Xerox Phaser 6130 Printer Review

by Eric Grevstad

This easy-to-use color laser printer is a few inches trimmer and a few dollars cheaper than anything you've seen before. It's definitely bad news for color inkjets, but it may not quite knock other color lasers out of competition.

We've remarked more than once that hardware shoppers can often get good values by buying last year's model instead of a new, mildly freshened version of a product, because the manufacturer is sure to have lowered the older version's price to make room for its successor. Xerox is the exception that proves the rule.

Last April, we gave a thumbs-up review to Xerox's Phaser 6180, a color laser printer boasting speeds of 26 pages per minute for black and white and 20 ppm for color. It was priced at $449 -- technically, $499 minus a $50 "instant rebate" discount, but you know how flexible list prices are.

Check the direct.xerox.com store today and sure enough the Phaser 6180's rebate has been doubled. That brings its cost after rebate to $499. Yes, the printer's purchase price has gone up by $50 -- its list price by $100 -- since last year.

What's the idea? Making room for Xerox's new entry-level color laser, the Phaser 6130, is what. The 6130 is smaller, cuter, and more affordable than its sibling -- $374 after a rebate of $75. That's nifty, but we're nitpickers: The new printer is significantly slower than the old, at 16 ppm for black and 12 ppm for color.

It holds less paper, too, with a 250-sheet bottom drawer plus a single-sheet or -envelope feeder slot instead of a 250-sheet drawer plus 150-sheet tray. Its rated maximum duty cycle is one-third less (40,000 versus 60,000 pages per month). And according to posted figures on Xerox's Web site, its costs per page are about 25 percent higher.

Xerox Phaser 6130
The Phaser 6130 is Xerox's new entry-level color laser.

That doesn't stop us from liking the Phaser 6130 just fine. But it makes us urge small-office and workgroup outfitters to check out both models before they make a buying decision.

Rise and Shine
The Phaser 6130 -- formally named the 6130/N, to indicate its built-in 10/100Mbps Ethernet network adapter in addition to a USB 2.0 connector for a single PC -- isn't as petite as many inkjet and monochrome laser printers, but it's less imposing and more handsome than most other color lasers.

Curves rather than right angles form the front of the printer, which measures roughly 16 by 16 by 16 inches -- both shorter and shallower than the 6180 -- and can be taken out of the box by one office worker instead of two, thanks to its relatively trim 38-pound weight.

An Energy Star sticker attests to the Phaser's modest 280-watt power consumption during printing, dropping below 50 watts when on standby and five watts when resting overnight. Indeed, except for the occasional need to cancel a job in mid-print, the only one of the Xerox's front-panel controls you may use regularly is the "Wake Up" button with a cute icon of a ringing alarm clock -- and you don't actually need to use it, since simply printing a document will rouse the sleeping printer.

Setup is fairly simple; pulling out and discarding a handful of strips of packing tape was easy, though it took us a couple of tries to lock the front-mounted imaging unit into place. It's more fun to install the 6130's cyan, magenta, yellow, and black toner cartridges -- neat, petite modules about the size of a stapler or compact flashlight, which slide into racks that swivel out from behind a side panel. They're not only the easiest-loading laser cartridges we've seen; they're more friendly than most inkjet cartridges.

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A Bit of a Stretch
By default, Xerox's setup CD installs a PostScript 3 driver that offers precise color management. You can also install a PCL 6 driver that provides a few extras such as watermarks and booklet or banner printing.

Increasing the Phaser's standard 128MB of memory enables handy workgroup features such as secure printing that waits for you to enter a front-panel code and a proof print you can check before printing many copies of a file. Unfortunately, even if a science-fiction apocalypse had left survivors like Mad Max roaming the desert to find the last few precious silicon chips, memory upgrades would still cost less than Xerox's $599 for a 256MB and $719 for a 512MB module.

As lasers go, the 6130 is louder than simple monochrome models but quieter than many rival color models -- we wouldn't put it on the desk with our PC and phone, but it's fine on a table or desk a few feet away, even within wheel-over-without-leaving-your-chair range. If it's sitting at desk height, however, you'll have to stand up to reach over the printer and retrieve your pages from the top rear, where they exit face down (not face up as in the pretty press-kit photo below would have you believe).

How Fast Is Fast Enough?
As we said, Xerox rates the Phaser 6130 at 16 ppm for black-and-white and 12 ppm for color printing, with first-page-out times as low as 14 and 17 seconds, respectively. We nearly reached the latter with our one-page business letter with spot-color logo, which printed in 18 seconds, though longer print jobs lagged a bit -- 20 pages of black text took 1 minute and 47 seconds.

When we set our stopwatch to PowerPoint, six slides with white backgrounds printed in a perky 44 seconds, while the same number with dark backgrounds took just under two minutes. Our favorite test, a 55-page Adobe Acrobat PDF file that mixes black body text and larger red headlines with both solid-color charts and color photo images, arrived in a second under five minutes -- as near as makes no difference to the advertised 12 ppm.

For comparison's sake, last year's Phaser 6180 handled the one-page letter in 12 seconds; the 20-page Word document in 56 seconds; and the 55-page job in 2 minutes and 53 seconds. But that doesn't mean the 6130 isn't a good performer -- among the affordable color lasers we've tested, it's second only to the 6180 in several of our benchmarks.

Nor does the Xerox have anything to apologize for in terms of print quality. Its 600 by 600 dpi resolution produces clean details and sharp serifs even down to 6 point type size -- if forced to criticize something, we might say that regular Times New Roman subjectively looked a tiny bit thin, but other fonts were first-rate.

Spot color, solid color areas, lines, and graphs were right on. Photos -- 8 by 10-inch prints that arrived in almost exactly a minute each -- were somewhat grainy compared to inkjet output, as is the case with every color laser printer we've tried, but showed good color reproduction and (at less than full-page sizes) were perfectly fine for newsletter or flyer publication.

Smaller and Sexier
Replacements for the Phaser's cyan, magenta and yellow toner cartridges are rated at roughly 1,900 pages and priced at $79 apiece. The black cartridge promises about 2,500 pages for $75. Helpful cost-per-page estimates on the Xerox sitecome to 3 cents per monochrome text page and between 11 and 26 cents for color pages ranging from spot color to colorful newsletter or flyer sheets. Xerox's warranty includes a year of onsite service.

The Phaser 6130 marks a pleasing step closer to the day when color laser printers are compact enough to stash anywhere or even to move from desk to desk within an office. Its paper tray may need refilling a little more frequently than our liking, but its toner-replacement maintenance is a snap and its performance is good.

Adapted from Hardwarecentral.com.

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This article was originally published on Friday Feb 1st 2008
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