Unlike inkjet and black and white laser printers, color laser printer technology and pricing have not reached their matured stage yet because the demand in the consumer market is still developing. The choices of color laser printers that are competitively priced with good printing quality and low maintenance cost are limited.
An entry level or higher end color laser printer for small business use is sold in the market range of about $300 – $500 (not MSRP price). Some printers may be priced in the low $200 range, but they are for household light usage only.
It is important to compare the printout quality of the color printers. There are significant differences from one model to another. There is less difference in the printout quality of black and white laser printers. Most color laser printers can produce comparable quality printouts for general purpose light usage. However, when it comes to commercial printing quality, some brands and models can do better than the others.
Some cheaper low end models print extremely slowly. To check out the speed of a specific model, you can test print some pages in the retail store. If you are making online purchase, you should compare the printing speed, that is, the maximum pages per minute (ppm) of the printers being considered.
Page yield specification
Page yield means the number of pages that can be printed at 5% coverage. A toner cartridge that has 4000 page yield can print roughly double the number of pages of a toner that has 2000 page yield. Comparing the cost per page of different printer models will give you an objective measure on your selection of printers. As an example, a $60 toner cartridge with a 4000 page yield ($0.015 cost per page) is actually cheaper than a $40 toner cartridge with 2000 page yield ($0.02 cost per page).
Cost of replacement toner
The recurring cost of replacing the laser toner is an important factor in the selection of your color laser printer. There are usually a set of 4 toner cartridges in a color printer: CYMK or cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black). A set of OEM toner cartridges can easily cost from $300 to $400. Compatible laser toners are sold at half of the price of OEM cartridges or at even deeper discounts. Therefore when purchasing your new printer, you should first check the availability and pricing of the compatible toner cartridges of the particular model you want.
If the availability of competitively priced compatible laser toner cartridges is a significant consideration for you, you will find out that the supply of compatible laser toner cartridges is limited to a few brands, primarily, HP, Brother, Samsung and Canon. HP has over 50% of the market share and offers more choices of color laser printers. Followed remotely behind in the respective market share will be Brother, Samsung and Canon. You will be able to find limited supply of compatible toner cartridges for Dell, Lexmark, OKi, Minolta and Xerox color laser printers.