Printer recommendations for proofing?

What printer would you recommend for proofing purposes, today? $500 or under would be nice since I'm an independent designer.

Ideally, the minimum requirements would be:
- true 1200 dpi,
- Adobe PostScript 3
- laser printer technology

Are there other minimum requirements I should be considering?

In the U.S., the low-end cost for 1200 dpi plus Adobe PostScript 3 seems to be above $1,000. To get something around the $500 mark and below usually means going with the vendor's PostScript 3 emulation. In the past, I wanted to stay away from most emulations. If I lived in Australia, I'd probably try out the Fuji Xerox DocuPrint P355d (which hits the under $500 mark with Adobe PostScript 3 and 1200 dpi).

Are there printers with PostScript 3 emulation and 1200 dpi that work well enough? 2400 dpi, though nice to have, seems to make the price increase a lot.

[Posting in Software since there wasn't a Hardware category.]


  • I recommend getting samples printed so you can make an informed decision. has a Test Drive service where you can get printed samples from your file on up to three different printers for about $20. I used their service before I bought my Ricoh Aficio because I wanted a printer that would show detail accurately, and the test prints provided the answers I needed.

    One of the surprising things I learned from the test prints was just how crappy a certain famous brand is (or maybe was); it saved me a lot of money because I would have thought theirs was the best.

    On their home page, click on Test Drive and read more about it.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,966
    edited April 2013
    I picked up a Lexmark 260D last year and it’s been great. 1200 DPI, Postscript 3, duplexer, doesn’t jam, doesn’t require screwy control software. And it’s got an ethernet jack. They sell on Amazon for $120 I don’t expect it to last for more than two or three years, but at this price these suckers are practically disposable. The toner isn’t cheap, but it’s less expensive than the toner for my last two printers was, and neither of those was as reliable as the Lexmark.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,703
    That sounds pretty great! However, it fails one of Jeff's requirements in that Lexmark uses a PostScript emulation, not Adobe PostScript.

    The last time I was well versed in such matters (about six years ago), I recall that within Adobe, Lexmark's PostScript was considered a famously bad emulation, one of the worst on the market from a major printer vendor. Not sure if this is true today, but I have put an inquiry in to somebody who knows this stuff.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,966
    Lexmark uses a PostScript emulation, not Adobe PostScript.
    I double check and it is listed as emulated and not true PS. Funny, I thought this one was the real deal.
  • Thanks, Thomas! I'd be curious to hear how the emulation implementations are doing these days. If there are ones good enough to save some money in the short-term, then I may go down that road. I did know that the Lexmark printers weren't true Adobe PostScript.

    I'd also be happy to hear what people use for printing proofs (even if outside my requirements list above). Though I'd prefer new, I may consider getting an older used printer (with appropriate recommendations).
  • Not sure if it's got true PS, but I'm pretty happy w/ my HP P2055d. It's 1200dpi, very compact, and pretty reliable. When I think I've got something fairly tight and want to see how it might look printed offset, I sometimes send out to the corner service bureau for 2450dpi Xerox Docucolor output. $3/page. That's scary sharp.
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  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,940
    What Xerox model(s) do you recommend, James? We got some test pages from a Xerox rep, but were not impressed; mind you, we had great difficulty explaining to him what we were looking for.
  • I've had a Xerox Phaser 4510 for a few years. It's been great. At the time, it was the cheapest monochrome laser printer I found with true PostScript.

    I also have an HP Laserjet Whatever.

    The problem with PS emulation is that it tends to be particularly inaccurate at text sizes. The HP emulator prints heavy; my now-discarded Lexmark's emulator printed light. Whereas my proofs from the Xerox have always been very accurate (compared to professionally printed versions of the same documents).
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  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,703
    edited April 2013
    My usual source was non-committal on which PostScript emulations were better or worse these days, and basically said they all have issues with serious/complex documents.

    That being said, for just printing text samples, I would expect most of them are just fine... though I'd never get one myself.
  • Alex KaczunAlex Kaczun Posts: 163
    If color & b/w laser print quality with true PS is important than consider this one:
    Price $1199 high, but great output and economical toner cartridges.
  • Flag this as "off topic" but I think it's worth mentioning:

    Two days of printer talk and no spam!

    Good job, James and Vanilla!
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,703
    edited April 2013
    Alex: Lexmark is using PostScript emulation, not Adobe's PostScript.
  • Eris AlarEris Alar Posts: 418
    Thomas, what would/do you use?
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,703
    edited April 2013
    Sye: I have an ancient, lumbering Xerox Phaser 7300 DN. It is a color, duplexing, tabloid LED printer with Adobe PostScript 3. It weighs 150 pounds. Kind of specialized kit, but handy for some of my projects. Not at all suitable for Jeff’s needs!

