Review: PagePro 1250E Laser Printer
Price: $300 (list); $280 (street)
Requirements: Mac with USB
After several years of hard use, and possible borderline abuse, our Xerox laser printer/copier began begging for a well-deserved retirement. With a scanner and color inkjet printer to make the occasional photocopy, we decided that a stand-alone laser printer might suit our needs better than another multifunction device.
As we began looking for a replacement, there were a few features high on our list of priorities. For better or worse, we are a two-platform household, so I wanted a printer that worked with both Macintosh and Windows. A tight budget also dictated the need for something with reasonable initial and operating costs. Network printing would be nice if the price was right. After researching the product offerings from several manufacturers, we settled upon the Minolta PagePro 1250E printer as a likely candidate.
The Initial Attraction: Speed and Connectivity
The Minolta PagePro 1250E is as fast as many other printers in its class, and faster than some. The manufacturer reports a first-page-out time of fifteen seconds. At 600 dpi, this printer is capable of print speeds as high as 17 letter-sized pages per minute. Resident PostScript Level 2 emulation supports printing at either 600 or 1200 dpi. PCL 6 and PCL 5e emulation is also possible.
The speed specifications for the PagePro 1250E were good, but we also needed cross-platform functionality. Once again, the specifications were promising. This printer supports printing under USB on the Mac or Windows 98 and higher. Windows users also have the option of using parallel printing under Windows 95 and higher. Printing over Ethernet and Bluetooth is also possible, but exercising either of these options requires the purchase of additional hardware.
The Second Look: Cost and Flexibility
Once we decided that the PagePro 1250E was worth a second look, the question of costs arose. A few trips to Pricewatch showed that the printer consistently sold for about $300. Replacement toner currently costs about $75—$85 for the high capacity cartridge. The manufacturer rates the high capacity cartridge at 6,000 letter-sized copies at 5% coverage. This works out to toner costs of less than two cents per page.
The other costs to consider were the drum and additional networking hardware. The PagePro 1250E has a user-replaceable drum with a rated capacity of 20,000 letter-sized printouts. This drum currently sells for about $105. Although additional hardware is required for network printing, we had recently purchased a router with a built-in print server that utilized the parallel port. Although it was not one of the models listed by Minolta, a quick look at the online documentation suggested ours should work. Things were looking up, so we made the purchase.
In exchange for our hard-earned money, we got a laser printer capable of 1200 dpi, Windows and Mac connectivity options, and 16 MB of onboard RAM. The RAM expansion slot will accept a single 64 or 128 MB memory module. Make sure to purchase 168-pin, PC100 compliant, unbuffered DIMMs. These chips cost less than $50 right now for 128 MB, so splurge a little. Part numbers for both the 64 and 128 MB modules are included in the documentation on the CD.
Aside from the hardware flexibility, we gained some flexibility in the media used for printing. Plain paper, up to 24 lb. US Legal, can be placed in any paper tray. Thicker stock (24 to 90 lb.) must be placed in the standard paper tray or the manual feed tray. This is also true for glossy stock, envelopes, and laser labels; these types of paper should not be fed into the optional lower paper tray that installs underneath the printer. Normally your printout will come out of the output tray at the top of the printer with the print facing downward. The output tray has a bit of a curve to it; if you are concerned about the printout curling or need your printout to exit the printer face up, an optional tray is available. Although I have not yet tried lighter weight papers, I have not experienced curling on any printouts using 20 lb. paper.
Manual two-sided printing is possible. Be aware that the manufacturer recommends feeding printed pages through the manual feed paper tray. In fact, the manufacturer clearly states, “Damage can occur if printed pages are fed through the standard or optional paper input cassettes.” If you do a lot of two-sided printing this could be a time- consuming process.
What’s in the Box and What’s Not
When you open the PagePro 1250E box you will find the printer, paper input tray, power cord, and registration card. The nice folks at Minolta have pre-installed the drum cartridge and a starter toner cartridge. This starter cartridge is good for roughly1,500 pages of letter-sized printing at 5% coverage. The 250-sheet paper tray and manual feed/output tray are included but not installed
Our package also included a quick start setup and installation guide that is just over thirty pages long. How can something so long be called a quick start guide? The thirty or so pages devote two or three pages to each of about thirteen different languages. If you like detailed documentation do not fret, as the box includes a CD containing additional documentation and the necessary drivers. Under OS X I couldn’t find the PDF file with this documentation, but it is available online. Everything you need for basic setup is included except the cable. If you do not have a spare USB or parallel cable lying around your home or office, be sure to purchase one.
Although the quick start guide devotes only two or three pages to initial setup, the process is easy. Installation of the 250-sheet paper tray and the output tray are straightforward. This is about as easy as putting together a printer gets.
When setting up the printer, keep in mind that the PagePro 1250E is 15.32" wide x 17.36" deep x 10.2" high. Minolta recommends just under eight inches of clearance to the left, right, and rear of the printer. A little less than twenty-two inches is recommended in front since the paper tray is in the front of the printer. The paper tray is solid once attached to the printer, but when fully loaded with paper be sure there is adequate desk space to support the weight of the tray.
For Macintosh support, the manufacturer recommends a PowerPC 604 processor running OS 9 or OS X with 128 MB of RAM. A USB port and 15 MB of hard drive space are also recommended, although a self-powered hub should work.
As I inserted the included CD, I ran into a slight problem. The documentation that Minolta includes recommends that you install under Classic; there is no mention of any way to install the printer directly under OS X. Each time I tried this, Classic refused to cooperate. The good news is that the printer easily installs under OS X using Print Center. Do not rely on the quick guide for help with OS X installation; the information is not there. In fact, the Minolta Web site has updated OS X installation directions for Jaguar and for earlier versions of OS X. The OS 9 directions included with the printer are easy to follow and work well. I set up this printer with a direct USB connection with no difficulty under OS 9.
Although I tested the printer for a day or two as a USB device, we have done most of our printing using the 1250E as a network printer. The procedure for accomplishing this will depend upon the print server you are using on your network. Generally, this will involve setting up the PagePro for IP printing. This is accomplished in the Print Center under OS X and through the Desktop Printer Utility under OS 9. For my configuration, I had to set the IP number of the printer to be the same as my router. All that is left after that is to load the included PPD file.
So far, I have been very impressed with this printer. The print quality is equal to that of other printers in this price range. I find 600 dpi printing to be adequate for printing most drafts, while 1200 dpi produces some very sharp text and graphics. Print speed is good with the installed 16 MB of RAM, but if you are going to be printing longer documents, splurge for a little extra memory. Having options for printing under USB, parallel, and IP networking is great and setup is easy.
The user-replaceable drum was an unexpected bonus. After all, the cost of replacing a drum was part of the reason we abandoned our previous printer. The only complaint I have with this printer is with the printed documentation. The printer works well with Jaguar, and the Web-based directions are good, but the printed documentation does not adequately address OS X installation. Other than that, it is an excellent printer for the home office or small workgroup.