Black print is one of the strengths of this machine; it's clear and clean and suffers little spatter or jagged edges. Even at small point sizes it remains readable and in high speed mode, the printer’s equivalent to draft print, it's still very clear and quite suitable for internal documentation.
There are three different colour settings available within the print driver, labelled Document, Photographs and Graphics. The printer defaults to Document and printing colour business graphics produces shades which are too dark and too intense. It was very hard to read black text over an area of blue tone in one of our test pieces, though the tone should have been quite pale.
Photographic output is definitely best in photograph mode, though even the colours are over-egged and there's some loss of detail from the 600 dpi output. In its favour, the printer handles shadow detail comparatively well.
The 8108N isn't a quiet machine and we measured noise output during printing at peaks of 62dBA. It could get quite irritating if the machine is positioned close to your desk. However, the spread of different sounds is fairly typical of a laser printer and there's nothing particularly offensive in the mix.
TallyGenicom claims a service life for the 8108N of 120,000 pages, and since the machine has a duty cycle of 1,000 sheets per month – in itself a bit low – we feel it's fair to consider this a lifetime component. We haven't included it in our calculation of running costs.
That leaves just the four colour toner cartridges and these are available in standard or high-yield versions. We would strongly recommend using the high-yield cartridges, as they represent much better value from money. Page costs work out at 2.02p for a 5 per cent black page and 11.1p for 20 per cent colour. The black page cost is reasonable in comparison with other colour lasers costing under £200, but the colour cost is high, with competitors coming in at between 8p and 10p per page.
This is a physically heavyweight printer, but it performs no better than other entry-level machines in the same price bracket. Indeed, because it uses a transfer belt, its colour print speed is quite a bit slower than with in-line machines like the Canon LaserShot LBP-5000. Print quality is generally good, though default colours are far too intense and colour prints remain costly in comparison with its main competitors.