The laser printing industry hasn’t taken the inkjet phenomenon lying down. But then again, it hasn’t really had much of a chance to compete in the low-end, low-cost arena. Cheap inkjet printers can be had for £30 (no joke), while this, Lexmark’s entry-level personal laser printer, costs six times as much.
Obviously that’s not a fair comparison. Inkjet printers are great for low-volume colour graphics and photo reproduction, but a laser printer is still more convenient (i.e. faster, easier to maintain, more durable and producing longer-lasting prints) for serious work – the Lexmark E210 has a rated duty cycle of 5,000 pages per month.
The printer is fairly compact. A slot at the front can be opened for a less curved paper path, should you be using thicker paper, but otherwise the printed page comes out into an upright front storage bin – handy for keeping the desk tidy and reducing the printer’s overall footprint. There are two paper feed bins at the rear, giving 150 sheets of input capacity while the output hopper holds 100 sheets.
Connecting the Lexmark E210 printer to your PC is done either via the USB connection or a conventional parallel printer cable. Drivers are supplied for Windows 95/98/Me/NT 4.0 and 2000, plus Linux and Mac and these are easy enough to install (the Windows ones, that is – we didn’t have the opportunity to try the others). There’s a copy of Lexmark’s MarkVision software included too, but this is likely to be of limited use as it’s mainly for networked printer management and this printer is unlikely to find itself connected to more than one machine. There are various buttons and LEDs on the front panel, but the driver software handles most operations so you won’t have to worry about these too much.
Core specifications for the printer include its 600 x 600dpi resolution and a rated print speed of 12 pages per minute. The latter is for engine speed only and your mileage will vary, as they say, but the Lexmark E210 is certainly swift enough for simple office or home office use. The first page emerged from the printer in under 20 seconds, including the driver processing time, in our tests. It’s quite a noisy machine when it’s printing, mainly because of the cooling fan, but the noise dies down when the printer goes into standby mode.
It’s rare for a laser printer to produce anything other than good quality output and the Lexmark E210 doesn’t disappoint. Pages come out with crisp, well-defined lines and good print contrast. The text output is exceptionally black and the dithering algorithms seem to work well for graphics.
Maintenance is fairly simple, since there’s a single printing cartridge that combines both toner and drum. As is always the case with printers, though, you should check the price of consumables before you buy. Inkjet printer cartridges are notorious for costing almost as much as – or in some cases more than – the printers themselves, and while laser printers are usually much better value in terms of running costs, it doesn’t hurt to find out the prices and rated page counts from your preferred retailer in advance.
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