Lexmark C522n review

Price when reviewed

When we first reviewed the C522n, we were hugely impressed with its speed, quality and value. And any concerns about how it would fare in our Labs test were quickly dispelled when we printed our first colour pages.

Despite only costing a shade over £300, the Lexmark puts more expensive printers to shame, as it churns out colour pages at a rate of 18.4ppm. This is slightly under the claimed 20ppm, but we’re not complaining, especially as our colour-heavy Excel workbook emerged at 18.2ppm. Plus, the C522n topped the table by printing our 20-page PDF presentation in just 67 seconds.

Speed for large print jobs may be vital, but the time taken to print the first page can also be important. The C522n took just 13 and 14 seconds from idle to print a mono and colour page respectively. For colour printing, no other printer on test can match that.

However, if the Lexmark is in sleep mode, you’ll have a long wait for a single-page document, as it took nearly two minutes of calibration before the page appeared in the output tray. Fortunately, you can set the sleep time via the front-panel display, delaying the standby time up to four hours.

The £306 price tag is fairly high compared to the £195 Canon, but as you’ll see from the graphs on p112 the Lexmark’s running costs remain around average in a light-use environment, so the C522n is best suited to a small workgroup in an office. Plus, given its large size, it may be too big for a home office. It has a small footprint compared to some larger models like the Samsung, but it’s the tallest model on test.

The n suffix gives away the fact that 10/100 Ethernet is built-in, but there’s a USB 2 port for connection to a PC. For £108, you can add an 802.11g wireless print server.

The standard paper tray holds 250 A4 sheets, although a 500-sheet extra can be added for £189. Finally, there’s a single-sheet multipurpose input slot, which is permanently accessible on the front for inserting non-standard paper like envelopes and labels.

The C522n is the only model here with a 1,200 x 1,200dpi resolution, so quality was never going to be a problem. Our toughest test is a 12-page Excel workbook, full of business graphics and charts with plenty of solid colour. The Lexmark reproduced their tones with startling vibrancy. Yellows were particularly bold and text was crisp on all backgrounds. Many printers struggled to get the tone of the light green areas right, and the Lexmark was no exception, but it remained the best we saw overall.

Our 23-page Word document proved a relatively easy challenge, although some mono photos gained a slight reddish cast. This was also evident in our mono quality document, which means the Lexmark can’t blend a perfect composite black. Lastly, some skin-tone photos were a little too vivid in places, but the complex images in our PDF presentation printed accurately and without any noticeable half-toning.

More importantly, our results make it clear that the Lexmark C522n is the best all-rounder of the group. Across all tests, the Oki has a slight edge in terms of speed, but scored below average for quality. Likewise, the HP comes top of the group for quality, but is only averagely quick. The C522n is well above average for both, which gives it a comfortable lead for overall performance.

And in addition to the networking and paper-handling features, it has the best LCD, with four lines offering enough space to display the job name and current progress. A 313MHz CPU is installed along with 128MB of memory, and this is expandable to 640MB if necessary. PCL 6 and PostScript 3 emulation are standard, and the status monitor is a useful inclusion in the drivers.

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