Epson rates the AcuLaser C3900DN at 30ppm, printing black or colour, which is fast for a colour laser and one of the reasons it costs over £500. Our five-page black text print took 43s to complete, just 7.0ppm, with over 30 of those seconds spent pre-processing, even though we'd primed the machine by printing a single page to wake it up.
Running the test again took 25s, a speed of 12ppm, still little more than a third of the rated speed. The five-page text and colour graphics test produced 14.3ppm, only a little faster. When we moved up to the 20-page, long text document, however, the printer shifted up a gear and completed it in 54s, a speed of 22.2ppm. This is much closer to the claimed speed and a good throughput for a colour laser.
The machine prints duplex as standard and our 20-page document printed double-sided over 10 pages took 1:29, or 13.9 sides per minute. Finally, a 15 x 10cm photo on A4 took 13s, at highest quality.
The quality of prints from the 600dpi engine in this machine is very good, with crisp black text and smooth, well-managed colours. They are quite vivid for business graphics, but still show overprinted black text clearly and with good registration. Even our test photo looked better than many, with good levels of shadow detail, reasonably natural colours and smooth gradations where needed.
Despite having four sets of consumables to consider, three of the four only need replacing occasionally, at 30,000, 36,000 and 100,000 pages. The toner cartridges also have a high yield of 6,000 pages each and the black cartridges are available in pairs, at a discounted price.
When you work through the maths, the page costs come out at 2.8p for an ISO black page and 11.6p for an ISO colour one. Both of these are very reasonable for this class of machine and although the individual consumables seem expensive, they will typically only need replacing on a timescale of months, or even years.
Despite its rather unusual design, this printer does well in most of the key areas. It prints quite quickly, though colour print is not as quick as Epson believes, and produces good quality text and graphics. It would be a fine addition to a small business or workgroup of up to 10 people. Running costs are by no means prohibitive and the asking price, given the specification, is not out of order.