Copiers and printers: How to choose a colour photocopier for your business?
While in most businesses the need for a photocopier can be quickly identified, the decision to get a colour photocopier often leads to more introspection and research. Colour copiers, in comparison with black-and-white only machines, are immediately understood to be much more expensive, for less frequent copying needs except in specific industries like design or photography. But the introduction of multifunction printers, and options such as the leasing make the costs of a colour photocopier much more affordable. On the other hand, the introduction of multifunction printers which can be used as photocopiers has made it more difficult to choose between models of colour photocopiers.
Why should small companies get colour photocopiers in 2019, and why shouldn’t they? What are the most decisive criteria to look into in order to compare colour photocopiers? And what brands are manufacturing the best colour photocopiers for small businesses in 2019?
The pros and cons of colour photocopiers
Making the decision of buying a colour photocopier is never as easy as choosing to buy a black-and-white copier. Even if there are more and more reasons to pays the extra cost for colour prints, prospective buyers really have to think about their usage before settling upon making the required investment.
Why buy a colour photocopier
Purchasing a colour photocopier is now more attractive than ever.
Reasons to take the plunge include:
- Colour copies and colour prints really do make a difference over black-and-white prints in many situations, especially for commercial or marketing material which will be handed to customers or targets,
- Different formats and types of paper are supported, making it possible to create efficient, fancy, diversified marketing material,
- The quality of colour prints is now very satisfying on laser models, and the introduction of inkjet multifunction printers which can be used as colour copiers make even better results possible,
- Copying speeds have also improved so that the first copies can come out in seconds,
- Multifunction printers are making colour photocopier prices much more affordable than they used to be,
- For the most expensive models, many providers are available on the market, who propose the leasing of colour photocopiers, greatly minimising the upfront investment needed.
Why one could think twice
However, the decision to get a colour copier still isn’t as straightforward as with black-and-white photocopiers for several reasons:
- Even if they’re cheaper, multifunction printers with colour copying function are compromises, and provide neither the fastest printing speeds nor the best quality prints,
- Customers with occasional but demanding needs may still find it cheaper to buy a high-resolution colour printer and a scanner, and sometimes even a fast black-and-white only copier too,
- Buying a colour copier, even for just a few colour copies off and then, makes the cost of ink supplies surge, not only because users have to buy colour ink cartridges or toner, but also because these cartridges or toners often prevent the use of high-capacity and highly economical black cartridges.
Choosing a colour photocopier
Key factors to consider when comparing colour photocopiers include copier type, printing technology, speed, copy quality, paper capacity, controls, connectivity and security.
The introduction of multifunction printers has completely disrupted the copier market. In the UK, in 2019, most colour photocopiers are in fact colour multifunction printers used as copiers.
Sticking to conservative definitions, multifunction printers are printers which can also make photocopies, and copiers are photocopiers which can also print documents sent from connected workstations.
Multifunction printers are cheaper and much smaller; copiers are faster and provide higher quality prints at a lower cost per page.
It also has to be noted that copiers almost always use laser printing technology while multifunction printers can use either laser printing or inkjet printing.
Machines using laser printing technology are usually faster and more expensive to buy but make for lower costs per page. They also print text better.
Inkjet machines are cheaper and provide higher costs per page, but usually produce better prints of complex images like photos.
Printing speed is therefore a factor linked with printing technology.
But when a colour copier is needed, a bit of research has to be done to find the fastest printer because:
- Some inkjet printers are actually faster than laser printers at the same price,
- Advertised printing speeds are usually black-and-white, low settings printing speeds,
- Copying speed adds scanning speed to printing speed.
Users who really need colour copiers rarely need just everyday quality colour copies, they want to have high quality colour copies.
Copy quality is therefore an important point of comparison, and the two specifications to watch are maximum scanning resolution and maximum printing resolution – for colour print jobs!
Running costs are a vital criterion to research for any model contemplated. Interested buyers simply must get to know the price of ink supplies of any model considered.
Combined with the capacity of ink supplies or ink cartridges in number of pages printed, and also planned maintenance costs, these costs make up for the “cost-per-page” of the model, which is probably the most important figure for any colour copier.
