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OKI claims 26ppm for A4 colour print and 32ppm when printing in mono. Increase the paper size to A3 and the corresponding figures are 15ppm and 17ppm. Our five page, A4 test piece took 27 seconds, giving a real-world print speed of 11ppm, around a third of the quoted speed. Colour A4 prints, impressively, took no longer, but still managed less than half the specified speed. A five page, A3 test took 36 seconds, giving a speed of 8.3ppm. While the speeds themselves are quite reasonable for a colour laser, it's a shame printer makers have to exaggerate quite so much.
The quality of prints from the C8600n is very good. Both black and colour output has a slight sheen to it, which not everybody likes, but there's virtually no spatter and very precisely formed characters in text prints. Block graphics are also clear, with good solid colours and very good registration of black text over coloured backgrounds.
Our test photo image also came out well, though here some of the finer detail was lost, as was detail in shadowed areas of the image. Colour variation in areas such as sky is competently handled and the dither patterns used in the 600 x 1200dpi print are very unobtrusive.
Although the overall noise level is around 54dBA, the type of noise, from its several fans, can be quite throbbing. The fans stop when it slips into sleep mode, though.
In addition to the costs of the EP cartridges and their corresponding toner, you have to consider the fuser unit and the transfer belt when working out consumable costs. Although the minimum life of the least long-lived component is a healthy 6,000, A4 pages at 5 per cent cover, you do have to keep track of all their different usage rates.
When you work out the costs, you get a five per cent black page coming out at 1.62p, with a 20 per cent colour page costing 8.68p. This puts the printer at the low cost end on black printing and in the middle of the range for colour. Obviously, if you print mainly A3 pages, your page costs will be higher.
This versatile A3 printer's main claim to fame is its comparatively small size – it's not much bigger than some earlier generations of A4 lasers. Its print quality is very good and print speeds, while not up to OKI’s claims, are reasonable. You still have to decide whether you need A3 prints enough to spend £1,400, though.