- High speed;
- good colour rendition;
- virtually all protocols and clients supported.
- Slight softness to output;
- email notification system too easily triggered.
Xerox has pushed the speed limits of colour printing back even further with the launch of the 26 page per minute (ppm) Phaser 6250 range. This one-pass colour laser produces richly coloured, double-sided documents very quickly. The networked printing support is also excellent. However, some qualities of the printer's output make it more suitable for general office work than high-quality graphics printing, such as colour proofing.
The Phaser 6250DT is one model in the 6250 range -- the others are based around the same printer but have different levels of options. The 6250DT comes with a duplexing unit, a network interface and an extra 500-sheet paper tray. The 6250B (£1,428.83 ex. VAT) is the basic model with no options, the N (£1,609) is the B plus networking, the DP (£1,729) is the B plus duplexer, and the DX (£2,369) is the DT plus an internal hard drive and a 1,000-sheet paper tray. Options can be retrofitted to the printer, so if you need to upgrade at a later stage you can.
Although you get USB 2.0 and parallel ports, the 6250 is really designed to be a networked printer, and it comes with a built-in 10/100Mbps Ethernet interface. It supports a wide range of printing protocols, both direct and print server-based, both SLP and uPnP discovery, and SNMP management. There's also a Web-based management interface for the printer, which Xerox calls CenterWare.
Installing the Phaser 6250DT is straightforward, if a little lengthy. The toner cartridges, fuser and transfer roller were fitted to our review unit before delivery, but they still needed various tabs and strips pulling to activate them. What wasn't fitted was the imaging unit, containing the drums for each colour (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). This is quite a delicate part, and so is packaged separately.
Installing the drivers is also a simple process -- how simple depends on your network configuration. Xerox has included a feature it calls 'Walk-up installation' in the Phaser 6250DT. This allows you to start the driver installation from the supplied CD-ROM, choose 'Walk-up installation' on the first page, then walk up to the printer itself and choose 'Walk-up installation' on the control panel, and that's it -- probably. A small number of network configurations may prevent this working.
If this is the case, or you don't want to use this method, then the driver installation program can also search your network for all Xerox printers available, and present you with a list. The only disadvantage of this method is that less technical users may choose the wrong printer to install if the network names used for your printers aren't obvious. There's also an option to specify the printer's IP address manually, if it's on a different part of the network where the search program won't find it.
The Phaser 6250DT uses a 700MHz PowerPC processor and is fitted with the maximum 512MB of RAM. Xerox claims a first page out time of less than 12 seconds, and we found in tests that this to be roughly accurate, but overly complex pages may well take a little longer than this. The print engine is indeed speedy. Twenty-six copies of the same page will take around one minutes 15 seconds to produce. Duplex printing obviously adds to the time taken to output a page.
The print quality has both its good and bad points. The good point is the colour rendition: out of the box, the Phaser 6250DT produced accurate, rich colours for both graphics and photos. However, on plain paper, the output is slightly fuzzy. Edges that should be sharp are a little blurred, and text has a soft appearance. Even on glossy coated paper the results aren't any sharper, although the colour reproduction improves further. This effect is only noticeable when looking at the output closely, and certainly doesn't lower the readability of text output. For general office colour work this shouldn't cause any problems, but if you're looking for a printer for colour proofing or very accurate graphics work, you should investigate other printers.
The 'Run Black' feature allows you to continue using the Phaser 6250DT as a monochrome printer if one or more of the colour toner cartridges run out. However, Xerox has included other features to help make sure this never happens: The printer can send an email when it's getting low on supplies. Simply specify the email address and an SMTP server in the management interface, and the Phaser 6250DT will send a message whenever toner levels get low. You can also configure the printer to send email alerts when less severe events, such as paper getting low, happen. However, these are sent out far too readily for our liking. For instance, you may get one email warning of a low or empty paper tray, and go to fill it up. Pulling the tray out then triggers another email warning of a missing paper tray. It would be better if the 6250DT waited for a minute or so before sending messages about such things, since pulling out a paper tray temporarily is a fairly common occurrence.
The Phaser 6250DT is a good workhorse colour printer for most office tasks. Although it isn't suitable for jobs where very precise printing is needed, it will handle large print runs easily. Excellent network support also means that if you're using many different client operating systems, it's also a good bet. THe 6250DT's ease of use and installation should keep support costs down, and even if the email notification system is a little over-enthusiastic, they'll still help keep the printer in good working order.