Alternatives to laser printers are few and far between. Even inkjets have found it hard to move in on the high-end turf occupied by network lasers. However, to the mix we must add a third option, Solid Ink. 

These models require you to place large slabs of ink (more like oversized crayons) into the relevant slots. The printer then melts the ink slabs and applies them to the paper. The Xerox ColorQube 8570DN uses this very technology. And does it perform well? Well, yes and no. 

The bad first. The Xerox ColorQube 8570DN is very loud whenever it's in action - it's definitely the loudest printer we've tested yet. 

And because of the way in which the ink has to be melted, the Xerox ColorQube 8570DN has to go through an elaborate warm-up routine every day. This takes quite a few minutes, and will prove annoying to those who just want to come into the office and run off a few prints. 

Having said that, the Xerox ColorQube 8570DN's results are pretty good. Although the melted ink lacks the same permanence as laser output, the actual results are very polished.

Colour is vibrantly handled, and text is dark and sharp. The images don't always have the same subtlety as their laser rivals, and it's clear that work still needs to be done on the technology in order to make it as consistent. 

The speed is good, even if the Xerox ColorQube 8570DN falls a long way short of the company's proud boasts. It says 40 pages per minute. We say 22.3ppm for text. 

Colour graphics came out at 17.8ppm. Duplexing works effectively, and a figure of 19.9ppm showed that there was hardly any drop in performance, even printing to both sides of the page.

The interesting print technology doesn't mean that Xerox has skimped elsewhere. That's perhaps unsurprising given the massive dimensions of this printer - it consumed a larger footprint than any other model here. 

Visually it looks quite conventional, though, with an attractive but simple control panel that allowed us to access the important features without having to scratch our heads too much. 

You can't plug in a USB drive, and while the Xerox ColorQube 8570DN offers wired ethernet, Wi-Fi is only available as an option. 

The paper handling facilities are immense. The standard paper tray can take 525 sheets - more even than the Kyocera Mita FS-C5250DN. Throw in the ample 100 sheet multipurpose feeder and you have a stunning 625 sheets available out of the box. 

In addition, you can bolt on extra trays and increase this to an astonishing 2200 sheets. Even the Kyocera is thrown into the shade by the Xerox ColorQube 8570DN. 

Just as important is the output facilities of 350 sheets, and the Xerox is excellent at keeping printouts safe. 

Memory is vast, with 512MB as standard. This figure can be boosted to 2GB with optional upgrades. Even the 1GHz processor speed is extremely fast. The supported printer languages aren't as extensive as on some - PS3 and PCL5c are offered, but not PCL6.

The interesting ink technology makes for some good but not amazing running costs. Just 1.3p for a page of mono is pretty decent - even if it's bettered by the other models in this category. 

However, 7.6p for a page of colour is a little steep compared to the competition at this price point.

NEXT PAGE: Original PCWorld review >>

Xerox ColorQube printers, including the Xerox ColorQube 8570DN, are unique in using solid-ink supplies rather than liquid ink or powdered toner.

Unfortunately, the simplicity and economy of this technology come at the expense of its performance. The Dell 3130CN, which now offers a duplexing model, is a compelling alternative to the Xerox ColorQube 8570DN, as is the Oki C610dtn.

Our hands-on time with the Xerox ColorQube 8570DN was a mixed but largely positive experience. The power-up process is long and somewhat noisy; Xerox recommends using sleep mode instead of turning the printer completely off. You'll catch a slight whiff of molten wax as the printer operates. We also observed an intermittent whining between print jobs; Xerox is working to correct this in manufacturing. On the PC, using the default PostScript driver, we ran into slow dialog-box responses, intermittent PostScript errors, and (after one rocky reinstallation) a balky multipurpose tray. After restoring the test bed and reinstalling the printer, the multipurpose tray worked fine. A test of the ColorQube 8570DN with its PCL driver was painless and successful. The Mac installation was nearly flawless, though the instructions neglected to mention that you have to add the printer manually.

The Xerox ColorQube 8570DN printer's performance test results were also up and down. Pages consisting primarily of text but with a smattering of simple monochrome graphics printed at 14.8 pages per minute on the PC and 10.2 ppm on the Mac - average speeds. The quality was pretty good: deep black, but with slightly jagged edges on thinner fonts. The unit's photo-printing speed was impressive: Our Mac-based 22MB, full-page colour photo exited at about 2.1 ppm -twice as fast as we normally see-and the snapshot-size photos we print on letter-size paper on the PC averaged 2.6 ppm. Unfortunately, photo and colour-graphic quality are noticeably grainier than the norm, and the palette looked slightly washed out at default settings. For business graphics, however, the quality is acceptable.

The Xerox ColorQube 8570DN's configuration includes a bottom, 525-sheet cassette; a front, 100-sheet multi-purpose tray; and a top, 200-sheet output tray. The unit we tested supported ethernet and USB. Its price is higher than its ColorQube 8570N cousin because it can duplex (print on both sides) automatically - even on the Mac (a rarity). The ColorQube 8570DT adds a second 525-sheet input tray. An empty SODIMM slot is available for upgrading from the printer's standard 512MB of memory, but you should try a standard DDR2 module before paying for Xerox's own 512MB module. Other options include a hard-drive kit, a 525-sheet paper tray, and a system cart with a storage drawer. The standard warranty is for one year, onsite.

A six-line, backlit monochrome LCD and the standard array of buttons make up the Xerox ColorQube 8570DN's control panel. The menu structure is somewhat complex and the language is jargon-heavy; printing out the menu map helps.

The solid-ink supplies look like a cross between crayons and building blocks. They load easily into their colour-specific chutes, which are hidden under the printer's output tray. Solid ink is both economical and environmentally friendly, since it lacks the plastic housing and other nonbiodegradable components of toner or ink cartridges. The unit ships with starter cubes and a pack of replacement cubes specced to last for a total of 3000 pages. All colours are sold in pairs that should handle 4400 pages of output.

Black costs £75 or 1.7p per page; cyan, magenta, and yellow cost £113 or 2.5p per page. In total you can print a four-colour page for about 10p.

PCWorld Verdict

It's difficult to recommend the Xerox ColorQube 8570DN over a midrange colour laser or LED printer. Buy it if you like what the solid-ink technology offers - convenience, economy, and low environmental impact - and you can tolerate the middling speed and print quality. 

Jon L Jacobi and Melissa Riofrio, pcworld.com

See also: Group test: what's the best budget printer?

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

Group test: what's the best printer?


Xerox ColorQube 8570DN: Specs

  • ColorQube 8570ADN, Printer, Colour, 40 PPM, A4, 2400 finepoint, 525-sheet, 100-sheet Multipurpose Tray, 512MB, 2-Sided Printing,10/100/1000 base T-ethernet, USB, PCL5c, Adobe PS3
  • ColorQube 8570ADN, Printer, Colour, 40 PPM, A4, 2400 finepoint, 525-sheet, 100-sheet Multipurpose Tray, 512MB, 2-Sided Printing,10/100/1000 base T-ethernet, USB, PCL5c, Adobe PS3

OUR VERDICT

It's difficult to recommend the Xerox ColorQube 8570DN over a midrange colour laser or LED printer. Buy it if you like what the solid-ink technology offers - convenience, economy, and low environmental impact - and you can tolerate the middling speed and print quality.

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