Panasonic Color Laser Printers for SMBs

Tuesday May 6th 2003 by Patricia Fusco
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Born from a marketing strategy to remove price, service and speed barriers that have kept small and mid-sized businesses from adopting color laser printers, Panasonic touts its WORKiO series.

Panasonic recently started shipping its WORKiO series of color laser printers. This should be good news for small to mid-sized business, since there has been a void in the market for single-pass, color laser printers with networking capabilities at a reasonable price.

Each printer in the WORKiO series is capable of printing 17 pages per minute in color and 21 pages per minute in black and white — based on print resolution of 600 x 600 dots per inch. Expect things to slow down a bit for 1,200 x 1,200 dpi output.

The WORKiO series offers four different models — the KX-CL500, KX-CL500D, KX-CL510 and KX-CL510D. The base model KX-CL500 is a http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/P/PCL.html PCL-based machine, the KX-CL510 adds Adobe PostScript 3 with automatic emulation sensing and switching, plus 128MB http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/R/RAM.html RAM. Additional memory is recommended to ensure 1,200 x 1,200 dpi operation regardless of image size, paper size and in duplex mode. The KX-CL500D offers the same features as the KX-CL500, plus 128MB RAM and automatic two-sided printing. The KX-CL510D has the same features as the KX-CL510, plus two-sided printing.

Pricing for the KX-CL500 Series, which in some cases may cost less than the network monochrome printer it replaces, starts at $1,599 estimated. Gary Bailer, Panasonic digital document strategic planning manager, said the KX-CL500 Series fills a longstanding price void in the SMB market.

"The average retail price of a color laser printer ranges from $700 for single-user, four-pass printing up to $2,500 for network-user, single-pass printing," Bailer said. "Until now, there were no one-pass color laser printers available at the middle price point. The KX-CL500 Series fills that price gap, while offering performance comparable to that of higher priced offerings."

According to Bailer, the total cost of ownership for the KX-CL500 Series represents significant savings over comparable color printers, making the printers price-performance leaders. Chris Barnes, director of research at ARS concurs. Barnes said Panasonic's color laser printers address a major barrier to color printer adoption — at least when it comes to cost per page.

"At an advertised 1.54 cents per page, the KX-CL500 Series equals the operating cost of other leading monochrome-only workgroup solutions," Barnes said. "Extremely competitive operating costs make the KX-CL500 an ideal replacement for existing monochrome workgroup devices."

In addition to the costs of hardware and associated costs of printing a black and white page, industry analysts identify several other major barriers to the purchase of a color laser printer by small to mid-sized businesses. They include the cost of printing a color page, service and color speed. At about 8.8 cents per color page, the KX-CL500 series is considered highly competitive.

As for service, the KX-CL500 Series is designed for easy maintenance, with top-loading, spill-proof, slide-in toner cartridges. All supplies — including the fuser and transfer roller — are user-replaceable. The printers come standard with a variety of software tools: network setup, remote maintenance, Web administration, embedded web server, e-mail notification and status display.

Panasonic is one of the first manufacturers in the industry to replace the traditional onsite service contract with a new one-year exchange warranty for their one-pass color laser printers. Under the one-year warranty, if a user has a printer problem that cannot be resolved remotely, Panasonic will deliver a replacement unit, in most cases by the next business day.

"The added convenience of Panasonic's overnight exchange warranty program will appeal to SMB users who are frustrated with problematic onsite service contracts that oftentimes result in greater downtime and inconvenience," ARS' Barnes said.

Barnes added that Panasonic's new single-pass color laser is sure to appeal to a broad range of SMBs looking for speed and cost-conscious output.

"Features likely to appeal to the SMB market include faster monochrome output (21ppm), one-year overnight exchange warranty and a stated first page print time of just 15.5 seconds," Barnes said.

The KX-CL500 Series features the Universal Cassette, an important tool for users whose network printer might not be in immediate proximity to them. The universal cassette offers auto tray selection that enables the printer to find the appropriate paper tray — letter- or legal-size — based on the command input from the user's desktop. Tray switching is automatic when one tray is empty, as long as the replacement tray contains the right size paper.

With Panasonic's unique, integrated internal design, auto duplex can be installed inside the front of the unit in a snap, and doesn't take up any additional space. Documents can be produced for either side- or top-edge binding, at 17 images per minute color and 21 ipm monochrome.

Both models handle a wide range of paper sizes and weights: letter to legal, envelopes, card stock, labels, transparencies and coated stock. The universal cassette combines with a multipurpose tray for a standard paper capacity of 630 sheets — optional paper trays increase total capacity to 1,690 sheets.

Printers in the KX-CL500 Series come standard with a built-in Ethernet 100 Base-TX/10 Base-T port, as well as USB 1.1 and IEEE 1284 ports. The WORKiO series of color laser prints support Microsoft Windows 95 and up, Novell NetWare 3.x through NetWare 6, UNIX and Mac operating systems. WORKiO printers are available online direct from Panasonic.

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