Epson AcuLaser CX11NF multi-function printer

The Epson AcuLaser CX11NF is an inexpensive, multi-function color laser printer that features a built-in flatbed scanner, a fax machine, and copier capabilities. It can be shared over a network using its standard 10/100 Base T Ethernet connection or connected directly to your Mac using USB 2.0. While I had a few issues getting the printer set up, the CX11NF proved to be a very good performer all around.

While I was testing the CX11NF in the lab, several passing Macworld editors made the same comment: “What is that thing?” Looking like a compact color laser printer, but with a scanner and sheet feeder stuck on top, this unit is pretty large. In fact, at 73 pounds, you’re probably going to want some help getting it out of the box and up on a table—this is no desktop model that will sit next to your computer.

I had no problems installing, connecting, or using the printer via USB, but I did have problems with getting the network set up. This process wasn’t as seamless as it has been with some color laser printers I’ve tested, but I did get it to work.

Instead of using PostScript, where the printer has its own CPU and memory and does most of the work of processing the image, this printer uses host-based processing, much like inkjets, where the computer does most of the heavy lifting. It can be more difficult to get these types of color lasers to work with Macs over a network. I had trouble getting Bonjour to work until I plugged it into an Ethernet hub, and then into our office network.

Getting the scanner functions to work over the network was also a little tricky. First, you have to use an application called Epson Scan Setup that installs in your Applications/Utilities folder. It might be a better idea for the company to put an alias of that utility in the Applications/Epson folder, where the rest of the Epson apps get installed. Then, you have to open the application and select the scanner, close the application, and turn the printer’s power on and off. After following this routine, I was able to scan from within Photoshop.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t use the buttons and menus on the front of the unit to scan. Using them to scan from the CX11NF and push them to a computer, networked or locally attached, is a PC-only feature.

Once set up, the printer performed very well. In fact, it is among the fastest color laser printers I’ve tested. A one-page Microsoft Word document printed in just 10 seconds, and it took just 36 seconds to print a ten-page document. It took a little longer to print a four-page PDF file, but this has been true of all non-PostScript color laser printers I’ve tested.

The prints were impressive, getting very good ratings for photographic images, line art, and graphics, as well as for text. Though, some of the colored text appeared jagged when examined closely.

The CX11NF also sped through our scanning tests, although it’s difficult to compare our results to other single-function scanner results because this scanner only outputs 24-bit color scans, while our tests call for 48-bit scans. It did a very good job scanning our fine-line resolution chart, resulting in clear and clean lines, with no apparent errors.

By combining both a scanner and printer, the CX11NF can also act as a color laser copier. It has a 50-sheet auto feeder for copying or scanning multi-page documents. Copies of documents looked very good, though the copy of a test color photo was a little oversaturated and a bit on the red side. This is good enough for a quick copy, but not as good as scanning it into Photoshop and printing.

A non-fax version of the printer, the CX11N, is available for $100 less. You may be tempted to skip the fax and pocket the extra cash, but with copy shops like Kinko’s charging a premium to send a fax, that decision may not pay off in the end.

timed trials: print

10-page Word test 0:36
1-page Word test 0:10
22MB Photoshop image 1:26
4-page PDF 2:19

Scale = Minutes: Seconds

timed trials: scan

8-by-10-inch Photo, 600 dpi scan 0:41
4-by-6-inch Photo, 1,200 dpi scan 0:33
Transparency n/a

Scale = Minutes: Seconds

jury tests: print

Graphics: Fine Lines and Gradients Very Good
22MB Photoshop Image Quality Very Good
Text Quality Very Good

Scale = Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor

jury tests: scan

Color Very Good
Clarity Very Good

Scale = Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor

specifications

Print Resolution 600 dpi
Scan Resolution: optical 600 dpi
Max Scanning Bit Depth 24-bit
Connection 10/100 Ethernet; USB 2.0
Paper Sizes Up to 8.5 x 14 inches
PostScript Version n/a
Installed RAM/ Max RAM 128/ 576MB
Cost to Replace Ink/ Toner Cartridges $403 for 4,000 pages (high-capacity); $76 for black per 4,000 pages; $109 each for cyan, magenta, and yellow.
Weight (in pounds) 73
Dimensions (height x depth x width in inches) 26.2 x 18.4 x 18.1
Paper Capacity 180
Special Features Built-in fax; Bonjour capable

Macworld’s buying advice

The Epson AcuLaser CX11NF has it all: color laser printer, sheetfed scanner, a copier with networking capabilities, and a built-in fax machine. Aside from the somewhat complicated network setup, this inexpensive color laser multifunction printer performed impressively at all of the tasks I gave it.

[ James Galbraith is Macworld ’s lab director. ]

Epson AcuLaser CX11NF

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