Paper capacity and document management
Paper capacity is the number 1 feature to look at for productivity purposes.
It’s also one of the key differences between multifunction printers and traditional copiers, as the former can usually hold a maximum of 250 or 500 pages in a single tray, and the latter thousands of pages of different formats in separated trays.
The automatic document feeder or ADF is also part of these document management features, as it allows automatic copying of multiple documents. Some automatic document feeders also provide automatic double-sided scanning and copying.
Finishing tools are other document management tools which make a difference among standalone, traditional copiers.
Some model can bind copies together or even staple them.
Controls are especially important for photocopiers.
While all office photocopiers can be operated independently from their own control panel, multifunction printers traditionally are more easily controlled from a connected computer.
The introduction of touchscreen control displays however is making the most complex controls possible for multifunction printers, and copiers have also started to be equipped with them.
Connectivity options are also important in the case of multifunction printers.
Local connections such as USB do not allow the sharing of the copier between several PCs or workstations, something Ethernet or Wifi connections allow. Additional wireless connectivity options such as Bluetooth or NFC are nice bonuses as they allow easy printing from various mobile devices.
Security is important is the copier is to be used in an office which can be accessed by many workers. Password protection, usage records or even coiners, card payment terminals are supported by some models. NFC receivers can also be supported, allowing the photocopier to be used only by registered badge holders or following a contactless payment.
Best colour photocopier brands in 2019
The list of brands manufacturing colour copiers in both the multifunction printer format and the traditional office copier format is surprisingly not a long one. Most of these brands and mentioned here. The bigger share of these manufacturers are Japanese companies and it’s interesting to see which ones moved into the B2C market from the B2B market, and which ones followed the opposite path.
Xerox is the American company which basically invented modern photocopy and also laser printing. The brand is so associated with photocopy that “to xerox a document” now means to photocopy something no matter the photocopier brand. Xerox is still very much active in the colour copier business and has added a list of tabletop copiers and multifunction printers to its traditional product line of business copiers. Xerox is still firmly focused on the B2B market and produces an impressive number of models on the cheaper side of the market.
Brother is a kind of photocopy of Xerox, originating from Japan. Brother also used to be specialised on laser copiers, and also has completely embraced the era of multifunction printers. Brother is now probably the biggest manufacturer of cheap and productive inkjet and laser desktop multifunction printers, in terms of numbers of models available.
For its printer business, Ricoh mostly caters to professional needs, with big, laser traditional office copiers. Ricoh has however recently jumped on the multifunction printer bandwagon with a few aggressively priced models.
Toshiba is another household name for many electronic appliances which is not usually associated with printers. It has nonetheless been producing business printers for a while now, especially large copiers and point-of-sale printers, and although their product list in this respect is not the biggest one, it deserves being included in a comparison of colour photocopiers.
The only other American company in this list, HP is probably the biggest producer of printers worldwide, and one of the two brands as present on the B2C market as it is on the B2B market.
Their consumer market multifunction printers are indeed good enough for business use, and their “enterprise” line has some of the most productive colour copiers.
Canon is the other brand which can boast the same notoriety on the B2C and B2B market for its copiers.
Canon printers and copiers are especially famous for the beauty of their photo prints and copies, but high-end, enterprise models of the Japanese manufacturer are not the cheapest on their market.
Acquiring a colour photocopier
Renting and leasing
By paying for your copier in monthly or quarterly instalments, the financial impact will be greatly reduced. For example, a £1,000 MFP paid for through a 5-year lease purchase contract will only cost you around £20 per month, and you will own it when the contract expires. Renting is perfect for occasional uses. In general, service and maintenance are included in rental or lease fees.
Indicative colour copier prices
Desktop models start at £150 or so but refurbished second-hand units will be even cheaper. In general, standalone MFPs cost between £2,500 and £4,500, and are versatile suitable for most companies. High-end professional machines start at around £20,000 and can reach above £100,000.
The best way to find a colour photocopier at the right price for your business is to ask as many quotes in copiers as possible from several providers.
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