Xerox WorkCentre C2424DP review
This is the world’s first solid ink multifunction device, and by the end of our testing it became clear that everyone should sit up and take note. Solid ink is a little-used but very civilised system, which is gradually gaining a following. In place of toner or liquid ink, blocks of what are effectively high-grade crayons are melted onto the page in fine dots.
Changing the ink is an actual joy. Under the scanner platen are four chutes into which you load coloured wax blocks; these are shaped in such a way as to make it impossible to fit the wrong colour in the wrong chute.
In fact, you don’t ‘change’ the ink at all; you simply keep it topped up by dropping in more wax blocks, so there’s no downtime while toner cartridges are being swapped. It’s a clean, simple system that has the added advantage of being environmentally friendly; Xerox claims it generates only a fortieth of the waste of a typical colour laser.
Solid ink is inherently forgiving in terms of media too. Since it lays down a layer of wax, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s printing onto bright white 100gsm presentation stock or 80gsm recycled paper; colours remain consistent.
Installation is simple. On a large mixed network of PCs and Macs, we were using the system at a simple level in less than an hour – including unpacking – without even glancing at the manual. Drivers are held on the printer itself and can be installed onto client PCs and Macs just by typing the printer’s IP address into a browser and clicking the install link. The unit will even show up as a UPnP device on any PC configured to detect it.
The documentation included with this device is nothing short of excellent. A handy pack with a quick reference guide and PDF manuals on CD is included, attachable to the side of the unit, and there’s extensive help accessible from the printer’s control panel itself. Not only is onscreen help provided, but you can print out attractive and helpful printing, scanning and copying guides. These aren’t exhaustive, but are pitched perfectly to help typical users get to grips with these functions. Menu maps and configuration pages are also available, and at all levels we were struck by the level of thought that had been given to making these genuinely useful.
Printing itself is reasonably fast. With default settings, we clocked it at just under 12ppm for both mono and full colour, and at a comparable rate when using the duplex mode, which comes as standard across the range. Processing is quick thanks to a 500MHz processor and, depending on the model, either 256MB or 512MB of RAM is fitted as standard.
Quality is more than adequate for the majority of business uses, right up to high-level presentation documents. It can struggle to produce smooth gradients in photographs, and light colours can look a little spotty, but the sheer vibrancy of the output makes up for this. In any event, the highest-resolution mode goes a long way to dealing with these concerns, and our tests showed that even with high-resolution images this resulted in a time penalty of only about four seconds per page.
Text is beautifully dense and black, and while the ultra-critical eye will discern slight coarseness when held inches from the nose, the overall impression is both polished and punchy. The layer of wax on the surface of the paper can be scratched, but it takes a deliberate effort, and it’s more than flexible enough to adhere to the substrate, even when heavily folded.
Scan quality is generally excellent; we expected poorer photo scanning quality from a machine primarily intended to be a document scanning system, but were pleasantly surprised to note how well the WorkCentre C2424DP coped with photos and illustrations. We’re not talking pre-press quality, but the built-in scanner is easily a match for the budget standalone alternatives. Four modes are available for scanning (which are naturally available as part of copying too), and the photo, graphics, mixed and text modes behave exactly as expected, doing an excellent job of optimising the original image.