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Updated: December 5, 2012 11:45 AM

Review: Xerox ColorQube 8700/X solid-ink color multifunction printer



Xerox’s ColorQube product line, including the $2,799 (as of 12/05/2012) 8700/X multifunction (copy/fax/print/scan), is designed for corporate use in busy workgroups, but it’s not a laser. The ColorQube technology uses blocks of crayon-like solid ink, rather than an inkjet printer’s liquid ink or a laser printer’s toner particles. The result is no muss, no fuss, and a lot of fun sliding the ink blocks down their little chutes. With the ink layered on top, like a laser printer, instead of absorbed into the paper, as with an inkjet printer, output is good no matter what kind of media you place in the tray. The ColorQube 8700/X may be expensive, but it offers plenty of administrative features and capacity upgrades that make it a significant step up from color laser multifunction models in lower price ranges.

The ColorQube 8700/X weighs 90 pounds and is sturdily built. It comes with 1GB of memory (not upgradable), plus an 80GB hard drive for storing jobs--a necessity when you're providing secure printing for a large workgroup.

Software setup for the ColorQube 8700/X is simple via either USB or ethernet. The printer ships with PC drivers for Postscript, PCL 5 and 6, as well as XMS. The software is minimal, but effective, with a nice scanning program.

The ColorQube 8700/X is controlled via a spacious, 7-inch touchscreen control panel. Still, the unit is complex to learn. The many high-end features that come with this corporate unit--administrative accounts, lots of options, secure printing, metering, and the like--are great. But having all the options on one screen is rather daunting when you begin, though easier once you know the interface. Also, the touchscreen wasn't as responsive as we'd like, requiring more pressure than expected to operate.

Mild gripes aside, there are a couple of neat software features: Print Around, which allows the printer to continue printing queued jobs even if there's a problem with one of the jobs in the queue. The problematic job is paused, while the others print through. Also, color correction is done in plain English, or Color by Words, as Xerox calls it. You may select a specific set of colors to change, such as reds in general, or specifics like “foliage-green colors” or “sky-blue colors.” Then you're asked how much you want to change it—a little or a lot; and the type of change, such as bright, dark, or contrasty. For the average user, it's a lot easier to get satisfactory results this way than by dragging sliders to change CMYK percentages.

Paper handling is substantial, as befits a corporate machine. The base capacity is 625 sheets: a 525-sheet main input tray, and a 100-sheet multi-purpose tray that folds out from the side of the printer. The output tray holds 350 sheets of standard paper. Duplex printing and scanning are both automatic. The duty cycle is 120,000 pages per month, but Xerox’s recommended usage is 1,000 to 6,000 sheets per month.

There are a host of expansion options and accessories available for the ColorQube 8700X: a Wi-Fi adapter costs $219, and a Smart Card access kit costs $199. To add paper capacity, there’s a 1,800-sheet, bottom-mounted feeder for $1,249, a 525-sheet feeder for $299, and a finisher with a 20-sheet stapler for $699. Maximum capacity with all the trays is 3475 sheets. A cheaper ColorQube 8700 model costs $2,499 and omits fax capability. A $4,999 Color Qube 8700/XF, with fax, is configured to the maximum 3,475-sheet capacity.

Performance is a ColorQube 8700/X highlight. Monochrome pages print at 16.9 per minute (ppm) on the PC and 17.1 ppm on the Mac. Snapshot-size (4-by-6-inch) color photos print at 2.5 ppm to plain paper and 1.5 to glossy laser paper. A full page photo printed from the Mac takes only 37 seconds, or 1.6 ppm. Copy speed is very good at about 4.5 ppm.

Output quality straddles a comfortable middle ground between laser and inkjet quality. Plain, black printed text is precise, if slightly foggy on closely spaced fonts. Grayscale images look a little pink. Printed color images can err on the excessively vivid side, and there is a regular dottiness in the background that, to be fair, neither inkjets nor lasers have been able to eradicate entirely. Both monochrome and color copy quality was very nice, but scan quality was a little hazy.

Affordable supplies are another highlight of the ColorQube 8700/X. A 4200-page two-pack (two cubes) of the cyan, magenta, or yellow costs $160, or 3.8 cents per page, per color. The 4500-page black two-pack is $110 or 2.4 cpp, while the 9000-page four-pack works out to a far more reasonable 1.8 cpp. There are also $59.99, 10,000-page and $99.99, 30,000-page maintenance kits, which, once replaced, add 0.6 or 0.3 cents to the cost of each page.

Melissa Riofrio

If your workgroup is regularly printing several thousand pages a month, a better bargain in the long run would be the $4999 (base model) ColorQube 8900. It is physically identical to the ColorQube 8700/X, but it ships with different firmware and offers cheaper ink: a half-cent per color and 1.5 cpp for black.

The ColorQube 8700/X carries a one-year, on-site warranty. There are, of course, myriad upgrades, but they're not cheap: $549 for one additional year, $999 for two, $1459 for three, and $1869 for an additional four years.

The Xerox ColorQube 8700/X is a very good high-workload multifunction. It's fast, it has all the features you could want, and it produces good documents onvirtually any type of paper. For a workgroup whose volume is more moderate, a step down in price and features that is still a robust machine is the Lexmark X548dte.

Copyright (c) 2012 PCWorld Communications, Inc.

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