OKI B4200

It's hard to believe we haven't reviewed this printer before. OKI doesn't seem to have changed the design of its entry-level LED printers for many years and the B4200 is functional, but not particularly stylish.

An base-mounted 250 sheet paper tray feeds paper through a ‘Z’ path and ejects to its top cover. A pull-out extension provides support for A4 paper and a similar extension pulls out at the rear, to provide a multipurpose tray for envelopes or special media. An optional second tray fits underneath the printer and unusually takes a full 500 sheet ream.

The Oki’s top cover lifts to reveal the developer unit with its removable toner cartridge. Setting up this part of the printer for the first time is a little fiddly and can leave toner on your fingers, but you do save money in only needing to replace the developer unit every 25,000 pages. You can see the LED array, which replaces the laser engine in this printer, attached to the underside of its lid, when open.

At the rear are sockets for USB 2.0 and parallel connections and the ‘bridge’ between multipurpose tray and eject slot shows indicators for power, ready, paper out and paper jam.

Unusually among these printers, you don't have to install the Windows drivers before connecting the printer up – it responds to the operating system's plug and play detection and the drivers load automatically from the CD.

The driver itself looks simple enough, but includes two and four page per sheet impositions and support for watermarks, though not over-stamps. You can select two different dither patterns and three densities for printing greyscales and control brightness and contrast directly. You can also save your setup to reproduce the same settings quickly for particular print jobs.

Apart from dot-matrix emulations, the only page description language supported by the B4200 is PCL6.

The B4200 is a surprisingly fast printer, completing our 20 page text print in just one minute and 10 seconds, a second faster than the LaserJet 1300. The other results are in line with this, with 23 seconds for the text and graphics print and 13 seconds for the greyscale photo. With a fast start up, you won't be waiting long for a print job out of this machine.

Print quality is variable. Text print is clean and as well formed as most of the other printers, while shaded areas of the graphics print are better than many, with very little banding apparent. When it comes to the greyscale photo however, there is noticeable banding in areas of sky and some detail in the hills in the background is lost. There are no printing artefacts that could be specifically associated with the printer's LED technology – you can think of it is a laser printer in this respect.

The noise produced by the Oki when printing was pretty similar in level to many of the others, but subjectively the noise components were not as annoying as from some of the lasers. Like most of the machines, it is virtually silent when switched to standby mode.

With a developer drum life of 25,000 pages, and toner coming in at just £22 per cartridge, running costs for this machine are low. While it can't quite match up to Kyocera’s running costs – that printer never needs a drum and developer replacement – we calculate a page cost of just 1.9p per page, including paper. This puts the B4200 in second place on TCO and makes it a very economical machine to run.

Verdict

A decent printer with low running costs. It can’t quite match the Kyocera and Brother for overall breadth of ability though.

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