Xerox’s Phaser technology, bought into the company with its purchase of Tektronix a few years back, is unique among colour business printers. Unlike laser or ink-jet machines, the Phaser uses blocks of solid ink to print with. The ink is softened on a heated drum before being transferred to the paper and needs no fuser nor multiple layers of print, as a colour laser does.
The Phaser 8550DP is a big printer, weighing in at 28kg and taking up a lot of room on the desk. It has a straightforward design, including a front-loading paper tray, which can take a full ream of paper. The paper path is extremely simple, with each sheet passing over the heated ink drum and ejecting to the top surface of the printer. At the front is a six-line, back-lit LCD panel and a cluster of six control buttons.
Above the main paper tray is a fold down multi-purpose feed, which can be used for envelopes or special media. Indeed, the Phaser’s solid ink technology is especially suited to printing on unusual papers. It also has a duplexer as standard, so you can easily print on both sides of the paper.
A fold-out side panel provides access to the mains socket and to the printer’s two connection options: USB 2.0 and 10/100 Ethernet. Network sharing is supplied as standard on this model. Options include up to two extra 525-sheet paper trays, extra memory to increase the supplied 256MB to 1GB and a hard drive for holding complex jobs and queuing multiple ones in a network environment.
Setup could hardly be easier. Lifting an access cover at the rear of the machine’s top panel reveals four loaders for the solid ink. Drop sticks of each colour through the holes in the loader and they slide down to the head and it’s ready for printing. The solid ink sticks are uniquely shaped, so you can only put the right colour in each loader.
Software installation is also straightforward, as you simply connect the printer up and run the supplied CD. You don't have to load the drivers before making connection, as they follow the standard Windows New Device installation. Network management software is available from the Xerox web site, but not included on the CD.
The Phaser 8550ADP is a PostScript 3 device with a genuine Adobe interpreter included. It’s also Pantone-calibrated, so colours can be set to closely match colour swatches.