OKI B721dn review

The OKI B721dn is a workhorse monochrome laser printer capable of anchoring a mid-sized workgroup, though it's a little slow for its price and rated speed.
Photo of OKI B721dn

The OKI B721dn, a workhorse mono laser-class printer geared to mid-sized workgroups, has a voluminous monthly duty cycle and a copious standard and optional paper capacity. Although it matched the speed of its faster-rated sibling, the OKI B731dn, in our testing, it was still on the slow side for its price and rated speed.

The B721dn uses an LED-based engine (essentially the same as a laser, but using LEDs instead of a laser as a light source). LED printers are considered laser class. This two-toned (off-white and brown) printer measures 16.1 by 17.1 by 19.6 inches (HWD), larger than you’d want to share a desk with, and weighs 59.5 pounds. On the front panel is a 5-line backlit monochrome display and an alphanumeric keypad for password-protected printing. On the printer’s side is a forward-facing slot for a USB thumb drive.

The B721dn has good paper handling features and options. Its standard paper capacity is 630 sheets, split between a 530-sheet main tray and a 100-sheet multipurpose tray, and it has an automatic duplexer for printing on both sides of a sheet of paper. Maximum paper capacity is 3,100 sheets, when you add a second 530-sheet tray ($223.99 direct) and a 2,000-sheet feeder with casters ($700.99). Alternately, you can add up to 3 optional 530-sheet trays if you don’t go with the feeder. The printer has a prodigious monthly duty cycle, with a maximum of up to 250,000 pages per month and a recommended duty cycle of up to 20,000 pages.

The B721dn offers Ethernet (including Gigabit Ethernet) and USB connectivity. We tested it on an Ethernet network with its drivers installed a PC running Windows Vista.

Printing Speed
I timed the B721dn, rated at 49 pages per minute, on our business applications suite (using QualityLogic’s hardware and software for timing), at an effective 9.5 pages per minute (ppm), essentially tied with the OKI B731dn’s 9.4 ppm despite the latter’s 55 page-per-minute rating. (The rated speeds are based on text-only printing, while we test with a combination of text pages, graphics pages, and pages of mixed content.) It’s also slower than its still available predecessor, the OKI B720dn, rated at 47 pages per minute, which I tested at 11.5 ppm.

The speed is considerably less than that of the Editors’ Choice HP LaserJet Enterprise 600 Printer M601DN, rated at 45 pages per minute, which I tested at 13.4 ppm, as well as the HP LaserJet Enterprise 600 Printer M602DN, which is rated at 52 pages per minute and tested at 14.1 ppm. And compared with the Editors’ Choice Dell B5460dn, fuhgeddaboutit—that speedster, rated at 62 pages per minute, zipped through our test at 18.7 ppm.

Output Quality
The B721dn’s output quality was typical of a mono laser across the board, for text, graphics, and photos. Fortunately, average text quality for a laser is still very good, fine for most internal and external business needs, though I’d hesitate to use it for demanding desktop publishing applications.

Graphics output was average for a mono laser, good enough for internal business use, but whether you’d consider them good enough to, say, distribute as PowerPoint handouts to a client you were seeking to impress depends on how picky you are. Very thin lines in one illustration did not show at all, and the printer could have done better at distinguishing between similar shades of gray.

Photo quality was also typical of mono lasers. The printer is capable of printing out recognizable images from Web pages, but whether you’d consider the output good enough for use in a client newsletter depends on how picky you are. It did well in showing detail in relatively dark areas, but there was a loss of detail in bright areas, and several prints showed mild banding (a regular pattern of faint striations).

Running Costs
The B721dn’s running costs, based on the price and yield of its most economical toner cartridge, are 1.7 cents per page, a little on the high side for its price. That matches the costs of the HP M601dn, but is trumped by Dell’s claimed costs for the B5460dn, a mere penny a page. The OKI B731dn can use higher-capacity cartridges than the B721dn, bringing its running costs down to 1.3 cents per page, while the HP M602′s costs are 1.2 cents per page.

Surprisingly, the B721dn was effectively tied in speed with the OKI B731dn—finishing 1 second faster—despite its lower price and rated speed. (The OKI B731dn was slightly faster in photo-printing speed, but that’s a non-issue in a mono laser for the vast majority of businesses.) The B721dn has slightly higher (0.4 cents per page) running costs. It would take printing 75,000 pages with the B731dn for its lower running costs to compensate for its higher list price. If your printing volume isn’t massive but merely heavy, the B721dn may be a more economical choice, which at least in our testing didn’t lose any speed to its faster-rated sibling.

The B721dn has the same list price as the Editors’ Choice HP LaserJet Enterprise 600 Printer M601DN and the same running costs, and they have similar paper capacity. The M601dn is significantly faster; the B721dn has slightly better text quality. The B721dn has higher running costs than the Dell B5460dn, which zipped through our business applications test at warp speed. The Dell did lag the B721dn on graphics and photo quality, however.

The OKI B721dn is a reasonable choice as a workhorse mono laser printer. It has a solid set of features, good paper handling, and average output quality. It’s a bit sluggish for its price and rated speed, and its running costs are a bit on the high side. But it provides a good balance between price, print quality, and features while being able to print the prodigious volume of documents that some businesses demand.

Specifications
Print Duplexing Automatic
Printer Category Laser
Direct Printing from Cameras No
Maximum Standard Paper Size Legal
Rated Speed at Default Settings (Mono) 49 ppm
Type Printer Only
Color or Monochrome Monochrome
Technology (for laser category only) LED
Connection Type USB, Ethernet

Verdict
The OKI B721dn is a workhorse monochrome laser printer capable of anchoring a mid-sized workgroup, though it is a little slow for its price and rated speed.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc