Tektronix is well known for its colour business printers, and now there's a newcomer to the Phaser range. The 850 is essentially an enhanced 840. Not only has the speed has increased to a whopping 14ppm in both mono and colour, but there is also 10/100BaseT connectivity as standard, a more powerful 200MHz PowerPC processor, blacker black ink, and intelligent dot size switching for finer halftones.
Tektronix has simplified the installation process, so that the driver CD will automatically configure the 850 on a network so you don't have to worry about these technicalities. In fact, all you have to do is plug in power and network cables, load some paper and wait 15 minutes for the printer to warm up.
The new printer driver has a graphical interface which makes setting up a print job much easier. All the advanced controls are hidden in the background, with just the frequently used ones readily accessible.
The latest version of PhaserLink makes the 850 even easier to use. Features include automatic email notification of printer status, and a customisable Web interface for simplifying administration and troubleshooting via the Internet.
The Phaser 850 utilises a printing process called solid ink. This is a similar technology to thermal inkjet, only it starts off, as the name implies, with solid ink blocks. The printer melts down the ink as needed, which is why the 850 takes 15 minutes to warm up. This delay would be a problem if it were not for the intelligent warmup process: the printer logs its usage and warms up before it's likely to be used - in our labs, it switched itself on at 9am.
The solid ink blocks - or ColourStix, as Tektronix likes to call them - are non-toxic and much cleaner and enviromentally friendly than toner. They are easy to install, and you can even drop them into their holders in the middle of a large print job to ensure that colours don't run out. This efficient process not only saves time but money too, as black ColourStix are free for the life of the printer. You pay just slightly more than the cost of the paper on all mono documents.
We tested the top-end DX model, which comes with automatic duplexing capabilities, 1200x600dpi maximum resolution, an additional 500-sheet paper tray and an internal 6Gb hard disk drive which stores drivers, help videos and documentation. In our speed test the Phaser 850 managed a credible first page out time of 16.5 seconds, and a speed of 7.5ppm over the 50 pages of our 5 per cent document. Switching mode from standard to FastColour gave a first page time of 9.7 seconds and a speed of 13.5ppm - making the 14ppm claim almost a reality.
Quality was slightly better overall than the 840, and we really did notice that the black looked blacker than before. Colours were as vibrant as you are ever going to see, which made business graphics, which often feature solid blocks of colour, look stunning. Images such as photos, while still relatively good quality, were still grainier than some of the better inkjet printers we have recently seen.