These two printers can be perfect classroom complements.
Ricoh GelSprinter GX3050N
The Ricoh GelSprinter GX3050N is a small business color printer with great speed for a wonderful price. The model uses a gel-like ink that is supposed to dry fast and reduce smudges. Network ready, with 64 megabytes of memory and a standard 250-sheet paper tray, this just might be the low-cost color printer for the classroom.
The GX3050N uses a gel-like ink that dries quickly, allowing the printer to produce 29 pages per minute in black-and-white and color. Out of the box, it weighs 30 pounds and uses four gel cartridges. Setup is simple and there is an LCD display to help with toner level monitoring and adjusting the network settings.
The speed of this printer is where it really shines. It meets its claim of 29 pages per minute. It is one of the fastest ink-jet printers you can buy. I printed a 60-page document with both text and pictures and it was completed in slightly more than two minutes. I was also able to touch the paper as soon as it came out of the printer without fear of smudging, a rarity for most ink-jets.
This printer fits the bill if you are looking for an inexpensive network-ready machine that will be able to print text and color quickly. Do not expect to have the best quality with text or color, but for $249.99, it is a solid printer. Each of the four toner cartridges costs $36.99 and has a yield of 1,000 pages. That price is a little more than typical color laser printers with the same yield. This isn’t a big enough difference to worry about unless you are going through several thousand pages per month.
I was a little disappointed with the printer’s quality of text and color. The black-and-white output was decent but not nearly as sharp as less expensive laser printers. The GX3050N did a fair job on 10-point fonts or higher. Color quality is good enough for most classroom needs, including PowerPoint. I would not recommend printing digital pictures with this printer. There are less expensive models that will do a better job. I would have liked to see a few more features, including wireless connectivity. With its large size, a flatbed scanner would have fit perfectly on the top. Nonetheless, I liked the printer for what it is, a fast printer at an inexpensive price.
CDW•G price: $249.99
Ink Type: Ink-jet Print
Speed: 26 ppm B/W; 18 ppm color
Resolution: 1200 × 1200 dpi
Paper Capacity: 100 sheets
Dimensions: 17.8 × 21.7 × 11.3 inches
The Lexmark X4550 is an all-in-one (AIO) ink-jet color printer with built-in wireless at an affordable price. The X4550 has a slick design and easy-to-use controls that provide a quick way to print without a computer. With the ability to print, scan, copy, or print off a memory card, and the option for wireless, this printer just might meet all of a classroom’s needs.
The first thing I wanted to test was the wireless connectivity. This feature was simple to get working, and I was able to connect it to my existing Wi-Fi protected access network and print to it from anywhere that it could pick up a signal. Note that printing via wireless will be slower than using a USB cable. I would still rather use USB or Ethernet, but the wireless is a great option if the printer is located away from the computer.
Next, I tested the photo quality. I was surprised at how good the full-size pictures came out. I expected an AIO to suffer greatly in this department, but the X4550 delivered nice picture quality in several different tests. I would not compare it to a photo printer, but it will take care of most of your needs in preparing for a meeting or class.
The Lexmark X4550’s software, called the Solution Center, is geared to letting users know when the toner is low and how to quickly perform maintenance tasks. There is also imaging software included with the CD that will provide basic functions with the scanned documents, but there are much better free solutions out there, such as Paint.NET. Abbyy FineReader OCR is another piece of included software that allows you to scan text documents and edit them. This software is a bit unreliable and will work with only certain types of fonts, such as Times New Roman and Arial.
One of the downfalls of this printer is its slowness. I sent a 20-page, text-only document and it took just under four minutes to print via USB and almost five minutes to print wireless. The specs of the X4550 say it should be able to print at 26 pages per minute in black and white, but I was unable to get those results during my tests. I was also disappointed with the speed of color print jobs. They printed at one to two pages per minute even though the specs call for 18 ppm. The text quality of the X4550 was another weakness. I printed several full-page documents from four-point type all the way to 12 point. Any type smaller than 10 point was hard to read.
At the price of $129.99, this AIO printer might be enough if you don’t print many heavy-duty projects. What really makes this printer stand out is its ability to print wirelessly for under $130.
CDW•G price: $129.99