OKI’s C330dn Printer: Laser-Quality Color, Inkjet Price

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With the release of its C330dn color LED printer, OKI Data Americas claims to outpace and undercut others in its class from Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark and Xerox. In tests this week by the CRN Test Center, the $399 printer lived up to those claims and earned a recommendation for resellers seeking a fast, affordable laser-quality two-sided color printer for PCL and PostScript output for the small office. The C330dn replaces OKI’s C3400 and C3600 A4/letter printers. It began shipping in June.

Like all new OKI printers in the line, the C330dn uses the company’s new engine and multi-part consumable system. Borrowing from its higher-end printers, color cartridges now go in and out as a single unit. While this configuration does waste a bit of toner at replacement time, OKI claims that supply consumption overall will be lower. Also, the setup requires no calibration and simplifies the clearing of paper jams. A single drum unit replaces what used to be four separate ones. The base unit can hold 250 sheets in the tray plus another 100 in the all-purpose bin; a 500-sheet second tray is optional.

Aside from its speed (23 ppm, color or black-only) and juice-sipping power save mode (14 watts), testers liked the C330dn’s small size. With a footprint of less than 20 x 17 inches and just over 9 inches high, the C330dn can sit just about anywhere. However, we wouldn’t want to be listening to it in "ready" mode all day; its engine is a bit loud. Fortunately, power save can be invoked right on the control panel or automatically in as little as five minutes.

A word about print speed. While the unit lived up to its claims regardless of color or page complexity, page processing time varied. With the default at 128MB of memory, the C330dn required nearly three and a half minutes to process our test page before printing the first copy. Text-only pages required 24 seconds to complete if the printer was in power save mode, and 13 seconds if not. Either way, no one is left standing at the printer waiting for monochrome jobs to complete. For longer jobs, the two-line backlit LCD control panel displays a progress counter. The panel, which also permits configuration of network and myriad other settings, also can be locked.

Thanks to OKI’s “single pass color” printing method, the C330dn also can print banners up to four feet long (or longer with optional memory upgrade). This is useful for printing illustrations, blueprints, floor plans, maps, signage and other over-sized work. As for quality, the 1200 x 600 engine was able to reproduce continuous tones of the test image with a minimum of dithering. Trapping was fairly accurate and consistent across all 23 copies.

Though testers liked the unit overall, they found Windows driver installation to be a bit clunky.
For example, after giving the printer a name, the software also installed the default name (giving us two installed printers). The Mac OS X driver presents the confusing choice of “OS X 3-5” and “OS X 6+,” rather than using the proper version numbers (i.e. “Mac OS X 10.5”). Mac installation took only a couple of minutes but required a restart. One of the dialog boxes (to delete an IP broadcast address) cut off some of its contents and could not be re-sized to display it.

For a street price estimated at around $399, the sturdy C330dn with Fast Ethernet and USB 2.0 interfaces will do well competing in the SOHO market with the HP 2025 and 1518, the Lexmark C534 and Xerox’s 6140, particularly with its 5-year overall warranty with overnight exchange in the first year. Its duty cycle is 45,000 pages per month and drum life expectancy of 20,000 pages.

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