Single-function mono laser printers can now be picked up for well under £100, but if you want something that's able to spit out prints at a decent speed and not cost the earth in terms of replacement toner, you'll need to accept a slightly higher initial outlay.
Lexmark's new E360dn is aimed at the small business market as well as home users who tend to churn out higher-than-average print volumes. At 40.6cm wide, 37cm deep and 26cm tall it's not the most compact printer, but neither is it overly cumbersome. Given the high price tag it's slightly disappointing that there's no wireless connection, but both USB and Ethernet are offered.
Installation is easy, with the Lexmark software guiding you through the process and the single black toner cartridge slotting neatly into the front of the chassis. Lexmark has opted to keep controls to a minimum, with just six buttons gracing the top of the printer. These are joined by a small two-line LCD screen, which benefits from a green backlight.
Paper is loaded into the 250-sheet tray located at the very bottom of the printer. Above this sits a separate 50-sheet tray for loading a variety of different paper sizes. As is the norm with lasers in this class, documents are emitted from the top of the printer.
Where the E360dn excels is in the speed department. We weren't able to match Lexmark's quoted speed of 38ppm, but the 34ppm we did achieve is still hugely impressive. These speeds were calculated after the first page arrived in the out-tray, which takes around seven seconds. We've no problems regarding print quality either, with the E360dn producing clear, sharp, jet-black text.
As signified by the 'd' in its name, E360dn also features a duplex unit, which means you can save on paper costs by printing on both sides. It's a fully automatic duplex unit, so you won't need to flip the paper over yourself as with some other printers, but it does dramatically reduce print speeds. In our tests, speeds dropped to under 10ppm when using the duplex unit.
An interesting feature in the software is the ability to adjust the toner darkness using a scale of one to 10. The lower the number, the less toner used for each print and, consequently, the cheaper the printer is to run.
As with its other lasers, Lexmark offers reduced-priced toner cartridges if you sign up to its cartridge replacement scheme. Under this scheme, the standard toner costs £91 inc. VAT and will last 3,500 pages, which equates to 2.6p per print. Not hugely expensive, but neither is it particularly cheap. Far better value can be had by opting for the £175 high-yield cartridge, which lasts a whopping 9,000 pages and gives a price per print of 1.9p. Bear in mind that these prices are calculated using Lexmark's online toner store; shop around and you may be able to pick up cheaper cartridges for the E360dn.
Along with the toner, the photoconductor unit will need to be replaced every 30,000 pages, but at £35 it's not something that's going to break the bank and even heavy users aren't likely to need to replace it more than once a year.
Finally, it's worth mentioning that Lexmark has done a good job in terms of operating system support. Drivers for Windows, Mac and various Linux distributions are all available (check the Lexmark website for full OS support details).
With super-fast print speeds, low running costs and a built-in duplex unit, the E360dn from Lexmark is a decent laser printer for small businesses or individuals who print large volumes.