As to the quality, text – which will be the bulk of any mono laser printer’s work – came out clear and well formed, and business graphics were also well reproduced, with well chosen dither patterns for the various grey levels. Photographic print, with the best quality 2,400dpi resolution, was well detailed, but marred by a series of gradations in areas of grey.
The cost of running this printer will depend on whether you’re prepared to work with Lexmark’s Recycle Programme. Cartridges sold under this scheme have to be returned directly to Lexmark after a single use. A pre-paid label is supplied with the cartridge and prices are lower than for regular retail cartridges, by around £10 to £15, according to Lexmark.
We did a Google search to find cartridge prices and couldn't find a single supplier selling both types of cartridge, so price comparisons may be slewed by the difference between suppliers, but we found a difference of £11 for a standard cartridge and a full £30 for the high-yield variant.
Taking the best price we could find for the high-yield cartridge, we calculate a page to cost 1.56p, good for a mono laser in this market and slightly lower than, for example, HP's LaserJet 2420D, tested recently.
Lexmark wanted us to consider its photoconductor drum, which has a stated life of 30,000 pages, to be a lifetime component and therefore not factored in to the page printing costs. Since the E342n has a duty cycle of 15,000 pages per month, we don’t think this is reasonable.
Even printing just 2,000 ISO pages per month, you’d reach the life of the drum in 15 months and it’s quite possible your regularly printed pages will have greater cover than an ISO standard page, on which the life estimate is based. The photoconductor drum cost only represents 0.1p of the 1.56p calculated page cost, anyway.
For a printer rated at this speed, Lexmark's E342 comes in at a very acceptable price. It’s limited in its expansion possibilities, but is quick, cheap to run and easy to control. With good, networked management software, it handles the basics extremely well.