The Test Lab
We have been testing office and production printing and imaging equipment in our own lab, or at manufacturers' or partner's premises - since 2009.
We analyze related software solutions too (document capture, content services, print accounting, follow me, fleet management, web to print, variable data, print ERP - etc.) as well as the simpler apps available on many office machines.
Our aim is always to identify the main characteristics of all these products, and to evaluate their performance in real-world, business scenarios.
We test productivity
The DataMaster Lab technical team take a scientific approach, carrying out a standard set of tests in copy, print and scan modes on every machine we test. Further specific tests are designed for Production machines.
These tests are designed to reflect the real world in which business multifunctions and professional printing machines are to be found. The DataMaster Lab Test Suite goes much further than simply testing the speed of a machine against the spec for A4.
Our office productivity tests adhere to ISO/IEC 24734:2014 (print mode) and 24735:2012 (copy mode), and deliver the same results - FSOT, EFTP/ESAT - plus a lot more besides.
The ISO Productivity test standards are rudimentary, and do not cover feature tests.
For scanners, we run our own productivity tests. We evaluate performance at all resolutions, in black, grey and colour.
We identify the overall productivity of the scanner and its software. Manufacturers never mention this. This is the time it takes to both scan and process (ocr and/or compress) the images. Products vary a great deal, from a few seconds to nearly two minutes for exactly the same job.
The impact on productivity of different options and features makes all the difference to sales people and to their customers - and this is why we do these tests!
We test quality
Identical documents printed on identical highest-quality paper are the basis of DataMaster Lab print quality benchmarking.
We look at gradients, solids, small characters, color registration, and at graphics and photographs for resolution and contrast issues. For Production machines we go further. Quality benchmarks are set in the market context.
It is our job to highlight those low-end machines with surprisingly high quality output – and the expensive machines you should probably not try to sell to a marketing department.
As with our measurements of Productivity, our evaluations of Print Quality adhere to the ISO approach - the standards for print quality testing being defined in ISO/IEC TS 24790:2017 and 29186 (R2018).
For scanners, we carry out standard tests with test charts, and run our own demanding, standardized image quality tests too. Key aspects include how well very small texts can be read by OCR software, and how well fine-lined charts and graphics can be read.
We identify the optimal compression settings required to generate the smallest files that retain image quality adequately.
As always, we focus on providing the means to differentiate between competing machines.
To help you with your analyses, DataMaster Lab attributes a single Overall Evaluation (a simple score out of ten) based on both manufacturers' specifications and our own independent laboratory testing. This note changes over time since all the calculations are based on live market data and ongoing testing.
We review productivity, print quality, scan quality, how easy it is to use the machine, device security, environmental aspects, features and functions, and so on.
In addition to the Overall Evaluation we issue two other accreditations:
The DataMaster Lab Certificate: issued only for machines which have undergone the full battery of lab tests, the number of stars given (up to a rare maximum of five) depends on the overall evaluation at the time of accreditation.
The DataMaster Lab Print Awards: with multiple categories and divided by market segment, our annual Awards recompense manufacturers for products with market-leading strengths directly applicable in the real, business world.
The GREEN Award:
For outstanding environmental credentials - a machine's energy consumption, its chemical and sound emissions, and also the longevity of its consumables.
Best Performance in Work Groups:
For highest productivity in a busy working environment; how a machine handles multiple, simultaneous job requests; whether a multifunction can RIP, scan and print simultaneously.
Best Office Printing Quality:
For the best print quality - in terms of resolution and contrast, gradients, solids, and very small characters.
Best Scan Productivity:
For the fastest scanner, based on tests including color, monochrome, simplex and duplex originals - and processing at different resolutions and compression settings.
Easiest to Use Office Copier:
For the easiest and quickest to use office multifunction. Our test teams know the interfaces, drivers, webpages and many other aspects of all the brands' products in all segments. Our rigorous analyses are based on defined indicators and are both scientific and objective.
Best First Copy Out Time (FCOT):
In the print Olympics, the is the sprint medal. It is given for absolute, stopwatch results. Our tests show that the real time needed to deliver the first copy almost always far exceeds that stated by the brand! The winners of this Award do not keep their users waiting.
Best Productivity in Duplex:
For fastest double-sided production, in A4 and A3. Most machines can now run faster in duplex onto A4/Letter, but only a few can onto A3. Saving paper should not cost time.
Best Scan File Size:
For the smallest output files - which makes a lot of diffierence when archiving. The output file size of several standardized scanning tests varies a great deal, even for identical resolution and compression settings. The winners of this Award make archiving and document sharing more efficient.
9-axis Radar Chart
Broad evaluation: broken down into NINE axes:
- Print quality
AND weighted for different verticals: public sector, work groups, graphical arts ....