Lexmark C734dn colour laser printer

Lexmark‘s C734dn colour laser printer ($899 at this writing) has an overenthusiastic colour palette and a few small design problems. Nevertheless, it should satisfy most mainstream offices with its speed, cheap toner, and features aplenty.

The C734dn printed plain, black text at a zippy rate of 27.6 pages per minute in our tests–pretty close to Lexmark’s spec of 30 ppm. Graphics speeds topped out at just 4.4 ppm, but that’s still speedier than most printers. Colour images we printed at default settings looked vivid; but at higher-quality settings, noticeable over-saturation set in: orangey flesh tones, flowers that practically glowed. The C734dn’s driver includes some basic colour management utilities, and these may come in handy.

The C734dn’s generous set of standard features includes a 550-sheet input tray, a 100-sheet multipurpose tray (MPT), and a 300-sheet output tray. Need more? An optional 550-sheet input tray costs $299; a 550-sheet drawer for narrower media (such as envelopes) costs $359. An optional, 2000-sheet input feeder costs $599. Automatic duplexing is available for both letter- and legal-size paper. The MPT can take banner paper up to 36 inches in length–an unusual feature for this category. The front control panel includes a 2.7-inch, 20-degree-tiltable, four-line monochrome LCD and the usual navigation controls.

A few, mostly small, design problems are worth noting. The unlabeled latch that unfolds the 100-sheet MPT could easily be mistaken for the handle to pull out the main input tray. The USB/PictBridge port is a great convenience, but the LCD-based interface times out quickly, returning you to the main screen. There, it’s not obvious that you must select the “Held jobs” option to return to the USB drive’s directories.

My biggest complaint is with the toner-cartridge design. The photo-conducting drums are arrayed on the inside of the printer’s front panel and lie exposed as you lift and pull out the toner cartridges (each with another integrated drum) using small finger-holds. A butterfingered user could easily drop a cartridge right onto the drums. The cartridge bays lack instructions or prompts to help you insert replacements.

On the brighter side, the toner itself is cheap. The machine ships with 4000-page, starter-size black (K), cyan (C), magenta (M), and yellow (Y) cartridges. The standard-size replacements are inexpensive: the 8,000-page black cartridge costs $134, or 1.7 cents per page, while each 6000-page color cartridge costs $212, or 3.5 cents per page. A page with all four colours would cost an economical 12.3 cents per page.

The Lexmark C734dn has a few quirks and a colour palette in need of adjustment. Nevertheless, it offers the speed, features, and expandability to keep most mainstream offices happy for a while–and the cheap toner is icing on the cake.

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