Lexmark C500n review

Price when reviewed

Aimed at small businesses that want high-speed mono printing and a dash of colour, Lexmark’s C500n initially appears a very affordable laser printer. Its print speeds reflect this positioning, as it can churn out mono pages at a rate of 31ppm, while colour drops to a more modest 8ppm. At this low price, you’d expect only a 600 x 600dpi resolution, but the C500n offers 1,200 x 600dpi, making it look even better value.

Paper handling is limited, as you don’t get a multipurpose tray. But the standard 250-sheet lower tray can be augmented by another that has a 530-sheet capacity. Network installation is handled neatly, as the CD-ROM-based utility searches the network for Lexmark printers and then loads the driver.

So far so good, but what Lexmark gives you in initial value it can easily claw back with consumable costs. It offers high-yield and standard toner cartridges, and the latter push the price high enough to make them a choice to be avoided. The lowest price we could find for standard cartridges was £46.35 for mono and £50.54 for each colour. This equates to 1.9p per mono page and an unacceptably high 12p for a full colour page. The high-yield cartridges are a far better bet, as these deliver 1.4p for mono and 7.6p for colour. Note also that the printer ships with 1,000-page starter cartridges, so it won’t be long before you’ll be buying more toner. You should also consider the photo-developer drum and fuser unit: with these lasting for 120,000 and 60,000 images respectively, you’re probably better off ditching the printer and buying a new one when the originals finally give out.

The C500n does well in the speed stakes, though, delivering a basic 30-page Word document in 58 seconds, with the first page appearing after only eight seconds. The quoted colour speeds are also on the money, with the printer completing our 24-page heavily formatted DTP-style document with large graphics and colour photos in a shade under three minutes for 8ppm. This was printed using the Standard setting from the driver panel and we found that the Quality setting made no difference to speed. Colour speeds are so much slower because the printer has to make one pass for each colour to build up the image – a manoeuvre that also causes a fair amount of operational noise.

Print quality is nothing to sniff at either, with text pin sharp across a range of font sizes, while mono photographs were reproduced without any hint of a colour cast. For such a low-cost printer, we found colour output was particularly good. High levels of detail were evident in our test photographic images, especially in darker areas, although a slight banding is noticeable in large areas comprising a single colour. Curiously, the printer driver offers high-speed, standard and high-quality settings, but we could see no difference across any of these modes.

The C500n gives small businesses and offices a fine route into colour printing, and output quality is very good for the price. It has stiff competition from Lexmark’s own C522n, though, which offers faster colour print speeds and similar running costs for around £40 more.

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