Xerox Phaser 7100/N
BY TONY HOFFMAN
The Xerox Phaser 7100/N is a new model in Xerox's repertoire, filling a niche as a relatively low-cost color laser printer that can print at up to tabloid size (11 by 17 inches). In that role it's a winner, with good speed and strong output quality, led by above-par graphics and slightly above-average photos. It earns an Editors' Choice for budget color laser printer.
The 7100/N lacks the natural-language color control of the Editors' Choice Xerox Phaser 7500/DN and is not designed for as massive print volumes--with a maximum monthly duty cycle of 52,000 pages, compared with the 7500/DN's 150,000 pages. It can't quite match the 7500/DN's exceptional output quality. But it brings enough to the table to become an Editors' Choice in its own right as a lower-priced tabloid color laser printer.
The two-tone (blue and white) 7100/N measures 16 by 21 by 19.7 inches (HWD) and weighs 97 pounds, so you'll need at least two people to move it into place. Still, it's lighter than the 145-pound Xerox 7500/DN. The 7100/N has a 400-sheet standard paper capacity, between a 250-sheet main tray and a 150-sheet secondary tray, both of which can fit tabloid-size (11 by 7) paper. The 7100/N lacks an automatic duplexer; another model, the 7100/DN includes a duplexer. Up to three additional 550-sheet trays are available as options, as is a wireless adapter, and a productivity kit whose centerpiece is a 40GB hard drive.
The Xerox Phaser 7100/N has standard Ethernet and USB connectivity. I tested the Phaser over an Ethernet connection with a PC running Windows Vista. The recommended driver, which installs by default, is PostScript; users can also install PCL emulations, PDF Direct, or XPS drivers. I ran all our tests using the default PostScript driver.
I timed the Xerox Phaser 7100/N on the latest version of our business applications suite (as timed with QualityLogic's hardware and software), at 7.6 effective pages per minute (ppm) a good speed considering its rated print speed of 30 ppm. (Rated speeds are based on text-only printing, while our test suite combines text pages, graphics pages, and pages with mixed content.) It even edges out the Xerox Phaser 7500/DN, rated at 35 pages per minute for both color and black-and-white printing, which we timed at 7.1 ppm. I clocked the Dell 7130cdn Color Printer rated at 35 ppm for monochrome printing and 30 ppm for color printing, at 8.3 ppm.
The Phaser 7100/N's text was average for lasers, which is still good enough for most every business document except for uses such as demanding desktop publishing applications requiring very small fonts.
Graphics quality is above par; graphics should be fine for any internal business use, including PowerPoint handouts, and could be used for basic marketing materials. Flaws, all minor, included some mild blotchiness in dark backgrounds, and dithering (graininess).
Photo quality was slightly above average. Most of the prints could pass as true photo quality when seen under glass at arm's length. There was some loss of detail in bright areas, and one image showed traces of banding (spurious, slightly dark streaks). The quality is easily good enough to use in company or client newsletters, and is perhaps up to use in basic advertising handouts, depending on how picky you are.
As a budget color laser that can print up to tabloid size, the Xerox Phaser 7100/N offers good speed and good overall output quality, with above-average graphics and slightly above-par photos. The 7100/N lacks natural language software color control, one of our favorite features from the Xerox 7500/DN. Accessible through the printer's drivers, it lets people with no technical knowledge of color mixing easily tweak colors from print to print by using a series of drop-down menus, with commands such as "green colors slightly more green."
The 7100/N's output quality—though solid, with particularly good graphics quality—can't match that of the 7500/DN, which was top tier for photos and graphics and just short of top tier for text. The 7500/DN also has great paper capacity (600 sheets standard, plus auto-duplexer). The 7100/N did manage to edge the 7500/DN in printing speed, however.
The Dell 7130cdn, essentially the same printer as the Xerox 7500/DN except lacking natural-language color control, is a tad faster than the other two printers. Its output quality was similar to the 7100/N's, except the Xerox printed superior graphics in our testing. And it costs more than $1,000 more than the 7100/N.
Although the Xerox Phaser 7100/N can't match the Phaser7500/DN in features and output quality, you can get it for less than half the price, a bargain for a tabloid color laser printer. So while the 7500/DN remains the Editors' Choice as a high-end color laser tabloid printer, the 7100/N is a new Editors' Choice as a budget model. Not only is it cost effective, it adds good speed and output quality, and should be a welcome addition to small or mid-sized offices or workgroups looking for a color laser that can print at tabloid size.