- Review Price: £271.00
Lexmark’s new E342n is a squat, black and silver mono laser printer. Even though it’s not much bigger than the personal lasers of a few years back it’s designed for a small business or a small workgroup in a larger office. Lexmark claims that it can print at up to 28ppm, with the first page out in as little as 7.5 seconds.
The E342’s angular lines and unusual colour scheme combine to produce a good looking printer, a little deeper – though rather wider – than an A4 page. This is a conventional design, with paper feeding from a 250 sheet tray, which slides out from the bottom of the front panel, to an output tray set into the top.
There’s a multi-purpose tray directly above the main paper tray, but this can only take a single sheet at a time and it has to be manually fed. An optional, 550 sheet tray can be fitted underneath the printer. At the rear is the mains socket and three separate connections for USB, parallel and Ethernet.
There’s a two-line, 16-character LCD display set into the control panel and this has, usefully, been fitted with a backlight. The control panel itself is a series of clearly marked buttons, which navigate the printer’s menu system and work to cancel and confirm print jobs.
A button at the top left of the printer releases the front panel, which swings forward to reveal the toner cartridge and the photoconductor drum. This is a two-part consumable and the toner can be released from the assembly, separately from removing the drum and toner. They each have different service lives and the drum lasts for a very reasonable 30,000 pages. Sliding in the cartridge is a little fiddly, but is helped by useful labelling, of the ‘line up the arrows’ sort.
Set up involves the usual routine: install the software from the CD and plug the printer into any USB 2.0 or parallel port. All very simple and effective. If you want to set the machine up as a network printer, things are nearly as straightforward and Lexmark’s MarkVision Professional utility means you can check the printer’s status easily, from any PC on your network. It can also be set up to inform anybody on the network when the paper or toner is low – assuming they’ve drawn the short straw.
Although not up to the speeds claimed by Lexmark, we did produce our five page text document in just 18 seconds, giving a print speed of nearly 17 pages per minute. Our mixed text and graphics page came out at 6ppm and the high resolution photograph came in at just under 3ppm. These are some way off the 28ppm on the spec sheet, but are still a fair result.
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.
Score in detail
Print Speed 9
Print Quality 8