Lexmark C500n review

Price when reviewed

The Lexmark C500n may be an affordable colour laser for the home, but with its imposing convex case, two-line LCD and integrated Ethernet it clearly means business. Indeed, its more powerful relative, the C522n (see issue 136, p70), has been on our A List since last July as our pick of colour lasers for business. So, can Lexmark conquer the low-cost personal market as well?

Lexmark C500n review

The simple answer is: not quite. The Lexmark’s strongest area is, without a doubt, its black-and-white performance. At 29ppm for our 5% letter, it left all competition in the dust, even outpacing the dedicated mono printers. Inevitably, the four-pass engine means colour printing is a slower affair, but an average print rate of around 8ppm still placed the Lexmark squarely in the middle of the pack.

Running costs look good on paper: our calculation of 1.6p per mono page sets the Lexmark level with the Oki C3300n, losing out only to the Konica Minolta among colour lasers (at 1.1p per page). Its colour cost of 8.5p per page fell in the middle of the rankings. However, the starter cartridges provided with the printer will last for just 1,000 pages, and after 30,000 pages you’ll be facing an expensive drum replacement. It means that, counter-intuitively, the more you use the printer the less competitive it gets.

Print quality was competent, but not exceptional. Black text was crisp and readable enough, but in solid areas vertical streaking was clearly discernible – not a big enough deal to ruin the page, but a disappointment nonetheless. Colours were vivid and half-tones appeared smooth from a normal reading distance, but we didn’t have to look much closer to be distracted by dithering. For personal use, the C500n’s print quality is more than adequate, but place its output next to the same pages printed by the HP or the Konica Minolta and it’s obvious that, even at this price, it’s possible to do better.

It’s hard not to feel sorry for the Lexmark C500n: it presents a professional appearance and does a solid, workman-like job, but it’s simply overshadowed by its rivals.

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