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These results continued into the text and text and graphics prints, where five pages printed in 23 seconds each, giving a normal mode print speed of just over 13ppm. Since the rated top speed is 19ppm (probably for draft mode), this is a lot closer than most printers get.
Print quality from this little laser is pretty good in all respects. Text prints clean and black, with no noticeable spatter and reasonably clean tints in business graphics. Greyscales are well-defined and our photo test print – not most lasers’ favourite print sample – was generally well produced. There was some slight banding in the sky area, however, and the so-called ‘1200dpi quality’ output looked a bit coarse.
Even though the printer is so responsive, it manages to produce its pages quietly. This is partly due to the simple path paper, which follows from input tray to output on top of the machine.
There are two consumables in the E120n, starting with a photoconductor unit, which has a long life of 25,000, 5 per cent pages and a low cost of around £35. The more important running cost derives from the toner cartridge though, which lasts for 2,000 pages and costs either £46 or £63, depending on whether you're happy to go along with Lexmark's return programme.
The return programme obliges you to use the cartridge only once and to return it to Lexmark. A responsible attitude to recycling is praiseworthy, but with the review sample, there was no indication of how or where to return the cartridge. We hope final retail units will come with full details and return packaging.
Even using the substantially cheaper return programme cartridge, the cost per page on this printer comes out at 2.91p, the highest figure we’ve seen for a mono laser in the last eighteen months. If you object to sending the cartridge back (or want to refill it), you pay 3.79p per page. It seems to us that this high running cost is likely to promote refilling, rather than encourage recycling.
In many ways, this is an excellent mono laser printer. It’s quick by most standards, and very quick for a machine costing under £100. It’s cheap to buy, it produces good quality prints and is very easy to use. So why shouldn’t everybody dash out and buy one? Simply put, it’s the most expensive mono laser to run that I’ve tested. Not by much, but at 3p per page, you really need to value its other qualities to justify the purchase.