I own an EPSON Stylus Photo RX640 printer which prints really good on special paper media, but is rather poor when it comes to normal (>75%) printing on plain papers. Beside that it's also quite expensive because cartridges are very expensive compared to others.
I'm considering buying a colour laser printer that should keep printing costs down on the long run. but I don't know what to expect in terms of print quality? Can a reasonably priced (less than 500â‚¬) colour laser be used for close to proof printing? Do you maybe use one? Which one and what would you change to make it better?
What would you buy if you had to buy again?
Can colour lasers print on special media like glossy papers and similar? Is the effect any good at all?
My experience is that the low-end color laser printers don't offer that accurate of color. If you want something that is going to offer reasonably accurate color for proofing, then you'll need one of the better Xerox, Tektronix, or Canon printers that allows you to accurately calibrate color as well as add on some kind of a RIP, Fiery being the best of the bunch (at least historically and the last I had to deal with this a couple years ago). It wasn't until we started looking in the $1000+ range that we started seeing accurate Pantone representations as part of the feature set.
You will also have to do an in-depth cost comparison about supply cost. I agree that inkjet is horribly expensive (it's just criminal, if you ask me), but the higher-end color printers also have extra supplies beyond just toner that we didn't realize we needed at the time of purchase, things like waste toner cartridges and fuser rolls. Some of those parts got to be very expensive, running into thousands upon thousands of dollars a year. For subsequent printers we have purchased, we were sure to get a supplies contract through the reseller and that helped to offset the cost and maintenance work. The high-end printers are more reliable these days, but they are still more work than your typical low-end ones.
I feel I should qualify that last paragraph by stating that we have a stable of about five designers who do almost exclusively 4/c work, and about a few dozen production folks who make 4/c color books, so our volume and needs are fairly high compared to the typical design firm. But I do feel the over-arching point that you get what you pay for here still applies. If you can afford it, widen your search.