Oki C8600n review

£1595
Price when reviewed

Small businesses demanding more than A4 support from their colour lasers have traditionally expected to pay a premium if they want the bigger picture. The latest C8600 family from Oki aims to change all that by delivering support for A3 paper sizes and a good turn of speed at a sensible price.

On review is the C8600n, which comes as standard with an integral network print server. If you fancy duplex printing, we’d recommend plumping for this model from the outset, because it will save about £100 over upgrading the base model. As with all of Oki’s colour lasers, the C8600n uses completely separate processes for each colour, where the toner cartridges each have their own photo-sensitive drum and are laid out in-line down the paper path. In the printer lid are LED arrays for each colour, and data can be sent to all four heads simultaneously, so images are laid down in a single pass. This approach makes the C8600n more versatile. Using the rear paper slot and multipurpose tray at the front creates a virtually flat paper path, allowing the printer to handle 203gsm stationery and banners up to 1.2m long.

The hardware specification isn’t anything special, though. The C8600n uses the same 200MHz processor as its A4 brethren and comes with a modest 128MB of memory. The manual doesn’t mention it but you can remove the side panel where you’ll find a spare SODIMM socket. Oki’s printing technology uses a lot of consumables, since you have four toner cartridges and drum kits plus the fuser and transfer belt to replace. However, printing costs are particularly good, with an A4 mono page costing 1.4p and a colour page with 5% coverage per colour setting you back a reasonable 6p.

For quoted mono print speeds, Oki is somewhat optimistic with the C8600n. Our 32-page basic A4 text document took 68 seconds to complete for an average of only 28ppm. As we found with the C5600n (see issue 145, p146), though, colour printing was closer to the mark. Our 24-page DTP-style A4 document was completed in 58 seconds for a 25ppm average speed. Move the resolution up and watch print speeds tumble, as the same colour DTP document printed at 1,200dpi x 600dpi averaged only 15ppm. For A3 printing, we don’t feel speed is of the essence but, for the record, we saw a mono 20-page test document churned out at an average of 15ppm.

Once again, Oki delivers in the print quality department, with the C8600n producing crisp, sharp text across a range of font sizes. Our colour chart test on A4 paper showed only minimal stepping across colour fades, and grey shades using different mixes of cyan, yellow and magenta were faithfully reproduced. Colour photographs benefit from a rich saturation that makes them stand out and the level of detail in darker areas is comparatively good. The vivid colours of the C8600n really give A3 picture posters that extra zing and we found banding across the larger areas almost imperceptible.

With the C8600n, Oki is offering an A3 colour laser with value high on the agenda. Although not quite on the money, print speeds are still very good and output quality across all paper sizes is highly impressive.

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