Despite a few parts that I assume were jostled loose during shipping, this color laser printer performed quite well. While the plastic lip near the system board access cover was slightly damaged, and a lever that controls the amount of printouts was broken, neither affected the printer's operation. The black-and-white prints were crisp and clear, and the graphic color prints were sharp. Photos, however, didn't come out so hot, often turning out overly pale, orange or streaked.

The bad news is the high cost of toner. High-yield color cartridges cost $374 a pop -- for separate cyan, magenta and yellow toner -- and print up to 15,000 pages, while regular-yield color cartridges cost $260 a piece and print up to 6,000 pages. Black high-yield cartridges run $170 and a regular-yield cartridge costs $138.25. We ran out of black toner at just past 6,000 copies.

The company literature says the machine prints 25 pages per minute, but I found that it printed closer to 18 pages per minute.

At 105 lbs., the machine is quite heavy, so users will want to assemble a team to lift it, and since the power switch is on the back, make sure the printer is placed properly for easy access to the switch. It also measures 20.8 by 23.8 by 18.5 inches, so make ample room for it.

Since I'm used to our department's much smaller, relatively quiet laser printer, the Lexmark sounded like an airplane taking flight in comparison. It actually operates at 52 decibels -- just above the average refrigerator -- so the noise level shouldn't bother those who work in large offices.

The input tray easily handles a ream of paper, and the printer can manage a variety of paper types, including card stock, envelopes, glossy paper, labels and transparencies, as well as outdoor media and banner paper. The printer can also take an option card, memory card, firmware, flash memory and hard disk.

Users can print statistics that reveal toner levels and the number of pages printed -- even whether the pages were color or black and white. The black-and-white lock setting allows for the option to prevent users from color printing, operating as if the color toner has been removed from the printer. Administrators can assign user IDs to those with permission to print color documents.

For agencies needing networking flexibility and sharp color graphics, with multiple options for paper handling, this may be just the printer for the job.

Specifications:

  • Maximum resolution (black and white/color): 1200x1200 dpi

  • Processor: 600 MHz

  • Memory: 128 MB (standard), 512 MB maximum

  • Paper handling options:

    --3,000-sheet finisher (staple, hole punch, job offset)

    --5-bin mailbox

    --650-sheet output expander

    --Duplex unit

    --2,000-sheet drawer

    --500-sheet drawer (up to three)

    --Envelope drawer

    --Banner media tray (up to 8.27 by 36 inches)

    --Outdoor media drawer

  • Standard ports: Ethernet 10/100 base TX (RJ-45), one internal card slot, USB-compatible with USB 2.0 specification

    Price: $1,799

    Rating: 4 out of 5

    Miriam Jones  |  Chief Copy Editor