OKI C331dn review

The OKI C331dn color laser printer offers fast speed, ample paper handling, and reasonably good text and graphics output quality.
Photo of OKI C331dn

The OKI C331dn is the sort of workhorse color office printer that earns most of its points for speed and paper handling, much like the Brother HL-3170CDW. However, it holds it’s own for output quality as well. It’s not a match on that score for, say, the Editors’ Choice Dell 2150cdn, but its output is easily good enough for most business use, and it prints that output faster. For a lot of offices, that’s enough to make the OKI printer a good fit.

Note that the C331dn is an LED printer, a nearly identical technology to laser printers, except that it uses LEDs instead of lasers to draw the image of each page on a photosensitive drum. Just as you would expect from a laser in this price range, it’s meant primarily as a shared printer for a small to medium-size office or workgroup. If you have any doubts about that, you only have to look at the printer’s paper handling.

The C331dn comes with a duplexer (for two-sided printing), a 250-sheet drawer, and a 100-sheet multi-purpose tray standard. That should easily be enough for most small offices. If you need more, however, you can add a 530-sheet optional tray ($199 list) for a maximum of 880 sheets. As a point of comparison, the 2150cdn comes with a 250-sheet drawer and duplexer, but only a 1-sheet manual bypass tray standard, and its maximum capacity is only 500 sheets.

As is typical for its level of paper handling, the C331dn is a little too big to share a desk with comfortably, at 9.5 by 16.1 by 19.8 inches (HWD), but small enough so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a spot for in a small office. You might want some help moving it, however, since it weighs 48.5 pounds. Once in place, setup is standard fare. For my tests, I connected it to a wired network, and installed the driver on a Windows Vista system.

Speed and Output Quality
OKI rates the C331dn at 25 pages per minute (ppm) for monochrome printing and 23 ppm for color, which should be close the speeds you’ll see when you’re printing text pages or other material that needs little to no processing. Beyond that, the printer scored reasonably well on our business applications suite for both its price and speed rating. I clocked it (using QualityLogic’s hardware and software for timing) at 6.1 ppm. That makes it a little slower than the Brother HL-3170CDW, at 6.8 ppm, but faster than the Dell 2150cdn, at 5.5 ppm.

The C331dn also fell between the Dell and Brother printers for output quality. In this case, however, it does better than the HL-3170CDW but not as well as the 2150cdn. More generally, the output was par for a color laser-class printer for text and graphics, but below par for photos.

That translates to text that’s suitable for virtually any business use short of high-quality desktop publishing. Graphics output, similarly, is good enough for most business needs, including PowerPoint handouts and the like. Depending on how critical an eye you have, you may or may not consider the graphics good enough for material going to an important client or customer when you need to convey a sense of professionalism.

The photo output is best described as newspaper quality, which is more typical of mono-laser, rather than color-laser, output. It’s easily good enough to show recognizable images, but with obvious flaws. Consider it suitable for printing Web pages or similar material with photos, but nothing more demanding than that.

The OKI C331dn offers a balance of paper handling, speed, and output quality that can be a good fit in a small office with medium to heavy-duty print needs. If your primary concern is speed, the Brother HL-3170CDW may be your preferred choice. If you care most about output quality, the Dell 2150cdn is the obvious choice. But the OKI C331dn offers better speed than the Dell printer, better output quality than the Brother printer, and better paper handling than either, making it a potentially compelling pick for a color workhorse printer in a small office.

Specifications
Print Duplexing Automatic
Printer Category Laser
Direct Printing from Cameras No
Maximum Standard Paper Size Legal
Rated Speed at Default Settings (Mono) 25 ppm
Type Printer Only
Rated Speed at Default Settings (Color) 23 ppm
Color or Monochrome 1-pass color
Technology (for laser category only) LED
Connection Type USB, Ethernet

Verdict
The OKI C331dn laser delivers the right balance of speed, paper handling and output quality to serve as a workhorse color printer in a small to medium-size office or workgroup.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc