Battle of the Beams

HP and OKI’s laser printers are often pitched against each other and the vendors even compare models in their promotional literature. Windows Middle East tests two of the firms’ latest models - the OKI C5900DN and the HP LaserJet 3800DN - and find out which has the most to offer business users...

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By  Matthew Wade Published  May 2, 2006

|~|Print-H2H---medium.jpg|~|In our objective Windows print speed tests, the OKI's performance surpassed that of the LaserJet.|~|From an end user standpoint, both printers are pitched squarely at small workgroups. Each offers mono and colour output, plus each is network and duplex ready. From a performance perspective, we tested each machine by printing the following Windows Middle East documents on each: • 20-page monochrome (black and white) text document (printed in normal and duplex modes) • 20-page colour text document (normal and duplex modes) • Six-page colour text and image PDF document (normal and duplex modes) The OKI printer’s driver software allows you to alter print resolutions (its settings include Draft, Normal, which is 600 x 600dpi, Fine/Detail and High Quality), however the HP’s output resolution is set at 600 x 600dpi. In the interest of fairness then, we printed all test documents at this resolution. We recorded the time taken for each print job to finish and used this to calculate the relevant ‘pages per minute’ (ppm) print speed (see left). Finally, we ran a ‘first page out’ test by timing how long each printer took to print the first page of our colour PDF document (from clicking Print to the time the page dropped into the out-tray). In its product literature, OKI claims the C5900 series has the fastest print speeds in its class. Our test results backed this up; the OKI’s mono print speeds were consistently faster than the HP’s. For instance, the OKI finished our mono text test with a speed of 18.7ppm, compared to the HP’s 17.9. The difference was greater in duplex mode; 19.7ppm compared to 16.6ppm. Then, on the colour front, as OKI predicted, the 5900 was again super-quick. It churned out our test PDF document at 8.4ppm, while the HP managed 7.5ppm. In duplex mode, the OKI performed better still (8.2ppm versus 5.8ppm). If your workgroup or small business needs to print out client-facing marketing materials then, the OKI can get the job done quickest, as it also can for mono output too. In terms of first page out speeds, we recorded a dead heat with both machines taking 16 seconds to output our chunky colour PDF page. Quality matters On the print quality front, we judged the 5900’s output colours to be slightly more vibrant, although both printers did produce highly impressive prints and we didn’t notice any blemishes, banding or blurring in any of the prints we produced. As such, either model should meet the needs of all but the most graphically demanding workgroup users. Speed isn’t everything however; when buying a printer its form factor, features and connectivity are also important. It would be frustrating for instance, after having spent hundreds of dollars on a printer, to find that it wasn’t compatible with your company’s network, or it only included a miniscule amount of buffer memory (RAM) and thus took an age to spool and print documents. Fine form Size and looks-wise, the HP has the smaller footprint of the two and is the neater looking machine. It’s also well designed in that, unlike the OKI, its toner packs (cyan, magenta, yellow and black - CMYK) can be replaced without first having to empty its paper out-tray. Not only that, but we noticed some toner dust inside the OKI machine after our print tests were done, while the HP remained totally clean inside. Feature-wise there aren’t many differences to note; the key one perhaps is the OKI’s maximum print resolution. The OKI can also hold more paper. As far as optional extras go, the OKI again has more to offer (a 40Gbyte hard disk versus 20Gbytes, and more RAM potential). IT managers are well catered for by both models in terms of the productivity and monitoring apps available with each. However, aside from these, the HP’s printer usage report can be printed out directly from the machine, whereas OKI’s equivalent stats must be viewed on its LCD display. Of course every business is cost-conscious, so how do the initial purchase and ongoing costs of these models compare? The difference in prices of the machines is substantial, so businesses with the tightest budgets will find the OKI’s $899 price tag hard to resist. As inkjet users know however, the retail price is just one part of the equation - ongoing costs also matter. In this case, this means toner pack longevity and pricing. The toner price HP quoted us was $132 for black packs and $170 for colour versions (compared to OKI’s significantly lower $60 and $110 figures). OKI’s quoted toner life figures of 6000 pages (black) and 5000 (colour) therefore equate to print costs - per 100 pages - of $1.01 (black) and $2.21 (colour); more value-packed than HP’s respective $2.2 and $2.83. Our verdict It goes without saying that both of these printers are fast, quality machines and well suited to heavy mono and colour A4 printing. Their network capabilities mean you can share them easily, and the automatic duplexers on-board each mean cost-effective printing is possible. That said, if you’re looking to squeeze the most bang from your buck, and want both the quickest print speeds and the biggest potential memory capacity (for yet greater performance), we recommend the OKI 5900DN, as in our tests it consistently outperformed the higher-priced LaserJet 3800. ||**||

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