As we've said before in these reviews, the main things you're paying for with a higher-priced laser printer are speed and duty cycle. The new Epson Aculaser M4000N, which has a hefty street price of a smidgen under £700 (a list price of over £1,000) - is rated at 43ppm. It should also be up to printing 200,000 pages per month, should you need them.
This is a big printer, designed for heavy workgroup use and Epson has done its best to stop it looking like a big square box. Most of its edges are curved, with a deep depression in its top surface to allow for large print jobs. There are two paper trays as standard, with the main one capable of taking 550 sheets, over a ream of paper. The second feed tray can take a further 100 sheets of special media, giving a total capacity of 700 sheets, as standard. A second 550-sheet tray can be fitted underneath, as an option.
An eight-line, backlit, mono LCD panel shows feedback, status information and an easy-to-navigate menu. It uses a standard arrangement of four direction keys in a ring, with an OK button in the centre, and there are separate buttons to start and cancel print jobs. The power switch is located conveniently at the front and at the back are sockets for USB 2, parallel and Ethernet connections, all again standard fittings.
Getting the Aculaser M4000N up and running is easy, thanks to an integrated drum and toner cartridge that drops in through a hatch in the top. It's good for 20,000 pages, too, so you won't always be dropping replacements through the hatch. The only other consumable is a fuser unit, but this has a claimed life of 200,000 pages, so may even outlive the service life of the printer.
Bundled software is mainly down to the driver, though there's a web-to-print utility, too, which enables quick and easy printing of Web pages, without losing all the right-hand frames.
So, the big number in Epson's specification is 43ppm but, as is usual with these claims, it requires a bit of skulduggery to achieve. Using a 20-page test sample, we produced a print time of 40 seconds, or 30ppm. That was in normal mode, so we tried draft mode too, but that took marginally longer.
We believe the difference comes from timing just the actual printing, rather than the printing and rasterising times, from when you press Print in Word to when the last page flops into the output tray. That's a real-world test, and that's what we time. Having said that, a real-world speed of 30ppm is nothing to be sniffed at and you won't be hanging around for your print jobs from this machine. A15 by 10cm photo printed in just nine seconds; more than 6ppm.