It’s no looker, but this is a serious laser printer offering performance and quality far beyond its price.
If you’re seeking a printer for personal use, you might be tempted to skip right past Lexmark’s substantial CX310dn. Its imposing stature marks it out as an office printer, and indeed that’s a role it could fulfil admirably, with its large 250-sheet paper cassette and a super-fast claimed print rate of 23 pages per minute. But those with more modest needs shouldn’t rule the CX310dn out. At around $700, it’s well within reach of the home office – and you don’t need a high-volume workload to benefit from business-class performance.
Before we dig into that, it’s worth mentioning what the CX310dn doesn’t do. Although it’s equipped with a 50-page ADF, there’s no fax capability on this model: if you want to send and receive documents, you’ll have to step up to Lexmark’s much more expensive CX410 series.
Nor, uniquely among this month’s contenders, does the CX310dn feature integrated Wi-Fi. You can add wireless networking with a peripheral such as Lexmark’s own MarkNet N8352 USB adapter, but at close to $100 this significantly pushes up the price of the package. A much better bet, if your office layout allows it, is to hook it up the old-fashioned way, via the built-in Gigabit Ethernet port.
However you connect it, the Lexmark CX310dn is a speedy printer. As we’ve noted, Lexmark claims 23 pages per minute, and that’s not just for mono prints but colour as well – something no other manufacturer can match. In practice, we didn’t quite achieve that, but speeds of 11.9ppm for our colour document and 18.7ppm for mono put the Lexmark very near the top of the pack, only just behind the Oki MC342dnw. (The Canon i-Sensys outdid them both, but that’s not a fair comparison since it’s only a black-and-white printer.)
What’s more, that speed doesn’t come at the expense of quality. Black-and-white text reproduction was faultless to the naked eye, while colour diagrams and gradients came out looking perfectly even and vibrant. You can’t feed glossy media into a laser, but our photomontage looked fantastic on regular copy paper: Lexmark’s toner produces rich, solid colours on porous paper in a way that inkjets just can’t. If we had to criticise, we’d note that very dark detail tended to get crushed into black, but the overall impression is extremely good.
The scanning side of things is even more impressive. Our ten-page test document zipped through the ADF and onto our desktop in a ludicrous 23 seconds; even a taxing 600ppi A4 scan took just 21 seconds to arrive, something no other printer managed in less than a minute. And we were delighted with the results: the greyscale document scan was as clear and solid as you could possibly ask for, while 300ppi and 600ppi colour scans captured the overall tone of the source images perfectly. The driver errs on the side of soft images, rather than sharp ones, so if you want to blow up your scanned images you might want to choose the highest scan resolution. However, it’s so quick that that’s hardly a problem.
The user interface is rather perfunctory: although you get a colour screen, it’s pretty cramped at just 6cm across the diagonal. It doesn’t support touch either, so while the controls are clear and intuitive, you have to click around them with an old-school cursor control. On the upside, you get double-sided printing and that large 250-sheet paper cassette. Running costs are attractive too: 0.04c per mono page is as good as you’ll see from any laser in this test, and 19c per colour page easily undercuts Oki, Ricoh and Xerox.
You can still save money overall by going for the Brother inkjet, but neither can match the speed or quality of a professional-grade laser printer. If you don’t need fax or wireless the Lexmark CX310dn makes a persuasive option.
“If you don’t need fax or wireless the Lexmark CX310dn makes a persuasive option.”
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