[GLLUG] OT: workgroup printers

Marr marr at copper.net
Mon Jul 7 23:55:32 EDT 2008

On Thursday 03 July 2008 10:29am, Mark Szidik/mlc wrote:
> Our venerable 2001 HP 4100 is ready to be retired, and I am wondering what
> I should replace it with.
> The safe answer is a HP 3005x b&w laser.
> But I am wondering about the Xerox Phaser solid-ink color printers. Anyone
> have experience with them?  Are they as reliable as a HP laser over 7
> years?

Hi Mark,

It's been a long time (about 15 years) since I used a Phaser solid-ink color 
printer. Back then, they were still known by the "Tektronix" name (whose 
printer division was bought out by Xerox sometime around 2000). I used 
a "Phaser III PXi" model back then. I still have a few of the (multi-color) 
printed sheets.

Things have undoubtedly improved somewhat since then, but what I recall was 
the long time (about 10-15 minutes, IIRC) it took (after 1st power-up) for 
the wax sticks to heat up and melt enough to be ready to print. If you leave 
the printer on all day, it's not an issue. There was also a lot of wax waste 
(in a little pull-out drawer in the back, IIRC) because the printer was very 
infrequently used and got turned on and off each time, wasting wax every time 
that happened.

On the plus side, the color output is nice. In fact, back in 1993, I'd have 
said "outstanding", given the era (when color lasers didn't really exist, at 
least not at any comparable price point). A minor drawback is that the waxy 
output on the pages is somewhat easily scratched off -- I just did it with a 
fingernail, on one of the color sheets I still have.

Unfortunately, I have no information on reliability. While it had beautiful 
color output, the printer was just not practical for anything but special 
uses and it didn't get used enough to justify its existence, so it eventually 

For a high-volume output printer, I cannot imagine that it would be very 
practical, even today, even assuming that some of the shortcomings have been 

Cost-per-page was very high back then. But I think there was a time when 
Tektronix offered black wax blocks for free, to encourage solid-ink printer 
purchases/use. The idea was to get people to use the printers to print basic 
B&W text-based documents instead of using a laser. I cannot imagine that ever 
went over very well. Lasers just beat the pants off the solid-ink printers 
for basic text.

I guess it depends on what you really want -- nice shiny, glossy, waxy color 
pages or a basic workhorse.

I'm a little perplexed that you're even considering a solid-ink printer if any 
B&W laser is an alternative. To me, color output would be the only possible 
advantage of a solid-ink printer, but maybe that equation has changed in the 
last 15 years. :^)

On Monday 07 July 2008 9:23pm, Richard Houser wrote:
> I can't speak for long-term reliability, but the printouts were
> definitely different.  They looked very good, but were a bit shiny (I
> think, been almost 4 years since I've seen it now).  I heard from
> co-workers that the dye, wax, or whatever else you want to call it had a
> tendency to flake off under certain conditions.

I would agree with all of that. Except that, in my case, I've had no 
flaking-off of the wax, even after 15 years. But those pages were not under 
harsh conditions in any form either -- i.e. normal humidity, no direct 
sunlight, etc.

For the last 9+ years, I've used a Tektronix color laser (Phaser 740) and I 
like it far more than the solid-ink (i.e. wax) printer of the early- to 
mid-90s. The color is great and there's no way to scratch the page and damage 
the image or text. I've had to replace the clutch which feeds the paper, but 
other than that, it's worked fine (under light usage, admittedly).

I really don't see any disadvantages to a color laser (assuming you even need 
color). And the price has come down remarkably in the last 10 years.


Bill Marr

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