With so many models and brands on the UK market, it may look like a daunting task to compare photocopier suppliers. Although each manufacturer catches up fast on the technological breakthroughs of the competition, and although the gap in prices between photocopier suppliers may tend to become minimal because of the raging commercial war, suppliers have managed to keep their identities. Some are still renowned for their printing quality, others better cater for the needs of volume printing. Some manage to keep an edge in the price-performance ratio for small business customers, others develop innovating solutions for special requirements.
What are the UK’s top 8 photocopier suppliers in 2019, and how did they manage to stay different from each other, in terms of features or prices? Why is getting the perfect copier for one’s needs more than about choosing the right model and make and how to get the perfect match?
UK’s best photocopier suppliers
In the UK, photocopiers by Epson, HP, Canon, Brother, Ricoh, Konica-Minolta and Sharp dominate the business market. Each brand manages to keep its specificity in terms of prices or features, making it more interesting for certain types of customers.
Epson is a Japanese electronics and imaging equipment brand related with Seiko since its inception in 1942. Epson is one of the most innovative companies in the field of printers, and many of the technologies it introduced have become industry standards. Epson invented piezoelectrical crystal inkjet printing technology, which is still a company special. Epson also introduced ink tank printers, cutting the need to replace in cartridges and lowering ink consumables cost by 90%.
Their inkjet multifunction printers, priced £250 to £800, are renowned for the quality of their photo printing.
Remarkably, although Epson also produces laser printers, their fastest (100 pages per minute double-sided!), heavy-duty printers in the “Entreprise Workforce” series, are inkjet models, selling for over £20,000.
HP is the world’s largest printer manufacturer, but it’s mostly because of their well-known consumer printers. HP manufactures printers of all types, inkjet as well as laser, and their multifunction printers have a very good price-performance ratio even for small business needs.
Network-connected, colour laser multifunction printers by HP, for instance, sell from £250 up, with excellent printing speeds.
Their “enterprise” range for volume laser copying starts at over £2,000.
Note that HP has taken over Samsung’s printer business.
Canon’s is HP’s biggest worldwide competitor, offering a comparatively immense range of different copiers, for both home and business use. However, Canon’s product range for enterprise copiers is a little more plentiful.
A distinctive feature in the UK of Canon’s photocopiers is that they can be leased directly from the manufacturer. Prices start at £1,870 up to £17,000.
Just like Epson, Brother is an already old Japanese company specializing in printing solutions. However contrary to Epson, Brother is mostly known for its small laser copiers, although it also produces solid inkjet hardware.
Brother’s niche seems to be small-business multifunction printers, sold at very competitive prices both for inkjet and laser models.
Brother’s laser black-and-white, A4 network multifunction printers start at under £100 and workgroup printers sell at up to £2,000.
Ricoh is one of Japan’s oldest copier manufacturers and produces a large range of products for all kinds of business needs.
Ricoh currently only makes LED and laser printers, with some of the fastest heavy-duty copiers in the market.
In the UK, Ricoh’s cheapest A4 multifunction laser models sell near £200 and their A3/A4 models at over £4,000.
The name Xerox has become so associated with photocopiers that it entered the English language as a verb to simply mean “to photocopy”. Xerox was the first brand to manufacture copiers using dry ink technology – which then became known as “xerography” – in 1942 and laser copiers in 1973.
Xerox is directly competing with Brother in the cheap, small, laser business copier segment with colour printers selling below £200, but also some of the best volume copiers selling at over £15,000.
This company is a well-known photocopier supplier, famous for its multi-function printers. Its products are well regarded in the UK, in particular for their usability: users don’t have to learn an entirely new technology when they upgrade or change their photocopier. Prices are between £500 and £25,000, for all company sizes.
Sharp is another Japanese electronics company (now owned by Taiwan’s Foxconn) which added laser printers to its product lineup a few decades ago.
In the UK, Sharp mostly sells high volume, A3 production copiers which prices start at over £4,000.
