By Stephen Bigelow
Want to add a splash of color to your business presentations? The Lexmark Optra C710n (Figure A) offers affordable color and monochrome printing at resolutions up to 1,200 by 1,200 dpi. This reasonably priced and fully networkable printer is easy to set up and manage, and it comes with extensive support. It's also expandable for large or growing offices.
Heavy lifting required
Everything you need to use the $2,199 Optra C710n is right in the box. Along with the printer itself, you'll unpack a number of accessories, including the coating roll and transfer belt modules and four toner cartridges (black, cyan, magenta, and yellow). Remember that the Optra C710n is very heavy (about 100 pounds with its accessories installed), so ask someone to help you unpack the printer and position it in a suitable location.
Color lasers are more complicated to set up and use than monochrome models, so you'll appreciate the extensive user manuals that come with the Optra C710n. Although the setup process requires an eye for detail, you have the 100-plus pages of the Setup Guide to help you through everything, from loading the consumables and the software to connecting your printer. Another 300 or so pages of documentation cover general use and some troubleshooting, and the Quick Reference card covers the basics of front panel operation. You can use the printer with your stand-alone PC through the parallel port (no cable is included), or you can connect the Optra C710n to your Ethernet or Token Ring LAN with the printer's RJ-45 connector.
|Lexmark Optra C710n receives a CNET rating of 8 out of 10.|
Remote control software
The single CD-ROM includes a wealth of software for the Optra C710n. Along with drivers for Windows 9x/Me, NT/2000, Mac, and UNIX, you'll find Lexmark's MarkVision software, which lets you manage the printer locally or configure, manage, and monitor the printer remotely across a network. This is more convenient than running down the hall every time you need to mess with the printer's control panel.
The Optra C710n is fairly well built for business. It offers a lean 32 MB of base RAM (upgradable to 384 MB) and supports PCL 5c and PCL 6 printer languages, as well as Adobe PostScript 3. The standard 250-sheet paper tray and 50-sheet multipurpose tray might not offer the capacity needed for busy printing environments, but you can add an optional 250-sheet tray for $86. The Optra C710n is compatible with a wide range of popular business-type media, including transparencies, envelopes, paper labels, card stock, and plain paper. The printer handles A5, A4, letter, legal, executive, and B5 paper sizes, as well as DL, C5, #10, and 7 3/4 envelopes. However, as is typical for a color laser, the Optra C710n isn't suited to exotic media such as artist canvas, magnet sheets, or other coated papers.
Speed falls short of expectations
In CNET Labs' speed and print quality tests, the Optra C710n performed acceptably overall. While Lexmark rates the Optra C710n at 16 pages per minute (ppm) black and 3 ppm color, in our tests, it printed plain text pages at 11.1 ppm, mixed text and graphics pages at 2.6 ppm, and full-color pages at 2 ppm, still plenty fast for most purposes. On plain paper, the text quality was excellent, and both mixed text and graphics and color output were good. Only the Tektronix Phaser 750DP by Xerox produced better text/graphics and color output.
While the toner cartridges for the Optra C710n may seem expensive at first, you're getting a lot for your money. Color cartridges list at $229.45 each and are rated for 10,000 pages, or about 2.2 cents per color, per page. Because each color comes in a separate cartridge, you probably won't need to replace all of the cartridges at the same time. The black print cartridge lists for only $95.75 (with a 10,000-page life).
The Lexmark Web site provides detailed information and support. The site includes current Windows, Mac, DOS, and OS/2 drivers; FAQs; forums; multilingual publications; and Lexmark Knowledge Base, an interactive troubleshooting tool. The Optra C710n comes with a one-year limited warranty, and toll-free phone support is available Monday through Friday, 9 A.M. to 9 P.M. EST, and Saturday through Sunday, 12 P.M. to 6 P.M. EST.
The reasonably priced Lexmark Optra C710n offers speedy text and quality color output. It's easy to manage and to network, with plenty of room for expansion to meet the needs of any growing business.
The Minolta-QMS Magicolor 2200 N offered blazing print speeds (see Table A); however, it was still a far cry from its advertised 20 ppm. The Lexmark Optra C710n also fell short of its rated engine speed but still managed to turn in a respectable score.
|CNET Labs performance results|
Click here to check the latest prices for this product. Table B lists the complete specifications for this printer.