The Fall Lineup of Small Business Printers

Wednesday Sep 14th 2011 by Aaron Weiss
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Autumn's new crop of small business printers focus on mobile and cloud-based printing. We look at a selection of business printers and what they can do for your productivity.

Autumn is ostensibly the time we become productive again, at least until Thanksgiving comes around. Few digital tools shout "productivity" more than the small business printer -- particularly the multi-function models -- spitting out pages of text, charts and presentations with a sense of purpose.

This autumn’s crop of small business-friendly printers features the usual incremental upgrades, like more functional displays and faster output. But the big push this year is toward mobile and cloud-based printing, with more models supporting apps for both Android and Apple smartphones and tablets, and print-from-anywhere services such as Google Cloud Print, HP ePrint and Epson Connect.

Memory resources have been less quick to grow and can still be counted in megabytes rather than gigabytes, even in an era where system memory wholesales at less than $20 a gigabyte. Printers with more on-board memory can process complex documents (or photos) more quickly or queue more documents. 


The WorkForce Pro WP-4020; small business printer
The Epson WorkForce Pro WP-4020

In this roundup, we’ll look at some of the latest models from select printer manufacturers and what they can offer small businesses.

EPSON Small Business Printers

Small businesses that need color printing still get better value from inkjet printers compared to color lasers. (The economics are reversed for monochrome output.) This is the market targeted by Epson’s new WorkForce Pro series of inkjet printers aimed at small business.

The WorkForce Pro WP-4020 ($199), WP-4530 ($399), and WP-4540 ($499) all share high-capacity ink cartridges rated to 1,200 color and 2,400 black pages and automatic two-sided printing. All three models also include Wi-Fi and support for Epson Connect.

Epson Connect describes a collection of services that enable mobile printing. These include the iPrint app for iPhone/iPad and Android, and PriApps for BlackBerry. The upcoming Epson Print service will let you send an email from any device to a supporting printer like the WorkForce Pro models, which can print attachments in a variety of popular file formats.

The upgrade from the WorkForce Pro WP-4020 to the WP-4530 adds a scanner with double-sided automatic document feeder (ADF) and a 2.5-inch LCD control screen. The bump from the WP-4530 to the WP-4540 brings a larger 580-sheet paper capacity (dual 250-sheet trays plus a rear specialty paper 80 sheet tray) and a large display containing both a 5.8-inch touch screen and 3.5-inch LCD, making it easier to perform many walk-up tasks without requiring an attached computer.

All three WorkForce Pro inkjet models are rated to 16ppm black and 11ppm color, although performance can vary depending on the complexity of the documents you print.

HP Small Business Printers

This summer, HP released the LaserJet Pro 100 Color MFP M175nw. (It may have taken months just to come up with the name.) This ultra-compact $349 color laser includes 16ppm/4ppm (black/color) printing, a 150 sheet paper tray, scanner with 35 sheet document feeder and Wi-Fi networking. Although this model sports a relatively light sub-1,000 page-per-month duty cycle, it is one of the most affordable color laser printers.

But HP's big push is with its ePrint and HP Print Apps technology. Now available on the M175nw as well as other small business printers including the Officejet Pro 8500A series (a multi-function inkjet) and the Laserjet CM1415FNW, ePrint is HP’s take on Epson Connect, with mobile printing apps for iPhone/iPad, Android and BlackBerry that support remote printing. With ePrint you can also send email attachments directly to the printer from anywhere.

HP Print Apps bring the functionality of device apps directly to the printer. More than 100 apps are already available, ranging from Martha Stewart Everyday Food to USA Today to Docstoc Forms. These apps run right on the HP printer and can, for example, download and print recipes, news stories, templates for business and legal forms, and even blank graph paper.


The HP LaserJet Pro 100 Color MFP M175nw; small business printer
The HP LaserJet Pro 100 Color MFP M175nw

For iPad owners, HP ePrint-supporting printers are the only printers compatible with Apple AirPrint, which allows direct wireless printing from the tablet.

Samsung Small Business Printers

Samsung joins the mobile printing party with two new monochrome laser printers that support the Samsung Mobile Print app for iPhone/iPad and Android. The ML-2955DW ($215) printer and SCX-4729FW ($399) multifunction laser printer/scanner/fax are both rated at a speedy 28ppm and feature built-in, two-sided duplex printing.

Both models include the same 250-sheet paper trays and Wi-Fi connectivity and an SMB-friendly 12,000 page per month duty cycle rating.

Canon Small Business Printers

This autumn is a busy season for Canon, with four new ImageClass laser printers designed for the small business market. The most cost-effective are the two monochrome lasers, MF4570dw ($299) and MF5950dw ($399). Both multifunction devices support print, scan and fax. Plus, both laser printers include Wi-Fi networking and duplex printing, to help you save paper.

At 35ppm, the MF595dw is the speedier of the two (versus 26ppm), and also boasts an extra 50 sheet multipurpose tray in addition to the standard 250 sheet tray included with both models. The 5950dw’s automatic document feeder handles an extra 15 pages (50 versus 35) for scanning and copies.

Businesses that require premium color laser printing can consider the LBP7660Cdn ($499) and MF8380Cdw ($599), a stand-alone printer and a multifunction printer respectively. The 8380 includes Wi-Fi support, but the printer-only 7660 supports USB and Ethernet networking only.

Both pump out color and monochrome pages at a rated 21ppm. The 8380 can scan to -- and print from -- a USB thumb drive, whereas the 7660 cannot. The higher-end 8380 also includes a built-in Web server for remote management across the network and remote printing, features you won’t find in the less-expensive, single-function 7660. While both models include a 250 sheet paper tray, the 7660 can be expanded with a second 250 sheet tray, making it a good choice for high-volume printing.

Aaron Weiss a technology writer, screenwriter and Web development consultant who spends his free time stacking wood for the winter in Upstate New York. His Web site is: bordella.com

Lena L. West is the creator of the Technology Diet, an eight-week teleconsulting course that helps business owners harness technology to build the business of their dreams.

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