibility with HP’s industry-leading printer deployment and management tools, including color-printing control.

We’re pleased then to announce that, with the Officejet Pro 8000 Enterprise Printer, the perfect personal/small-workgroup printer is back for enterprise users (the printer can also serve equally well as an economical and competent partner in small and home offices). In sum, because of its easy deployment and extensive manageability, very low CPP and TCO, and great feature set, the HP Officejet Pro 8000 Enterprise is Best In Class as a small workgroup or personal printer in any office, company, or enterprise.

Winter 2011 – Office 40+ PPM A4 Color MFPs

This Head2Head Comparison includes A4 40+ PPM Color MFPs from the office-product dealer channel from Hewlett-Packard, InfoPrint, Lexmark, Ricoh, and Sharp. In a particularly tight finish, the Lexmark X792de stood out from this tough crowd much in the same manner as its C792de printer counterpart did, also earning it Best In Class.

The competitors in this comparison provide enterprise-level feature sets that include open-development platforms, available document finishing, customizable touch screens, several layers of security, and a host of other optional security, workflow and management solutions. The X792de includes standard Lexmark Solutions that include the ability to set up print-on-demand and network scan-and-route workflows right out of the box.

However, what really sets the X792de apart is that its combination of moderate acquisition price and the lowest overall Cost per Page results in a Total Cost of Ownership that is the lowest overall in this group across all volumes and color usage scenarios. Ultimately, the X792de’s price advantage and other strengths represent a better value for a majority of users looking for an A4 color MFP in this range. Consequently, the Lexmark X792de earns our highest endorsement and is Best In Class.

Winter 2011 – A4 Workgroup Color Printers from 41-50 PPM

This comparison of A4 Workgroup Color Printers from 41-50 PPM includes printers from Lexmark, Hewlett-Packard, Ricoh, and Sharp. The Lexmark C792de stood out from the crowd based on a number of factors, earning it Best In Class.  First, the C792de is that fastest among the group with its rated 50/50-ppm print speed. It also boasts a host of next-generation features, including a customizable 4.43” color touch screen and Lexmark’s Embedded Solutions Framework (eSF). eSF facilitates the installation and management of Lexmark Solutions and other customized workflow and management applications that are fully integrated into the touch screen for easy access and use—bringing customization and expandability to a level not provided by any of the other printers in this group. The pre-installed Lexmark Solutions include print-on-demand—for instance, print network files directly from the touch screen.

At the same time, the C792de also has a solid feature set, including comprehensive security measures, extensive compatibility with current and legacy platforms and operating systems, available document finishing (something only one other printer in the group offers), the highest maximum paper capacity (3,200 sheets), and the second-highest toner capacities (20,000 pages/cartridge) for longer uninterrupted job runs. There’s also a robust printing system with 1.2 GHz CPU, 512 MB standard memory, standard Gigabit Ethernet network interface and compatibility with MarkVision Enterprise 1.0 for comprehensive centralized monitoring and management of groups of network printers and MFPs.

In the cost department, the C792de’s acquisition price of $1,599.00 is on par with that of its competitors, and better yet, its moderate Cost per Page contributes to a Total Cost of Ownership that is among the lowest in this group across all volumes and color usage scenarios.

Altogether, these capabilities set a new standard for workgroup office color printers which earn our highest endorsement—the Lexmark C792de is Best In Class.