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Workgroup colour laser printers may have dropped considerably in price over the last couple of years, but an investment of £500, multiplied by the number of workgroups in your organisation, can still be considerable. It may not be immediately apparent which departments need colour printing on a regular basis, either, so Epson's latest idea to offer an upgradeable laser, which can start life as a mono printer, has legs.
You can buy the mono AcuLaser 2600N on the Internet for just over £400 including VAT and simply by adding cyan, magenta and yellow cartridges to the supplied black cartridge, you can convert it to a colour machine at any time. Admittedly, the cost of the three extra cartridges, at around £130, is greater than the difference between the two models, but it does give you flexibility.
You can also run the machine with four black cartridges, so you will only need to service it every 20,000 pages, and when running in colour mode, it will switch to monochrome if the colour cartridges run out before black.
The AcuLaser C2600N, reviewed here, is a neat and well laid-out machine. From its high-capacity paper tray, holding a full ream of 500 sheets, to its eight-line, backlit, LCD display, it an easy printer to use and offers a lot of helpful feedback. For example, when you're inserting toner cartridges, the display can show miniature diagrams of each step in the operation – a lot more convenient than a similar display on the screen of your PC.
From the front of the printer you're looking on the side of the print mechanism, so pages eject from the right-hand side and lay across the machine. This makes the printer quite deep, but gives it a relatively narrow front aspect. At the rear are sockets for parallel, USB and Ethernet connections.
Although the C2600N comes with its photoconductor drum and fuser unit installed, you do have to remove the waste toner bottle and flick a couple of levers to unlock the mechanism, before use. Then it's just a question of inserting each of the toner cartridges and installing the Windows driver supplied on CD.
The driver is typical Epson fare, well-designed with good functionality. Colour calibration is automatic and gives above average reproduction, straight from the box. You can introduce watermarks and overlays to your prints and print two or four pages per sheet. Duplex printing is possible, but only if you add the optional duplexer unit.