OKI C531dn review

The OKI C531dn offers fast speed, ample paper handling, and a low running cost.
Photo of OKI C531dn

A close cousin to the OKI C331dn that I recently reviewed, the OKI C531dn offers the same impressively capable paper handling, along with faster speed and essentially identical output quality. What turns it into more than just a faster version of the same printer, however, is a lower running cost. If you print enough pages, the savings can make it even more attractive as a workhorse color printer.

The lower running cost for the C531dn comes from the option to use higher-capacity cartridges that the C331dn can’t use. Based on claimed yields and prices, the cost per page with the high-yield cartridges works out to 2.4 cents for a mono page and 12.3 cents for color. The savings compared with the standard cartridges is 0.4 cents per page for monochrome and 1.6 cents for color. Print just one color page for every ten pages you print, and the savings adds up to 5.2 cents for 10 pages, $52 for 10,000 pages, and $102 for 20,000 pages.

Put another way: if you expect to print 20,000 pages over the life of the printer, you’ll save enough money in running costs with the C531dn to cover the $100 difference in initial price. That works out to a little less than 27 pages per day every workday for three years. If that doesn’t sound like a lot for your print needs, you can get faster printing with the C531dn and pay less for it in the long run.

Basics
Like the OKI C331dn, the C531dn is an LED printer, which means it’s essentially identical to a laser printer, except that it uses LEDs instead of lasers to draw the image of each page on a photosensitive drum. As with the C331dn, it’s meant primarily for shared use and it delivers ample paper handling for heavy-duty use in a small office or workgroup.

The C531dn offers a 350-sheet capacity, divided into a 250-sheet drawer and a 100-sheet multi-purpose tray, plus a duplexer (for two-sided printing) as standard. In addition, if you need more capacity, you can add a 530-sheet optional tray ($199 list) for a maximum of 880 sheets. Other color printers in this price range typically offer lower capacities.

Along with the same paper handling features as the OKI C331dn, the C531dn shares the same size, at 9.5 by 16.1 by 19.8 inches (HWD) without the optional tray. That makes it a little bigger than you would probably want to share a desk with, but still small enough so it shouldn’t be hard to find room for in a small office. Given the 48.5 pound weight, however, you might want some help moving it. Once you in place, setup is absolutely typical for the breed. 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 C531dn at 31 pages per minute (ppm) for monochrome and 27 ppm for color, which should be close to the speeds you’ll see when you print text pages or other material that doesn’t need significant processing time. On our business applications suite (using QualityLogic’s hardware and software for timing) it managed a respectable 6.8 ppm. That makes it a little faster than the OKI C331dn, at 6.1 ppm, and significantly faster than the Editors’ Choice Dell 2150cdn, which came in at 5.5 ppm.

Output quality is less impressive than either the paper handling or speed, primarily because of subpar photos. As long as you don’t need particularly good photo quality, however, you shouldn’t have any complaints. Text and graphics are both within the typical range for the breed.

The text in my tests was suitable for most business needs, although I’d hesitate to use it for high-quality desktop publishing. Graphics output, similarly, is easily good enough for any internal business need or even for PowerPoint handouts and the like. If you’re not too much of a perfectionist, you may even consider the graphics suitable for output going to an important client when you want to the material to look fully professional.

The photo output is closer to the level I expect to see from mono lasers rather than from color printers: basically newspaper quality, with obvious flaws. That makes it suitable for printing Web pages or similar material with photos and still have recognizable images, but don’t expect to use the photo output for anything more demanding than that.

If you need better output quality than the OKI C531dn delivers, you should take a look at the Dell 2150cdn. However, if what you need is a workhorse printer, both the OKI C331dn and OKI C531dn deliver faster speed and better paper handling, which can easily make them your preferred choice. Between those two, the more heavy-duty your print needs are, the stronger the argument for the OKI C531dn.

Specifications
Print Duplexing Automatic
Printer Category Laser
Direct Printing from Cameras No
Maximum Standard Paper Size Legal
Rated Speed at Default Settings (Mono) 31 ppm
Type Printer Only
Rated Speed at Default Settings (Color) 27 ppm
Color or Monochrome 1-pass color
Technology (for laser category only) LED
Connection Type USB, Ethernet

Verdict
The OKI C531dn delivers a balance of speed, paper handling and output quality suitable for a heavy-duty color workhorse printer by small to medium-size office standards.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc