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Colour is definitely the new black in laser printers, with four-colour machines continuing to drop in price and squeeze the market for straight monochrome devices. Lexmark's C543dn uses a completely new colour laser engine and comes in at around £250 for what is claimed to be a 30ppm machine.
As a colour laser this is a machine of modest dimensions. A redesign has reduced its height and Lexmark has gone for a rather slab-like design in mid-grey and cream. Unusually, there's no well in the top surface of the printer to act as an output tray. Instead, paper ends up on a raised section of the top cover, held in place by a paper stop at the back, and a slight dip at the front, where pages eject from the machine.
At the front is a simple control panel with a two-line by 16-character LCD display and a set of six buttons controlling menu choices. It's a backlit display but only offers characters on a 7 x 5 matrix, meaning there are no true descenders to letters like ‘g' and ‘y'. This will no doubt promote pangs of nostalgia among those who remember early dot-matrix printers.
At the bottom of the front panel is a 250-sheet paper tray and there's a single-sheet feed set into the bottom at desk level. An optional second tray adds a further 550-sheet hopper and increases the single-sheet feed to 100 sheets.
When you pull down the front panel, it's a surprise not to find toner and drum cartridges sitting inside. Toner cartridges have been relegated to the side of the machine and are accessible once you've hinged up a cover with rather ugly protruding hinges.
At the back are sockets for USB and Ethernet. There's no wireless connection as standard on this machine, though it's available as an option. This version of the printer does include duplex print as standard, though.
The physical set up is fiddly and involves removing a lot of packing. There are strips, pull cords and rods to extricate, which is fine if you have a dedicated IT department to do the installation (except for the IT technician, of course), but a pain if you're doing it yourself. Lexmark appears to acknowledge the possibility of forgetting a packing piece, by running a diagnostic checking for packing when you first switch on.
This messy setup is a shame as the design of the machine is meant to make maintenance easier; the four, square-ish toner cartridges clip simply into their bays at the side of the machine, making it very easy to replace a spent one.