Lexmark C522n

These days, you can get a color laser printer for about as much as, or less than, what a monochrome laser cost a few years ago. Consider Lexmark’s $499 C522n. One of several new low-priced color lasers, this printer includes high-end features like built-in networking and PostScript support, as well as optional upgrades to memory, paper trays, and wireless networking.

A little taller than many of the sub-$500 color lasers we’ve reviewed, the Lexmark C522n is aimed at small to medium-size businesses. To that end, the printer comes with a couple of useful features. The Lexmark Coverage Estimator helps companies figure out the approximate cost to print a given page. The printer also offers several ways to control the use of color — for instance, you can set it up as monochrome-only or use ColorSaver, which is Lexmark’s toner-saving draft mode.

Setup was straightforward. The four toner cartridges come pre-installed in the printer, though you still need to remove some packing materials. After I installed the drivers, connected the printer to the Ethernet network, and started it up, the C522n automatically appeared in my Bonjour (Apple’s zero-configuration networking protocol) printers list. A note to people in small offices: This printer makes a fair amount of noise, which could be distracting in cramped quarters.

Overall, the C522n’s printed output was very good. Text looked excellent—clean and very legible, even at small point sizes. Fine lines and gradients printed well, with no obvious breaks or jumps.

The printer did have trouble printing a PowerPoint document containing some PostScript Type 1 fonts—a family named Agenda—substituting them with other fonts that made a mess of the presentation. Lexmark tech support recommended a workaround: instead of using the Lexmark driver, they suggested going back to the Apple Printer Setup Utility, adding the printer again, but this time using the Generic PostScript Printer driver that appears in the Print Using drop-down menu. After I did this, the problem font printed just fine. To see if this was an isolated problem, I tried another 30 fonts, a mix of standard Mac OS X fonts as well as a bunch of Type 1 fonts. All of those printed just fine using Lexmark’s driver, so this problem may be limited to the Agenda type family.

The C522n’s photographic output looked good, but a bit noisy when compared to output from other recently reviewed color lasers, such as the Konica Minolta Magicolor 2450 (   , October 2005 ), with visible colored dots appearing in lighter areas of images. Of course, people looking for a photo printer will want to buy an ink-jet, but if your plain paper print projects do contain photographic images, the C522n’s photo print quality could be important to you.

In terms of speed, the C522n was one of the fastest inexpensive color lasers we’ve tested, taking about 17 seconds to print a one-page Microsoft Word document and just 44 seconds for a 10-page Word file. The only exception was our 22MB Photoshop image, which took nearly four minutes to print — quite a bit longer than most units we’ve tested.

timed trials

10-page Word test 0:44
1-page Word test 0:17
22MB Photoshop image 3:56
4-page PDF 0:38

jury tests

Graphics—Fine lines, gradients Very good
22MB Photoshop image quality Good
Text quality Excellent

Scale = Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, Unacceptable

SPECIFICATIONS

Print Resolution 1200 dpi (4800 interpolated)
Connection 10/100 Ethernet; USB 2.0
Paper Sizes up to 8.5x14 inches
PostScript Version PostScript 3 emulation
Installed RAM /Max RAM 128MB / 640MB
Cost to replace ink/ toner carts $462 ($105 for black per 4,000 pages; $119 each for C-M-Y per 3,000 color pages)*
Weight (in pounds) 57
Dimensions (height x depth x width in inches) 19 x 20.2 x 17.3
Paper capacity 250
Duty cycle 45,000
Special Features Bonjour capable

* price is higher if you don’t return used cartridges.

Macworld’s buying advice

Lexmark’s inexpensive color laser offers quick print speeds, Bonjour support, and high-end features like Ethernet and PostScript 3 emulation. Though I ran into trouble printing one font family, and it may be a tad loud for tight workspaces, the C522n is an affordable way for small- and medium-size businesses to add color to documents and presentations.

[ James Galbraith is Macworld ’s lab director. ]

Lexmark C522n

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