Konica Minolta MagiColor 5440DL
At a Glance
Konica Minolta magicolor 5440 DL Color Laser Printer (27 PPM, 2400x600 DPI, Color, PC/Mac/Linux)
Good text printing, low per-page costs, and a large main paper tray. PictBridge option is expensive, but may appeal to some.
The $999 Konica Minolta MagiColor 5440DL is big and boxy (20.5 by 16.5 by 16.5 inches) like its sibling, the MagiColor 5430DL, which sold for the same price when we reviewed it in February 2005. The 5430DL now sells for about $300 less, but the 5440DL doubles the size of that model's main paper drawer to 500 sheets and adds a 100-sheet manual tray.
You can increase the paper capacity to 1600 sheets by adding two 500-sheet drawers for $299 each. The extra drawers also let you easily mix different types of media--such as plain, letterhead, and glossy paper--with some limitations. You can feed legal-size paper from the multipurpose feeder tray or from the optional drawers, for example, but not from the main paper drawer; and you can feed envelopes only from the manual tray (up to ten at a time). The output bin atop the printer holds 250 sheets face down. An optional duplexer costs $399.
The printer has a direct print port to the left of the control panel, but to activate it you have to install an optional PC Card and an additional 128MB of RAM (for a whopping total cost of $378). In our informal testing with an 8-megapixel, PictBridge-compatible digital camera, the 5440DL took longer than 5 minutes to print a letter-size photo on glossy paper at the printer's standard quality setting. The quality didn't impress us. Though Konica Minolta recommends 512MB of RAM to print at fine quality, we printed our test photo in this mode with just the 128MB upgrade. The results were better, but they don't compare to the near-photographic quality you can achieve with inkjets and dye-sublimation printers. Nevertheless, this capability may be useful in an insurance claims office or legal department that needs to keep simple photographic records but would like to avoid maintaining a separate photo printer.
Konica Minolta estimates that the starter toner cartridges included in the box will print 3000 pages. The company rates its standard replacement cartridges for the 5430DL at 6000 pages, but it also offers more-economical 12,000-page cartridges for the 5440DL. In single quantities, these cost $150 for black and $340 for each of the three colors. The bulky cartridges come with built-in drums, so the remaining regular maintenance tasks consist of replacing the waste toner pack every 32,000 pages and replacing the fuser unit ($39) and transfer belt ($299) every 120,000 pages. The per-page cost is 1.6 cents for monochrome and 10.1 cents for color. You can economize further by buying the color toner cartridges in a three-pack for $920.
In our subjective quality tests at the printer's default settings, the 5440DL printed superb text. The type was a little heavy, but it had sharp edges and well-formed characters. Though very close lines merged into a solid block in our line-art test, the lack of banding impressed us.
We found the printer's output on our grayscale image test puzzling, however: The image came out far too light, like an overexposed photograph. Even when we tried to correct the printout by adjusting the driver settings, we saw blown-out highlights and posterization. Despite some good detail in shadows, color images printed on plain paper were oversaturated and showed some banding. On glossy laser paper, with the driver settings adjusted for high quality, we saw murky colors, little depth, and vertical and horizontal banding.
The 5440DL relies on the linked PC's processor to render pages. Most host-based printers support only Windows, and work directly from the operating system's low-level Graphics Device Interface. But Mac users can print on the 5440DL by running the recommended PostScript emulator on their computers. We had no trouble setting up and installing the printer on our test network, but attaching the multipurpose tray took a little effort.
Konica Minolta appears to have fixed the problem with sluggishness that plagued our 5430DL test unit. However, the 5440DL's 14.7 pages per minute for text and 4.5 ppm for color still lag behind color lasers that have a similar price and comparable paper capacity.