Xerox Phaser 8860DN review

16 Jan 2008

The quoted print speeds are only achievable in draft mode, but Xerox's solid-ink technology delivers good output quality.

Price when reviewed: 
1,299exc VAT
4

Xerox's solid ink printing technology has been around for nearly 12 years now, and in an effort to promote it further the company is claiming the latest Phaser 8860DN can deliver colour printing for the cost of a mono page.

The printer uses coloured wax that's melted into reservoirs and injected through nozzles onto a rotating drum before being pressed onto the paper, where it dries instantly. There are three big bonuses with this method, as the printer isn't too fussy about paper quality, colour bleeding isn't an issue, and you don't have the unsightly banding that so often afflicts laser printers. Some of the wax bonds with the paper fibres and, as the remainder stands proud of the paper, the final image has a gloss and a definite texture to it that isn't to everyone's taste.

For print quality, the 8860DN is a winner, as photographic prints really don't have any banding evident and level of detail is particularly good. The PC Pro print quality tests showed perfect colour fades with absolutely no stepping across them, although we did find grey shades using equal mixes of cyan, magenta and yellow revealed a slight pink tinge, showing an excessive use of magenta. Mono prints using standard fonts were reproduced well, although smaller fonts weren't as sharp as those delivered by the latest lasers. Mono photographs were impressive, with our test prints showing plenty of detail in darker areas.

The 8860DN really gives lasers a good kicking in the printing cost department. The C, Y, M and K ink blocks are each sold in packs of six, and the low price of the colour blocks allows a page to be printed for a mere 1.8p - less than half that of a colour laser. The black blocks cost more, but mono prints are also good value, with each page costing slightly less than a penny. The printer also doesn't need to be switched off to replace the blocks, as you simply lift up the spring-loaded top hatch and drop the blocks into the appropriately keyed slots.

Print speeds are a disappointment, since these depend on the mode chosen, with the quoted 30ppm only achievable using the Fast Colour draft mode. Printing a simple 30-page Word document in enhanced mode averaged only 16ppm, standard mode improved this to 24ppm, while only Fast Colour delivered the full 30ppm. Photo mode takes its toll as well, with our 24-page DTP-style document taking 2mins 19secs to complete at a rate of only 10.4ppm. Another drawback of the 8860DN is excessive noise, as it accompanies each page with a cacophony of sounds - we wouldn't want it near our desk. Also, don't think about moving this printer until you've initiated the 30-minute cool-down phase, as it can be damaged by wax sloshing out of the reservoirs.

Despite the comparatively low print speeds, the 8860DN has a lot to offer businesses. It comes with duplexing as standard, paper input can be increased with two more lower trays, and printer management and monitoring tools are extensive. You don't get the sophisticated colour printing controls that HP offers with its latest Laserjets, but there's nothing on the market that can touch this printer for running costs.