Color printers narrow the speed gap
Printers from Lexmark, Oki Printing Solutions, and Xerox approach 36 ppm for color printingFollow @infoworld
The C920 product line sports Lexmark's improved control-panel design, located on the printer's large front door. Dedicated directional-arrow buttons make it easier to navigate the menus. A full numeric keypad makes entering IP addresses and PINs easy. Administrators can use a special key sequence at printer startup to invoke a secret Configure menu, which allows you, for example, to set the C920dn to black-only mode and turn off other control-panel menus.
The control panel's LCD has its pros and cons. It orients you by showing two levels of the menu hierarchy -- a good idea that would work better if the LCD were larger. It also helps you out of a paper jam by displaying a well-illustrated sequence of steps for clearing it. If the steps include opening the printer's front door, however, the LCD will swing out of view.
When we calculated the C920dn's cost of consumables, it came out looking a little pricier than the similar Oki C9600hdn. A single page of black text uses an expensive 3 cents' worth of consumables, while a lightly covered page of color uses a more reasonable 10.5 cents' worth. The toner cartridges supplied with the printer are a bit more than half full.
Lexmark's usually commendable documentation falls short on this model. The setup poster suffers from somewhat dark photos -- instead of illustrations -- and lacks explanatory text. The CD-based user guide focuses on end-user issues, so you'll have to visit Lexmark's Web site for network management information. One highlight is the stored documentation, printable via the control panel, which offers guidance on topics such as improving color quality and identifying defective components.
Lexmark sells numerous options for the C920dn. Additional 550-sheet paper drawers cost $561 each; a 3,000-sheet paper deck costs $1,311. A 1,000-sheet finisher for $1,999 can staple or perform three-hole drills. An additional 256MB of memory costs a stiff $1,259 from Lexmark, but off-the-shelf modules should be cheaper. To bump the standard 256MB of memory past 512MB, you must remove the installed module.
Oki Printing Solutions C9600hdn
The tabloid-size, LED-based OKi C9600hdn costs more than the similar Lexmark C920dn we tested, but it also offers more, including a faster engine, a 20GB hard drive, and 384MB of RAM. Blistering text speed and better text quality, plus less-expensive consumables, put it a cut above the C920dn. Changes to our tests prevent us from extensively comparing the C9600hdn directly to the Xerox Phaser 7750DN that we rated highest last year, but it seems to offer worthy -- and lower-priced -- competition.
The C9600hdn printed text at an outstanding 28.7 ppm in our new tests. The slightly glossy black toner might be hard for some to read, but the text looked sharp even at smaller sizes. Graphics managed a more pedestrian 7.7 ppm and, aside from vivid reds, looked somewhat muted overall. Color gradations looked blocky and made sudden jumps. Color photos we printed looked vivid, sharp, and realistic. Grayscale photos seemed faded and showed moiré or interference patterns, but they retained details well.