It also lived up to expectations in the performance department, delivering long Word and other documents at close to the advertised maximum rate, and that all-important first page consistently appeared in around seven to eight seconds with nearly everything we tried.
Print quality was what we expected too. Not brilliant, but more than good enough for the kind of applications the T656dne is likely to be put to, from general office printing to churning out emails, invoices, work orders and so on.
It's also clearly made for sharing, with a built-in network print server, a Gigabit Ethernet interface and a recommended monthly throughput of up to 35,000 pages. Plus, it's possible to fit a range of add-on paper drawers underneath the main unit, increasing capacity from 550 sheets on the bare desktop model we tested, to a huge 4,300 pages altogether. A mailbox sorter is yet another option, plus a stapler and a set of wheels, to make it free-standing.
Unlike other departmental lasers we’ve tried, the T656dne was remarkably light and easy to set up, with a clear quick-start guide to point us in the right direction. On the downside it took a while to work out where the toner cartridge was located, but it was plain sailing once we'd found the hidden catch behind the fold-out multipurpose feeder.
Our only concern was the size of the 10,000-page cartridge supplied, which isn't much on a printer of this type. Fortunately, replacements can cope with up to 25,000 (high yield) or 36,000 (extra high yield), the latter being the most economical at just under £300 + VAT, working out at around 0.8p per page.
We used a PCL driver for most of our tests, but PostScript and direct PDF printing are both supported, and there's a USB port located at the back for direct PC/server attachment, if needed. There's also a second at the front, right next to the colour screen, which we used to print direct from a USB memory stick without the need for a PC.
A hard disk is another standard feature and this too can be very handy. For example, from the Windows driver we were able to upload documents to the printer and, instead of printing directly, have them stored on the disk for later retrieval, with the option of PIN code authentication for security.
And it was here that the 7in colour screen started to come into play, making light work of browsing, printing and generally managing documents stored this way. Likewise, when we plugged in our USB stick, up popped a menu allowing us to browse for, print and delete the documents it contained.