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Colour Versus Monochrome Photocopiers

There is a wide range of factors to consider when looking for the right photocopier for your company. Aside from the budget, you need to specify what you are going to use it for whether it is for a short project or a lifetime’s use. With models ranging from a few hundred pounds to over thousands of pounds, it is important to select the right machine on your specified budget without sacrificing quality, consistency and features.

The first decision you need to make is whether to buy a coloured copier or a monochrome (black and white) one.

Colour versus Black and White

A black and white copier is generally cheaper than a coloured one so if it will suffice, you can save some money. On the other hand, a colour copier may turn out good copies but it has slower print and copy speeds.  They also require more maintenance and you need to replace cartridges more frequently. Aside from that, some machines require you to change several ink cartridges but if you require high volumes of color copying or you have a design firm or print shop, invest in a high quality color copy machine.

Monochrome devices usually only make copies in grayscale but you can always upgrade your machine. There are now monochrome copiers in the market that boast of high quality prints, comparable to their coloured counterparts. These also give you increased performance if you want speed in your office. Another advantage is they are more durable. Finally, their ink cartridges and/or toners are more affordable than those for colour copiers. You will also find that they have a higher output.  These give you the greatest value for your money.

It is easy to find a black and white copier. You can just review its features and find one that suits your requirements. A colour copier is trickier as it requires several considerations. Here is a guide on how to find the best colour copier for your office.

Smart Rating

First, let’s look at the machine’s Smart Rating. This is an unbiased  Quantitative Rating of the product’s features and other metrics. Metrics include Monthly Duty Cycle, First Copy Out Time, Color Copy Speed, etc.

The range includes Min, Average and Max. Min range is from 1 to 12. Average is from 13 to 54 and Max is from 55 to 90. These are color coded as Red, Yellow and Green respectively.

Cartridge Life

This is a good indicator of the efficiency of a machine but your actual output will often vary drastically. The output depends on how your device is calibrated.

Warm Up Time

This is the amount of time the machine needs in order to make the first copy. Lower models warm up quickly whereas devices that are used to produce large quantities of copies require a longer warm up time. This is so they can achieve higher copy speeds and keep up with the volume you require.

The fastest warm up time in a colour copier is 4.5 seconds.

First Copy Out Time

This feature goes hand-in-hand with the previous category. This is important if you want to use the device primarily for single copies. Many copiers sacrifice the maximum black copy speed to ensure that the first copy out time is fast. If you need a copier for large volume output, this feature is not so important.

Black and White Copy Speed

You may be buying a colour copier but the black and white copy speed is also important. This speed is based on the speed at which the machine is able to make letter-sized copies of a given image. The measurement is called PPM or Pages Per Minute. The average speed that offices usually look for is 30 to 60 pages per minute.

The fastest colour copier speed for black and white copies is 105 ppm.


There are two technologies that copiers utilize when printing – inkjet and laser. Inkjet copiers are non-impact. They use special nozzles to spray ink droplets to print text and images on a blank sheet of paper. They can print high-res photos and images. Although these are great printers, they are not advisable for office or business use as they require frequent ink cartridge replacements. These are ideal for personal or home office use.

Laser copiers utilize the same non-impact printing. These use lasers and toners to reproduce detailed graphics and text. They are also faster but have a longer warm-up time. These are ideal for medium to large businesses or companies that require large copy volumes.

Hybrid copiers are suitable for businesses that require some colour printing. Users can switch between black and white and colour modes. This can save a company money on colour machine consumables such as toner, developer, fuser oil and paper.

Monthly Duty Cycle

This is the maximum volume that an equipment can handle according to its manufacturer. It is advisable that you purchase a copier that has a higher monthly duty cycle than your actual expected use. Although this is a good indicator of the overall durability of the machine, using it for volumes at this specification monthly would also require regular maintenance and consumables replacement.

The largest monthly duty cycle of a colour copier is 600,000 pages.

Finishing Features


Not all machines have finishing features. These features help with multi-page documents. One of the most common features is an automatic stapler. Many models now include booklet creators and 2 or 3-hole punchers.  This is especially helpful for companies that want a complete copy and distribution solution.

What to Watch Out For

Being swayed by features

One can easily be swayed to purchase a top-of-the-line model but more often than not, the office does not need it or cannot utilize all its features efficiently. If you only need a model for everyday use, you don’t need a machine that has a copy speed of more than 50. Models that exceed this speed are more expensive. They are recommended for offices that require hundreds or thousands of copies.

Do you really need a colour photocopier?

It’s great to have the latest colour photocopier but at what cost? If you have a tight budget or a home/small office, you should think twice before purchasing a coloured model. They have significantly lower copy speeds and lower first copy out time than their monochrome counterparts. Additionally, the cost is almost never justified even if you put the maximum life of the device into consideration.

Make the right copy volume estimates

The service contract price is based on the copy volume estimates but your actual usage will fluctuate from month to month. Be careful of contracts that state a monthly copy volume that seems too large. Keep in mind that users are not reimbursed for the difference if this number is not met. On the other hand, if your numbers go beyond your limit, you may be charged for every copy you make above it. If you still don’t know your copy volume, look for a service plan that charges you for each copy you make or based on the estimated annual number.

Service Technicians

Your contract should stipulate when and how repairs will be done. If you have an IT department, have someone from it speak to your supplier’s technician to gauge his experience and expertise. Check their references as well.

Service Contract Coverage

This usually covers labour charges and parts costs for repairs and maintenance. Parts that break during use are usually covered and so are parts that wear out over time (cleaning blades, fuser rollers, etc.). Get a comprehensive list of what is covered so you can compare plans. Consumables are usually not included but you can always get an all-inclusive contract which covers maintenance, consumables and service calls.