The printer takes a while to warm up from switch-on or from sleep mode, as the ink has to be softened before it can be used. The drum inside the printer is heated to do this and a thin coating of silicon oil is applied so the ink doesn't stick to it when a page is printed. All colours are applied at once, through a form of inkjet head which runs the full width of the paper. The ink sets as it cools, but doesn't need a fuser like a laser printer. There's very little inkjet-style run, either, as the ink is much more viscous, even when it's warm.
Xerox rates the Phaser at 30ppm for both black and colour prints, but as usual it's hard to see how these ratings are produced. Our five-page black text print and the five-page text and colour graphics job both took around 25 seconds, giving 12ppm. This is a very respectable speed, and you can get full photographic pages at the same speed as text. A single page, full-colour photocopy took 18 seconds, so no hanging about for walk-up copies.
Print quality is very good. Text and graphics have a noticeable sheen that some people may not like, but text is very clean - certainly up to laser quality - and colours are vibrant and solid, as you might expect from the resin-based inks used. Our photographic test piece came through looking surprisingly natural and while not up to the standard of the best inkjets, is better than from most colour lasers we've reviewed.
A special word for the photocopy we took of our text and colour graphics page, which was so close to the original we needed to write ‘copy' on the back to distinguish it.
The only aspect of the printer's performance that wasn't impressive is the sound level when printing. We measured this at peaks of 74dBA, which is very loud and as with many other printers, it's the paper-feed mechanism which makes the noise, not the printing itself.
The only running costs are ink and a maintenance kit, which renews the silicon oil and its applicator every 10,000 or 30,000 pages, depending on whether you buy the standard or high-yield consumable. Each ink stick lasts for around 1,150 pages and if you buy the sticks in what Xerox calls a Rainbow Pack, you see some good cost per page figures. There are two Rainbow Packs, one with three sticks of each colour and the other with three each of cyan, magenta and yellow, plus six black.
Working with this 15-stick pack gives a cost per page for black pages of 2.41p and for colour, 6.19p. The colour price is lthe lowest we've seen from a colour laser multifunction printer and the black cost is also lower than the vast majority of its laser-based rivals.
There's a lot going for the Phaser 8560MFP-N. It produces very good colour prints, not quite up to inkjet standard when you're looking at photographic output, but better than a colour laser. Colour copies are very close to the originals they're copied from.
Running costs are really low, particularly when printing colour pages, and you even get a warm and fuzzy feeling from the eco-friendly solid ink sticks, which come with minimal packaging and no toner or drum cartridges to recycle. It's noisy while printing and the asking price is over £1,000, so it's not an impulse purchase. However, as a proofing tool in flash offices or design studios it could well prove very cost-effective and Xerox is offering £200 cashback until the end of July 2008. This seems like a very good deal to us.