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Review: Lexmark C544dn

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder C544dn

    Macworld Rating

Lexmark’s C544dn is a compact color laser printer that supports emulated PostScript 3 as well as PCL 6 (Printer Command Lanaguage 6). Aimed at small to mid-sized businesses, this $499 printer can connect via 10/100 Ethernet or USB 2.0. It features paper-saving automatic duplexing for printing two-sided documents and a PictBridge-enabled USB port on the front for printing images from a flash drive or supported digital camera.

The C544dn features what has to be the easiest toner replacement scheme we’ve seen. A side panel opens up and the four separate cartridges (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black) easily pop in and out, more like ink-jet cartridges than typical toner cartridge.

To encourage use of genuine Lexmark consumables, Lexmark has a free rewards program that guarantees that the price of the toner cartridges will never go up (though the company may stop selling these toner cartridges if it decides to discontinues service support for this printer) and that you’ll receive a free high-yield cartridge for every ten you return. Free replacement imaging kits and free shipping are included. If you decide not to join the rewards program, you can still purchase toner from Lexmark, but at a higher price than if you buy them through the program.

C544dn
Lexmark C544dn

After I set up the printer and connected it to our office network, the C544dn showed up as a Bonjour printer and I was able to print using the generic PostScript printer driver. Installing Lexmark’s driver gives you access to more features and more specific color controls.

The printer takes a few minutes to calibrate itself when powering up and after being idle for a long period of time. The printer’s press materials say that it can print up to 25 pages per minute, and our times weren’t that far off, getting about 20 pages per minute when printing Word documents in the printer’s 1,200-by-600 dpi mode. Timed results from our Photoshop and PDF document tests, which require more processing time, were in line with competing laser printers.

Timed trials: Print

10-page Word test 0:40
1-page Word test 0:17
22MB Photoshop image 1:15
4-page PDF 1:19

Scale: minutes:seconds

Jury tests: Print

Graphics: Fine lines and gradients Very Good
22MB Photoshop image quality Very Good
Text quality Superior

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

How We Tested: We ran all tests with the color laser printer connected via 10/100 Ethernet to a 2.66GHz Mac Pro with Mac OS X 10.5.4 installed and 1GB of RAM. We recorded the time it took to print a 1-page Word document and a 10-page Word document, as well as the time it took to print a 22MB Photoshop image and a 4-page PDF. A panel of experts examined sample output of the printer to evaluate its quality as Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, or Poor in comparison to the output of past color laser printers we’ve tested.—Macworld Lab Testing by James Galbraith

Double-sided printing helps save paper and reduces waste, but it’s no time saver. The C544dn uses a “peek-a-boo” duplex method: one side of a sheet is printed and the paper exits the printer, only to be pulled back into the printer for printing on the other side. Using the double-sided printing mode takes about 75 percent longer than printing the same document in single-sided mode.

Our tests showed that C544dn’s output was of very high quality. Printed at 1,200 dpi, our graphics tests showed that the printer was able to reproduce fine curved lines and smooth gradients. Text, even at tiny sizes, was clean and legible, earning the C544dn a Superior rating from our panel. Photographic prints looked very good, with pleasing color and plenty of detail.

The C544dn is Energy Star compliant and offers a toner-saving mode good for printing drafts, and a quiet mode that lowers the operating volume by a few decibels—handy if the printer is sitting on or near someone’s desk. The printer comes with a 250-sheet input tray, and an optional 550-page input tray is available for $199.

Specifications

Print resolution 1,200 dpi
Connection USB 2.0;10/100 Ethernet
Paper sizes Letter, legal, executive, cards
Cost to replace toner $222 for standard yield, with use of the return program
Weight (in pounds) 46.2
Dimensions (height x depth x width in inches) 11.5 x 15.7 x 16.7
Paper capacity 250 sheets
Special features Duplex printing

Macworld’s buying advice

With its great-looking output, small form factor, and dollar-saving toner program, Lexmark’s C544dn is a good fit for a small to medium-sized workgroup looking to add color to presentations and brochures.

[James Galbraith is Macworld’s lab director.]

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At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Rewards program for toner
    • Great image quality
    • Automatic two-sided printing
    • 10/100 Ethernet connectivity

    Cons

    • Lengthy duplex printing time
    • Slow to start up
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