Although Xerox has been making solid-ink products since 1991, it's only recently that the company has made a major push to compete with more popular laser printers. The latest of these solid-ink printers, the ColorQube 8700 is a small- to medium-size office multifunction printer that is geared towards continuous operation, ease of use and multiple means of disseminating information. See also Group test: what's the best multifunction printer?
It keeps the typical Xerox printer cream-and-blue colour scheme but the design is unusual in many respects. For instance, the ink access door is attached to the front end of the output tray and can only be opened via a button on the control panel.
The print operation works from left to right with the whole unit turned 90 degrees with the control panel jutting out from the front. A 100-sheet bypass tray lies to the left and 50-sheet Automatic Document Feeder on top.
The main paper tray in the base holds 525 sheets and this can be extended greatly with two similar trays and a high-capacity 1800-sheet tray for a potential 3475-sheet total. Naturally this means that even the basic model weighs in at a back-breaking 46.5 kg, so it might also be worth investing in the optional wheel base.
The control panel is a brightly lit 7-inch colour touch screen with commendably user-friendly icons, menus and instructions, although it take some time to learn the sheer volume of options. Beneath the panel is a drop-down door containing a separate cleaning unit and waste tray.
One advantage of using ink cubes is that they can be literally dropped in to their respective colour trays while the printer is in operation, continuously stacked. A downside is that the machine has to be left permanently on as it takes several minutes to power up to the required temperature.
Xerox ColorQube 8700: print, copy, scan, fax
While you have the full set of print, copy, scan and fax modes, and connectivity extends to ethernet and USB 2.0. There's no in-built Wi-Fi as standard, although an optional wireless adaptor can be added. Making it a separate purchase could be seen as unreasonable when the publicity material stresses all the mobile devices that can make use of the onboard ConnectKey Controller.
Other features include a USB port on the side of the control panel, auto duplex printing and scanning, a 20-sheet stapler, while the 350-sheet output tray can be enhanced with an optional 650-sheet finisher.
When it comes to performance, print speeds for standard quality black and colour documents average 30 ppm, with duplex versions at a respectable 20 ppm.
While easily managed colour correction can be applied, default colours sometimes appeared redder than the originals - blacks were suitably deep and authentic.
If you are going to pay over £2000 for your printer, you’d hope running costs will be much lower than comparable laser or inkjet technology. But will solid ink prove cheaper?
A pack of two black cubes with a nominal yield of 4500 pages works out to cost 1.8p per page, reducing to 1.4p if you buy a 4-pack.
The three-colour cubes only come in twin packs and a set will work out at 8p per page. These prices are good but can also be matched or even beaten by laserjet printers with lower initial purchase prices. For more printer reviews and printing advice, visit Printing Advisor.