Let's face it... as far as peripherals go, the mono laser comes bottom of the pile for sexiness. It's a dull and dreary beige box and the Cinderella of the office. It does its job day after day, rarely complaining, churning out its unexciting but necessary mono documents.
But wait. There is actually someone in your office who can get very excited about mono lasers. Pop upstairs to accounts and look for a chap in spectacles wearing a dreary grey suit. That's him over there... the one with the badminton racket behind his desk and the neat round of triangular cucumber sandwiches wrapped in cling film in front of him.
He's the head of purchasing, and if you mention phrases like "total cost of ownership" and "cost per page", you can watch him moan in ecstasy as his little bean-counting brain slips into overdrive with visions of cost savings and low depreciation.
You see, everyone has his or her currency, and in a busy office there's big money to be saved by choosing the right mono laser. Many companies use printers from Lexmark and Hewlett- Packard that require a complete toner cartridge change after just 3,000 pages. The cost per page in terms of consumables comes dangerously close to 3p. Multiply that over a couple of hundred thousand pages and we're talking serious money.
Japanese manufacturer Kyocera knows all about laser running costs. It's the same company that makes Mita photocopiers and it has been around a long time. Kyocera also prides itself on being ecologically sound and running on good Buddhist principles. It specialises in ceramic technology and uses ceramics in the internals of the brand-new Ecosys FS-920 laser printer.
By manufacturing the developer drum of the FS-920 from tough ceramic material, it can go for a long time without a drum change; 100,000 pages, in fact, guaranteed. Just top up the toner every 6,000 pages or so, at a cost of £52. That's a per-page cost of just 0.9p, plus a new drum every 100,000 pages - it's a considerable saving for your purchasing manager and a saving for the environment.
However, all these good intentions of saving money and the planet are worth very little if the print output from the FS-920 is scrappy and unsharp. Fortunately that's not the case. In fact, the Ecosys FS-920 is a very fast and efficient little printer that is PostScript enabled and quite nippy once it gets into its stride.
Time until first page was around 20 seconds for us, but once warmed up the FS-920 can spit out pages at a realworld rate of around 16 pages per minute. With a 266MHz processor and 32MB of RAM, the FS-920 is capable of holding its own with similarly priced models from the major competitors.
Ethernet as extra
One important consideration is the lack of an Ethernet interface on this entry-level Mac model. There is a USB connection and a parallel interface, but an Ethernet port comes as an extra. A 250-sheet paper tray and a manual feed option are included in the box, although we found that the lack of a straight-through paper path caused one or two problems with our 6x4-inch sticky address labels. It would be preferable to see that option included.
There's no doubt that if protecting the environment and keeping running costs low are big issues for you, then the Ecosys range from Kyocera is worthy of further investigation. The printers are well built, reliable, and now feature a curvy new design, courtesy of FA Porsche. However, market leader Hewlett-Packard has built up a lot of trust and goodwill over the years for its reliable and tank-like range of personal lasers.
And as most people who use a small laser actually don't print the sort of quantities that a photocopier or workgroup printer would, Kyocera may have a struggle pushing its economic argument in that quarter. Mark Sparrow