Review: HP Color LaserJet 2600n Vs. Lexmark C522n

Before you look at another inkjet, consider one of these surprisingly affordable, network-ready color lasers.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

December 14, 2005

3 Min Read

Lexmark C522n
Designed for small workgroups, the Lexmark C522n serves up a wealth of business-friendly features for the budget-friendly price of $499. It’s a fast, versatile printer that I found easy to use and effortless to install. Plus, it does a beautiful job of printing business documents, though photos aren’t its forte.

You’ll need a fairly large space for the C522n, which measures 19 by 17.3 by 20.2 inches (HWD). That’s not including the output tray, which requires several more inches of clearance at the rear. HP’s Color LaserJet is definitely the smaller of the two printers, though not dramatically.

It took about 15 minutes to get the printer unpacked and set up. The illustrated quick-start poster helped, but its lack of text instruction slowed me down a bit: Some of the illustrations weren’t immediately intuitive. There’s a full manual, but it’s contained on the driver CD in electronic form. Fortunately, you don’t need the manual for much. The printer is extremely easy to operate, thanks in part to its five-line LCD and clearly labeled controls.

The initial calibration, which the printer handled automatically, took about five minutes, after which it kicked out a disappointingly monochrome status page. From there, I installed the bundled drivers, another fast and painless process. The software immediately detected the printer on my network (a USB interface is also available, as is an optional wireless kit), and a couple of minutes later I was printing the first color documents.

As some printers do, the C522n emitted a noticeable chemical smell for a while after I first powered it up. It eventually went away, but returned when we printed more documents. Thankfully, this “new printer smell” became less noticeable after several days.

Remarkably Fast
The C522n prints 1200 x 1200 dpi documents at speeds of up to 20 pages per minute for both black and color documents. It comes with a 250-sheet paper tray; an optional 500-sheet tray triples the overall input capacity. There’s also a slot for feeding individual sheets; the C522n can accommodate card stock, labels, transparencies, envelopes, and soft-gloss paper, along with numerous plain-paper stocks and sizes. The printer has a duty cycle of 45,000 pages per month, which should more than accommodate any SMB.

I found the C522n remarkably fast at spitting out pages. It took only a few seconds from the moment I clicked "Print" in Adobe PageMaker until the first page emerged (except when the printer had down-shifted to standby mode, in which case there was roughly a minute of warm-up time before printing commenced). I then clocked a 75-page print job that mixed text and graphics: it finished in just under four minutes. The C522n makes a fair bit of noise while printing, but after a few minutes of relatively quiet idling it retreats to standby mode, which is silent.

My text-and-graphics business documents looked stunning, with sharp edges and smooth gradations. Photos printed on plain paper exhibited impressive vibrancy, though they looked a bit blotchy. HP’s laser did a better job with color accuracy, despite its lower 600 x 600 resolution. Also, the paper occasionally jammed when I got down to the last two or three sheets in the tray.

Lexmark’s included toner cartridges are good for 1,500 pages apiece (at 5 percent coverage). Replacement cartridges, which yield 3,000 pages each, sell for $144 and $131 for color and black, respectively, when purchased from Lexmark.

The printer’s one-year warranty includes onsite repair, a major plus given the transportation hassles for such a large, heavy printer.

For just $100 more than HP’s Color LaserJet 2600n, Lexmark’s C522n offers superior support, print speed, and output resolution.

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