At a Glance
Priced at just $499 (as of March 7, 2007), the nicely designed Lexmark C530dn offers high-quality double-sided color printing.
A 100-sheet manual tray folds out from the front of the 250-sheet main paper drawer, but the printer has no further paper-handling options. To increase your double-sided-printing capacity, you must trade up to the $699 C532dn or the $999 C534dn, which accept an optional 550-sheet drawer.
Unlike the $349 C500n, which is the cheapest member of the family, the C530dn is not a GDI-based printer. Consequently, it renders pages itself (not in your PC) and lets you install drivers for both PCL and PostScript emulation (for accurate reproduction of PostScript and PDF documents). That can be valuable for specialist applications such as prepress page layouts.
In our tests, text pages printed at 20.7 pages per minute, about average for a recently tested color laser. Our color photos printed at a near-average rate of 3.6 ppm on plain paper, but on glossy paper at the best quality setting, the page rate fell to 1.0 ppm.
Print quality was top notch. Text looked crisp and solid; and though our line art sample showed a little graininess in closely spaced blocks of lines, we noted almost no signs of banding. Our grayscale image came out sharp and lifelike, despite losing some detail in shadows. On plain paper, a few dithering patterns were visible, but colors were bright and natural. We also saw dithering patterns in photos printed on glossy paper, especially in the highlights.
The C530dn's upright design makes changing the toner cartridges easy. To access the stack of cartridges, you fold down the front of the printer.
Consumable costs are reasonable: The included cartridges are rated for 1500 pages, but higher-capacity replacements work out more economical. A black cartridge estimated to print 4000 pages costs $105, and the three 3000-page color cartridges you'll need sell for $119 each. You also have to replace the photoconductor units regularly--an operation that is a little trickier than replacing toner cartridges; Lexmark covers their cost in the one-year warranty, however. When you factor in the price of replacement waste toner packs ($8 every 30,000 pages), you get an estimated cost per page of 2.7 cents for each black-and-white page and 14.6 cents for each color page during the first year of operation.
The Lexmark C530dn is a good match for a small office in need of good-quality color output. Its ability to handle double-sided printing helps you save on paper, partially offsetting the cost of color printing and making the standard paper trays go farther.