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Lexmark’s technical strength has always been in laser technology ever since the days when the company was IBM's printer division. So when Lexmark told me it was quite excited about this entry-level mono laser printer I was very interested to see what all the kerfuffle was about.
Styled in dark grey and silver and with a surprisingly small footprint, the E120n looks neat and functional. When in use, the footprint is extended by the need to load paper at the front by folding down the printer's front panel and fitting a separate smoked plastic cover. You also need to unfold a paper rest from the top surface to support output pages. The paper tray can take up to 150 sheets and there’s no facility for a second tray.
The neat little control panel provides two simple buttons to cancel and continue a job and five indicator LEDs for status functions, like low toner, paper out and paper jam. More complex information is provided by using combinations of LEDs, not a system we’re that happy with, as you need to make constant reference to the user guide, and this is only available on the accompanying CD.
The printer comes supplied with its consumables pre-installed, but changing them is very simple, too. Hinge up the front cover and you can slide the very slim toner cartridge in without difficulty. Similarly, the photoconductor unit slides in from the back, so the two marry up inside. The printer comes with a rather meagre ‘starter’ toner cartridge, good for just 500 pages.
The printer can be configured as a local device, linking through a USB 2.0 cable, or a network one, linking through 10/100 Ethernet. Either way, software installation is easy and problem-free.
The driver offers all the usual facilities, including watermarks, overlays and multi-page per sheet prints. We were intrigued by an option for two-sided printing, as it would have been exceptional to have duplex facilities in a printer at this price. In fact it's only manual duplexing, but Lexmark has made it as simple as possible. You take the bundle of papers from the output tray, put them straight back into the input tray without any concerns about flipping or rotating them, and press the Continue button. The final documents come out correctly collated.
It's easy to become cynical when you test printers week after week and they never approach their rated performance. While the E120n doesn't hit its speed rating, it does come very close to its rated ‘first page out’ time. We produced our 15 x 10cm PhotoPrint at the printer's highest resolution in just 10 seconds. For a printer in this price range, this speed is exceptional.