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8/10

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Epson Aculaser C1100 - Colour Laser Printer

Although these days it’s probably better known for its range of ink-jet printers, Epson has always been a manufacturer of laser printers, too, and latterly of colour lasers. The Aculaser C1100 is close to being an entry-level machine, but is claimed to have a surprisingly high print speed and costs under £270 at street prices. So, are you getting a bargain?

The C1100 is a large printer, though quite a lot of its bulk goes into its height. Even so you're looking at the same footprint as a good-sized desktop (not tower), PC. Paper feeds from a tray at the bottom of the machine and exits to its top cover, with a pull-out paper support for longer sheets.

The feed tray is unusual in that it's a 180 sheet multi-purpose tray. You open the front cover and feed the paper in – there's no removable tray to fill. If you want extra capacity, you can fit an optional 500 sheet paper tray underneath, but that makes it an even taller device.

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The surprisingly simple control panel angled into the front lip of the printer consists of a single-line, 16-character LCD, with four buttons to its right and a small circular cancel button to the left. There’s also a large ‘go’ button with an action LED built into it. The menu system is reasonably easy to traverse, though a second line of characters on the LCD wouldn't go amiss and the whole display is crying out for a backlight. Given the cost of a backlit LCD and the improvement it would make to the use of most lasers, we're surprised they’re not a standard fitting.

At the back of the printer are USB 2.0 and parallel ports, but you have to buy the N version of this model to get Ethernet connectivity.

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Open the top cover to fit the all-in-one photoconductor drum and fuser unit and another at the front to slot in each of the four cylinders of toner into a rotating carousel mechanism. This is deep inside the printer and fitting the cartridges is fiddly. As you print, the C, M, Y and K images are built up in turn on the drum, before being transferred to the paper.

Software provided with the Aculaser C1100 is pretty comprehensive, with Photo Quicker and Print Image Framer, as well as the driver. It seems a little odd to have two, different, photo-specific utilities with a laser printer. Although colour laser printed pages may include photo images, we wouldn't expect photo reproduction to be a primary use of this type of printer.

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