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What’s faster than most laser printers, prints much like an offset printing press, and costs $1,000? It’s the Xerox Phaser 8400 Series Color Printer. This solid-ink printer melts its resin-based ink, sprays it on a drum, then rolls the drum against the paper to transfer the image—all at an engine speed of 24 pages per minute (ppm) for color or monochrome output.

Setting up the 8400DP takes far less work than a color laser. The unit ships with ink already loaded, so all you have to do is find a place for the printer, plug it in, and give the ink about 12 minutes to melt (subsequent warm-ups take less than 4 minutes). While you’re waiting, you can install the driver using the automated installation routine. Run the setup routine from the CD, acknowledge that setup found the right printer, and then wait for the installation to finish.

To say that the 8400DP is an impressive performer is an understatement. Compared with the low-cost laser and LED printers we look at in an upcoming issue, the 8400DP has hardly any competition. It leaves the four-pass lasers in the dust and beats the single-pass Oki C5100n LED printer on well over half of our individual tests. Its total time on our performance suite was 6 minutes even, compared with 7:55 for the C5100n. On our quality suite, it was a bit slower than the C5100n (2:03 versus 1:37).

The output is worth the negligible wait. Using high-quality settings, output on Ilford’s Smooth Multi-Use paper is good to excellent for text and graphics and fair to good for photos. Text is readable at 5 points or less for more than half the fonts we test. Lines and edges in graphics are also crisp, but dithering shows as graininess in graphic fills and photos.

We also saw some posterization in photos, which makes this the wrong printer if you want high-quality photo output. But for outstanding text and brilliant color graphics, the Phaser 8400 will give you beautiful output at faster speeds than any other $1,000 color printer.