One of the main reasons printer makers think they can keep prices high is if they offer high-speed. The FS-6970DN is rated at 37ppm single-sided and 17ppm in duplex mode. These speeds exclude processing time, which always seems a bit of a cheat to us, as you have to wait for processing and printing before you can walk away with your finished document.
Timing the complete cycle for a five-page text document gives a real-world print speed of 13.6ppm, but this rises to 21.8ppm when printing a 20-page job, where the processing time is a smaller proportion of the overall cycle. Even so, it's some way off 37ppm. Our five-page text and graphics document took 29 seconds, which is 10.34ppm and this is very close to the speed of a 20-page, A3 document, too.
Printing in duplex mode, which the printer handles very neatly, produced speeds of 15.38spm for A4 and 6.82spm for A3. Finally a 15 x 10cm photo print on A4 takes 23 seconds. Overall, while this printer is certainly quick, it's not as quick as it's made out to be.
The main thing the FS-6970DN will be required to print is text and it does this reasonably cleanly, though there's a little more fuzz around characters than we expected. This may be because the printer prints A4 pages sideways and you're more likely to notice a dispersal of toner along the long sides of characters, as opposed to their shorter tops and bottoms. This theory is supported by the portrait A3 pages we printed, which showed cleaner characters.
Greyscale graphics are printed lighter than from some other machines and fills in particular are quite spare. On the other hand, our photo test picture shows quite a bit of mottling in an area of sky and most shadow detail is lost.
As toner is the only consumable on this machine and with the TK-450 cartridge offering 15,000 pages for just under £80, page costs come out commendably low. Even including 0.7p for paper, which is our norm, the machine is only costing 1.15p per A4 page. This is a very good figure and may be the most important purchase factor.
We've been in the business of testing printers long enough to know the way the world works. You pay extra for speed and you pay extra for printing larger pages. On this basis, just under £900 for this A3, mono laser compares well with A3 models from other suppliers. It's cheap to run, too and easy to maintain. Print quality is only average, though, and paper tray capacity is decidedly meagre.