Lexmark E450dn review
A solid workgroup mono laser that delivers above-average quality and plenty of features for the price.
Lexmark has traditionally had a very keen focus on colour laser printers, with the result that its mono offerings aren't as extensive as the likes of HP. The latest E450dn helps to redress this imbalance and stands out thanks to its high print speeds, modest desktop dimensions and low price.
We were impressed with TallyGenicom's tiny 9330N (web ID: 122272) and its 28ppm, but Lexmark ups the ante as the E450dn isn't much larger but has a claimed A4 print speed of 33ppm. Its price may be around £100 higher, but it also manages to incorporate a duplex unit for automated double-sided printing. Unlike Lexmark's lower-cost E35x series, the E450dn comes with a network print server as standard while local connection options extend to a USB 2 port and a trusty old parallel port. Another feature that helps the E450dn rise above the rest at this price is the large, backlit LCD and control pad mounted in the front panel. This allows you to see at a glance the status of the printer and lets you access it directly for manual control.
Lexmark delivers in the speed stakes, as a 35-page basic Word document was whisked through using normal mode in 1min 4secs for a tidy 33ppm. This uses interpolation to create a 1,200dpi-like resolution, but if you want the real thing then select Best mode. However, this means that speeds drop significantly with the same test document, taking nearly twice as long to drop into the upper output tray for a rate of only 18.5ppm. Duplexing is controlled from the driver panel, where you can opt for double-sided printing on the long or short edge of the paper. This simply prints one side, sends it to the output bin and snatches it back at the last second to print on the other side. It's a smooth process, with our test document taking 2mins 12 secs to complete at a respectable average of 16ppm.
Print quality in normal mode is fine for basic documents using standard font sizes, as text is pin sharp. Unusually, the printer struggled to reproduce the smallest fonts on our test page, although this was remedied with the best mode. Reports with bar graphs presented no problems in either mode and, although photographs suffered from minor banding, the levels of detail in darker areas was particularly good. The latter improved slightly in Best mode, although close scrutiny was required to see the differences. We found contrast for photos could be improved slightly by upping the toner darkness setting, although the slider only goes as far as ten and the default setting is eight, so there isn't much to play with.
Lexmark doesn't indulge in the dubious practice of shipping the printer with under-filled starter cartridges, so you get a standard 6,000-capacity version in the box. This is installed easily behind the drop-down front panel and, combining it with the 30,000-page photoconductor drum, delivers an A4 page at just over 1p. This can be reduced slightly, as the 11,000-page capacity cartridge returns a page for 0.9p.
The E450dn is a good all-rounder for busy workgroups. It delivers a high print speed and integral duplexer, output quality is a cut above the rest and printing costs are quite acceptable.