Oki Printing Solutions C3400n
At a Glance
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This small entry-level model is fast at printing both text and color graphics, though paper handling is limited.
The Oki Printing Solutions C3400n is a new low-end model in Oki's family of networked color laser printers. It carries the same $400 price tag (as of 10/6/2006) as the C3200n we reviewed in April 2006, but it's smaller and faster. It sports a new design that's better suited to a small office than Oki's former corporate style, looking more like a stackable plastic storage box than a printer.
The C3400n falls short of the C3200n's good paper handling. Its main paper tray holds 250 sheets instead of 300, while it has a single-sheet slot in place of the C3200n's 100-sheet manual tray. Though the C3400n retains the 250-sheet output bin (which gives a straighter path for thicker media), its rear-output capacity is down to 10 sheets from 100.
If you print many envelopes, you'd be better off with the new C3200n, which lets you feed more than one envelope at a time. Oki offers no optional paper trays for either printer, and the C3400n lacks the option of a duplexer.
The C3400n also trades the C3200n's neat backlit LCD for a simple control panel with two buttons and three lights, so most of the time you'll likely operate the printer from your PC.
The C3400n applies toner to the page using four LED arrays, a trait common to all Oki color printers. Like the C3200n, the $800 C5800Ldn we also reviewed in April 2006, and the $600 C5200n we reviewed in December 2005, the C3400n relies on a Windows GDI-based driver. By rendering the pages on your PC, Oki can build a cheaper printer by avoiding the need to pay licensing fees for printer languages such as PCL and PostScript. The good news is that this doesn't hurt the C3400n's performance, which is an improvement over the C3200n. In our tests, the C3400n printed text at a roughly average 15.0 pages per minute and excelled at color graphics, printing them at 5.3 ppm at default settings on plain paper; it printed at 2.5 ppm on glossy paper at best quality settings.
This model also offers improved text quality over the C3400n. Text output looked a little gray in our tests, and we noticed some jagged diagonals in large lettering, but most characters were sharp and nicely formed. Our line-art sample exhibited some minor horizontal banding in blocks of close parallel lines, but otherwise lines appeared sharp and distinct. Grayscale images achieved some good shadow detail, but looked a bit grainy with some narrow horizontal banding. On plain paper, the printer's rich, waxy inks give a glossy photographic appearance, but the images appeared grainy and oversaturated. When we printed at higher quality settings on Oki's Premium White Gloss paper, we still saw banding patterns, unnatural colors, and some posterization (lack of smooth gradient) in the darkest areas.
For maintenance, the top of the printer lifts to give easy access to the toner cartridges. Oki includes four cartridges, each rated for 1000 pages. You can buy replacement cartidges with a slightly higher yield than the C3200n's, making the newer model more economical to run. Black cartridges rated at 2500 pages cost $60, while the three 2000-page color cartridges cost $87 each. Adding to the operating costs, you must replace the four drum units every 15,000 pages; the black drum costs $40 and the color drums cost $48 apiece. Every 50,000 pages you need to replace the fuser unit ($252) and transfer belt ($318), but Oki supplies these free during the standard one-year warranty. Outside of the warranty period, you're looking at unusually high per-page costs of 3.8 cents for text and 17.8 cents for color. If you expect to print high volumes, it would be worth buying an extended warranty beyond the standard one-year warranty to reduce the recurring costs.