By Noel Ward, Executive Editor February 2, 2004 -- Solid ink has long been an interesting technology. And there's a satisfying simplicity to loading a digital printer with what are essentially crayons and having it turn out great looking documents. Every time I see one of these machines I think I ought to get one, but never seem to get around to it. The new Phaser 8400 may change that. Xerox acquired Tektronix a few years ago and brought its engineering expertise to bear on solid ink technology, and added some color science and paper handling knowledge as well. The latest model should eliminate a lot of the excuses for making do with monochrome printing in homes, small offices and many corporate workgroups. The Phaser 8400 delivers 24 ppm, with the first page coming out in just 6 seconds. Its starting price of $999 is a $500 price drop from its predecessor, the 8200, and has an improved paper path, higher print resolution, new inks, among several other features. Easy to Buy and Own Anyone who has paid for the care and feeding of a small color laser printer knows the consumable costs add up quickly. Xerox was quick to demonstrate this on the stage in New York. A Phaser 8400 uses some 40-odd pounds of consumables and associated packaging to print 100,000 pages. To demonstrate this, a little girl named Gabby hauled her red Radio Flyer wagon on stage, loaded with the requisite consumables for the Phaser 8400. By comparison, the competing HP LaserJet 4600, will consume well over 200 pounds of consumables and packaging to handle those pages, a volume of waste brought on stage by several burly guys in coveralls. The difference is one that any small business can readily appreciate. Phaser 7750 Brings Affordable Power to Designers Also introduced was the new Xerox Phaser 7750, a 35 ppm, color laser printer that can handle paper up to 12 x 18-inches and produces a first page in just 11 seconds. It brings affordable, high quality color printing to designers and graphic artists who have often had to go outside for accurate prints. The 7750 features PhaserMatch 3.0, an enhanced color-matching tool that allows customers to create color proofs that will accurately match the color output produced on an offset printing press. In addition, there's a new color-calibration software application called PhaserCal that guarantees accurate and consistent color so the first print looks exactly like the last. These tools are critical for graphic designers who need to expedite creation and delivery of comps and press proofs to clients without the cost and workflow disruption of using an outside service. It's interesting how technology changes the ways we think or shifts our perceptions. Neither of these color machines are the production-level devices we typically cover at On Demand Journal. But maybe we should recalibrate our thinking about what machines are out there and how people use them. These Phasers are digital print engines that produce pages quickly, economically and offer quality that was unavailable on high-end machines even a few years ago. They can be easily networked and change they way even small businesses can use digital color printing, everyday, for almost any document. At the affordable prices Xerox is offering, it could well be that office and workgroup printers will all be color before very long.