‘Friendly’ Phaser ideal for the SMB

The Xerox Phaser 6180/DN is a colour laser printer made for small to mid-sized businesses. The machine’s fast print speeds, crisp, clean prints, and user friendliness are among the many qualities that should make it popular in the office. Additionally, the printer features 10/100BaseTX Ethernet networking capability, automatic duplexing, and Adobe PostScript 3 compatibility. Overall, Xerox offers an impressive, valuable package in the Phaser 6180/DN for a modest price.

Setting up the Phaser 6180/DN is easy, but at a hefty 62 pounds, the printer requires at least two people to unpack safely. Xerox includes an instruction manual with illustrations and clearly written directions that should make setting up this printer a smooth process; you can also watch an installation video included with the software CD. The Phaser 6180/DN’s box-shaped design is a little bulky, but at 18.5 inches, it’s just short enough to fit under the shelf of a typical cubicle desk.

The included software is well designed and user-friendly. The printer’s driver includes a virtual ruler for you to adjust brightness of your prints, which can help save you some ink when printing draft documents. Using CentreWare IS, the printer’s network utility, a user with administrative access can manage the printer from any computer connected to the network. For example, you can set the printer to alert a specified list of users to receive e-mail alerts whenever the Phaser is out of paper or low on toner.

With PostScript compatibility and 128MB of RAM (expandable to up to 1GB), the Phaser’s print speeds were, in general, only slightly slower than our Top Product in the laser printer category, the Oki C6100dn, which costs US$455 more. In my testing over Ethernet, the Phaser 6180/DN was very fast when printing text documents, taking only 14 seconds for a one-page Word document and 34 seconds for a ten-page Word document. The printer also turned in speedy results when printing a four-page colour PDF test document, taking only 42 seconds. The printer’s speed when printing a 22MB Photoshop image, however, was the least impressive–taking 2 minutes and 3 seconds.

The Phaser 6180/DN’s print resolution is 600 x 600 x 4 dpi; that last number means that each pixel uses an additional 4 bits for colour identification. According to Xerox, this technology allows the printer to produce colour documents or photos that look more pleasing to the eye than some other laser printers that print at a 2,400-dpi resolution. However, our panel of experts gave the Phaser 6180/DN’s image quality only a Good rating: some of the colours looked dull, reds were too light, and shadow detail was lacking. The printer earned another Good rating in the graphics, fine lines, and gradients test: curved lines appeared jagged and gradients weren’t very smooth. The printer performed very well, however, when printing text. Fonts appeared crisp, clear, and smooth, even with very small text. Our jury gave the printer’s text quality a Superior rating.

How we tested: We ran all the tests with the laser printer connected via 10/100Base-TX Ethernet to a 2.66GHz Mac Pro, with Mac OS X 10.4.8 installed and with 1GB of RAM. We recorded the time it took the printer to print a one-page Word document and a ten-page Word document, as well as the time it took to print a 22MB Photoshop image and a four-page PDF. A panel of experts examined samples of the printer’s output to rate its print quality as either Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, or Poor in comparison to the output of past photo printers we’ve tested. Macworld Lab testing by Brian Chen.

Buying advice
The Phaser 6180/DN’s speediness, user friendliness, and superior text quality add up to a fine colour laser printer. Though you won’t get premium colour or image quality, the 6180/DN’s generous set of features won’t leave you asking for much more from a sub-US$1,000 colour laser printer.

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