SAN FRANCISCO (03/06/2000) - Tektronix Inc.'s newest laser, the Phaser 850, really tears through color documents: For graphics, we clocked it at 2.4 pages per minute--double the average for current color lasers, and 14 percent faster than the speed champ on our latest laser chart. But it loses its lead when printing plain text: At 6.8 ppm, it's a half-page per minute slower than the average color laser.
The output quality of our shipping unit was also mixed. We really liked the 850's even, clean black text and its bright, accurate colors on nonphotographic images. But color photos were dark and grainy (although quality imProves on the Enhanced setting).
The Phaser 850 uses crayon-like blocks of resin-based ink instead of the toner powder or liquid inks most corporate color printers use. To entice customers, Tektronix (now a Xerox subsidiary) offers free black wax for the life of the unit. Color wax costs about 10 cents per page--in line with most color lasers.
The printer's other principal Consumable--a maintenance kit--adds only a negligible tab.
Our network-ready 850N costs $2495, several hundred dollars more than competitors such as the Xerox DocuPrint NC60 and NEC SuperScript 4200N. For $3295, the Phaser 850DP comes with additional memory and a duplexer, while the $4295 850DX adds a 500-sheet paper-feeder and a hard drive that allows for collating or caching documents.
The Phaser 850 is more expensive than its rivals, but you'll quickly make up the difference with savings on Consumables. The fast graphics speed makes it a good choice for offices that print lots of spot color, and the free black ink will make the unit appealing to people willing to sacrifice text-printing performance.
Pro: Fast on graphics; inexpensive to operate.
Con: Slow on text; only middling photo quality.
Value: A good deal when you Consider total operating costs.
Street prices: $2495 (850N); $3295 (850DP); $4295 (850DX)Tektronix800/835-6100www.tek.com/Color_Printers/Product info no. 689This product has been evaluated using tests designed by the PC World Test Center.