Fast letter-size printers feed the need for speed
Dell, Toshiba monochrome printers match up well; management, add-on extras make the differenceFollow @infoworld
The 5310n’s text looks black but not bold black, and very small text breaks up somewhat, though at normal sizes it looks quite clean. Large fields of gray background have some streakiness. But, surprisingly for a monochrome laser printer, it does well on photos, printing them light enough and clean enough to capture contrast and detail.
Dell is known for its OpenManage system management tools, and you can download the OpenManage Printer Manager module for the 5310n. (You can run the printer module on a MySQL server without the rest of OpenManage.)
OpenManage Printer Manager reports on your fleet, giving you alerts about paper jams and periodic predictions of how many toner cartridges will soon run dry, for example. It’s also useful for batch-updating driver settings and user permissions, and a facilities-tracking component helps pinpoint and redeploy printers that are overused or underused. I am disappointed that the module doesn’t do job-billing, though.
Dell skimps on the supplied toner cartridge/imaging drum. The 5310n includes a 10,000-page “starter” unit -- replacements come in 20,000-page and 30,000-page models ($210 and $280, respectively, if you return the empties). The 5310n’s fuser is specified to last 300,000 pages. By my consumables-pricing model, that would be about six years, or longer than you may own the printer.
Including the fuser price, the operating costs work out to about 1.02 cents a page, which is still reasonable. Dell is also one of the few companies in the printer market that prices extra memory to sell: You can bump up the standard 128MB to 256MB for $38, to 384MB for $70, or to 640MB for $113.
Toshiba e-Studio 500P
Despite being housed in a different shell, the e-Studio 500P is clearly built from the same base printer as the Dell 5310n. (And, while I’m letting cats out of bags, that base printer is Lexmark’s T644n, which I didn’t test here.)
The 500P is the same size and weight as the Dell, has essentially identical paper trays, and looks the same on the inside. It differs from the Dell significantly, however, on some usability issues. I really like the Toshiba control panel, but unfortunately, the installation needs some fine-tuning.
Toshiba may have left its install routine in an unrefined state because the company doesn’t expect customers to see it. Toshiba assumes most people who procure a 500P will lease it from an authorized dealer as part of a package. That also means that Toshiba’s $1,099 estimated street price and pricing on options, toner, and maintenance are subject to negotiation.
The 500P’s bulbous shell perches the LCD screen at an angle that’s easy for short and tall people to see. It has the four arrow buttons surrounding an OK/Return button, but it also has a numeric keypad. Toshiba sells an optional hard drive (40GB for a very steep $535), so you’ll put the numeric keypad to work entering PINs for confidential and other print-and-hold jobs. Unfortunately, Toshiba’s memory prices are almost as out of line as its hard drive price: $99 for 128MB of extra memory and $299 for 512MB.