Sharp’s A4 also produces a few colour laser multifunction printers, which prices start at around £1,200.
Getting the right photocopier, from the right photocopier provider
The name and reputation of the copier supplier may be an important factor to choose the right hardware, but it’s certainly not the only one. Depending on business needs, specific models need to be chosen. Finally, the question of print services and rental or lease plans also dictate the need to choose the right copier supplier.
Getting the right model
Selecting a model is even more difficult than choosing a photocopier supplier, because photocopier suppliers are just one factor among many which need to be considered.
Getting the right photocopier is about defining one’s needs as precisely as possible:
- The need for fast copies or fast printing is evaluated in terms of pages per minute or ppm: below 15 is slow, 30-40 is ok for most business needs, over 50 is fast. Entry-level laser copiers may now no longer be faster than high-end inkjet multifunction printers sold at the same price point,
- Type of documents to print. If it’s a majority of text, a black-and-white machine is good enough, with maybe a distinct, small printer for the occasional colour printing needs. If photos need to be printed frequently, colour inkjet printers are still more interesting than laser copiers.
- Paper size. The gap between A4-only machines and A3-capable copiers is a significant one, which could define the border between multifunction printers and proper office copiers. A3 photocopiers are usually free-standing machines offering all the bells and whistles of fast printing speeds, volume printing, binding, stapling...
- Number of pages per month. This directly affects cost-per-page. Over 1,000 copies per month, laser copiers are normally far more economically interesting than inkjet machines.
- Connection type. While multifunction printers with Wifi or Ethernet connectivity may be good enough for small companies, their USB-only versions should be discarded as they can’t be shared between multiple workstations.
- Multitasking capabilities. It’s good if multiple users can be connected to the copier, it’s better if they can use it at the same time.
- Cost-per-page is therefore a key factor. The price of consumables like ink toners or cartridges or ink refills should always be checked together with the price of the photocopier.
- Availability of these consumables is also a key issue. Even if the copier is cheap and the ink affordable, no one wants to drive 10 miles just to get the right toner when there’s an emergency need.
Entry-level photocopiers such as desktop units may cost as little as £100, but their page-per-minute rate is relatively low. In general, free-standing multi-function printers (MFPs), which are able to scan and print as well as copy in A3 and A4 sizes, start around £1,000 for mid-range machines processing up to 50 pages per minute with a good resolution. These machines suit most companies, but technologically advanced models for copy professionals are much faster and more expensive, sometimes reaching £40,000.
Even more important than choosing the right photocopier supplier: choosing the right photocopier provider
Corporate or even small business needs may end up identifying very expensive copiers which require an enormous investment. Regardless, any copier requires usual maintenance jobs and frequent replacement of consumables, which takes an awful lot of time off normal business activity if done by user. And that’s when the user even knows how to perform these technical tasks.
This explains why business customers rarely buy their copiers from B2C outlets, offline or online. They rely on photocopier providers, who distribute the machines of the major photocopier suppliers mentioned in the first part of this article, offering photocopier rental or photocopier leasing plans, and managed print services – comprehensive maintenance and service contracts. A minority of photocopier suppliers such as Canon in the UK also directly propose these solutions, but they may not represent the best service and financing deals for their own machines.
Tips to select the right photocopier provider include looking into:
- Customer feedback and reputation,
- Proximity of the provider, so it can be there when needed quickly,
- Customer service availability – free or paying telephone hotline, e-mail only...
- Servicing options – what is included, what isn’t, especially concerning in-person technician interventions,
- All the fine print of the contract, so that the customer doesn’t find himself locked in a punishing relationship,
- Provisions regarding termination of the contract are especially important,
- As are provisions regarding supplies of consumables (some contracts prohibit independent replacement by the customer, forcing him or her to buy excessively priced consumables from the provider).
For all these reasons, it’s always a good idea to request as many quotes from photocopier providers as possible. Services like Companeo make it easy to get quotes and compare the best photocopier providers in the UK.
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