    Unfortunately, I am not up to speed on current models, particularly in high-res b&w. For color and Adobe PS3, I would look at some of the current Xerox Phaser models.
  • The Phaser 6140 does a nice job with text and proofs CMYK color (if not alignment, in my experience) well. If it's PostScript you want, avoid HP like the plague. Its emulator is pretty lousy; for one thing, the overshoots on CFF-flavored OpenType fonts for glyphs like o, u, a, etc. get nudged up to the baseline. Reading Scala or Arnhem or Minion printed on a LaserJet is like riding a roller coaster of WTF.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,703
    edited April 2013
    Does HP *still* have the bug of enforcing blue zone snap regardless of ppem size? Good lord, that was an bug for their printers about ten years ago.

    Fwiw, HP and Lexmark started with the same PostScript emulation, although their code bases have forked since then.
  • Yes, still, believe it or not. I remember posting to Typophile about it in 2006/7.
  • Slight off topic Thomas might be able to answer—why do printer manufacturers bother with postscript emulation? Is it purely a licensing thing? Or does it spring out of some idea that they can improve print quality by making their own?
  • Wild thought: since InterPress came straight out of Xerox PARC in the mid 1970's, would it be reasonable to expect the Xerox PostScript emulation to be better than the competition?
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  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,648
    I've got a Ricoh Aficio AP610N laser printer that I'm pretty happy with. It's 1200 x 1200 dpi, can print on tabloid size paper, and has Adobe PS3. The model is no longer available, however. Their current line up doesn't seem to include a model with both full 1200 dpi and Adobe PS3.
  • I'm a bit late to this thread, but I thought I'd throw in my two cents to resolve a misconception: when it comes to resolution, more is not necessarily better. A number of manufacturers use various optimization techniques, both hardware and software tweaks, to improve dot placement and dot accuracy. That means a well-engineered 600 dpi printer may well be better than a less well-engineered 1200 dpi model. I have a Xerox Phaser 6280, a 600 dpi CMYK PS3 machine, which I chose for several reasons: It's very inexpensive; the consumables are more-or-less reasonable, at least insofar as I don't print very much color on it (and they offer a high-volume black cartridge); and, most importantly, it indicates type weight quite accurately for my work, which is largely print. For color proofing I use an Epson inkjet printer, which can be adjusted to various press and paper profiles. But for typographic work, the Xerox printer is first rate. And there's a bonus: Xerox still has the best patents for paper delivery and their machines hardly every jam.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,703
    Colin: I *think* it is purely a licensing thing. As in, they want to pay a lot less than Adobe would charge them. I do not see that they have a lot of freedom to improve output quality while maintaining PS compatibility, except in ways they could have done while licensing PS from Adobe.

    But I will freely admit, at the end of the day I am not a printer hardware guy, even though I did do a lot towards getting the font subsystem working for PostScript 3.
  • In case my post wasn't clear: the Xerox 6140 is a native PS machine, while the HP (sorely) is not. And I second the Ricoh recommendation; I have the same model as Mark (largely because of recommendations on a thread on Typophile a few years ago) and it's a great machine.
  • It is well over your price range but I can share what our configuration is.
    At the studio we have settled on a Xerox 7525 + fiery controller. Color DIN-A3, True PS, 1200dpi.
    The beast cost around €12000 so we went for a leasing contract, including toner, parts & maintenance, that's around €300 per month.
    We studied Ricoh but they have poor addressing of the graphic arts specifics. Did not study offer from any other manufacturer.
  • Curious: Is there a reasons besides toner costs to go with a monochrome over a color printer? I'm doing like 80% proofing type, but the other 20% would be nice in color. The monochrome Phaser 5550 and color Phaser 7500 are in similar in price and non-color specs.
  • I'd say that mostly depends on the rasterization technology and its ultimate output. I had an HP color laser that was great for quick color mock-ups, but its handling of black text resembled the kind of ink spread you'd get with a cheap inkjet on bond paper. (I found the printer for $25 at a thrift store and figured it was worth a try.) An older model Xerox color laser I used regularly at a print design firm I worked at had results much truer to black text printed offset.
  • Ramiro EspinozaRamiro Espinoza Posts: 838
    edited May 2013
    I am happy with my refurnished Nashua/Ricoh P7026N. True postscript, A3, 1200 DPI. It costed me 500 EUR.
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