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Editors' note: (7/2/03) This review has been updated to reflect that Minolta-QMS does offer an automatic document feeder as an option and that the ink cartridges should produce approximately 4,500 pages each.
An ideal workgroup color-laser printer should be network ready and capable of printing text and graphics equally well, and it should be economically priced. The Minolta-QMS's Magicolor 2300 DL fits these criteria. It costs just $799, comes with all the right connections, and produces graphics and text that look as good as those of the $1,700and the $2,000 . But it falters on other key criteria, such as speed--it's slow--and some parts of its design are inconvenient. For budget-minded offices, however, it's still a good deal.
All workgroup laser printers suffer from a boxy profile and a hefty weight (the Magicolor 2300 DL weighs 55 pounds), but this printer at least manages to pack itself into a smaller footprint; it's only 20 inches deep and 15 inches tall and wide. Minolta manages to fit four toner cartridges and a waste toner disposal bin into this tight space, along with one 200-sheet, multipurpose paper bin and a 10-sheet manual-feed slot. Thanks to the preinstalled consumables, the printer setup is absurdly easy, and the drivers install from the CD in minutes. Paper handling is versatile but a little complicated. The Magicolor 2300 DL handled a range of paper stocks flawlessly in extended tests. To print on envelopes or different paper sizes, however, you'll need to remove all of the sheets and adjust the paper guides. Access doors on the front and right sides let you easily clear most paper jams.
The power cord, connection ports, and paper tray are all on the same side.
Even if the Magicolor 2300 DL's price has already hooked you, you should consider whether it's worth some of the other design annoyances that we encountered. The low-contrast, LCD status screen is sometimes hard to read. And you have to keep the left side of the printer clear of obstacles because it houses the power socket, the ports (parallel, USB, and Ethernet), and the paper tray. You can't turn the unsightly port mounting and the cables toward the wall, either, because then you'd have trouble loading paper.
The Magicolor 2300 DL comes equipped for workgroup printing with a 10/100BaseTX Ethernet interface, parallel and USB connections, and plug-and-play compatibility with most current versions of Windows, including XP. The unit ships with 32MB of RAM and can be expanded to 288MB. The 200-sheet paper tray can handle 16-pound to 90-pound stock in sizes from letter and A4 to legal. Automatic double-sided (duplex) printing is available as an option for $399, and you can print on both sides manually.
The low-contrast LCD panel is sometimes difficult to read.
All of the consumables are preinstalled, including cyan, magenta, yellow, and black toner cartridges; a waste toner pack; and the drum. A front door on the printer offers access to its innards for replacing consumables. According to Minolta-QMS, high-capacity replacement cartridges run about $80 for black toner and $120 for each of the three colored cartridges. All cartridges can print up to 4,500 sheets at 5 percent coverage, and if they manage to do so, that means the cost runs about 1.8 cents per page of black text and 7.9 cents per page of color.
The toner used in the Magicolor 2300 DL is a little shinier than a typical color laser's toner. That's because the Minolta formulation contains a lubricating polymer that eliminates the need for fuser oil and reduces wear on the printer. It produces a nice finish on color printouts.
QMS claims a top speed of 16 pages per minute (ppm) for black text on the Magicolor 2300 DL, but in CNET LabsÃ‚' tests, the printer performed below average. The 2300 DL's 10.7ppm performance printing text was a little slower than the Hewlett-Packard11.2ppm, which is also rated at 16ppm by the manufacturer. But the Magicolor 2300 DL fell farther behind when it printed mixed graphics and text; it managed a mere 4.1ppm, nowhere near the LaserJet 2500tn's blazing 9.9ppm.
The good news is that the output quality is worth the wait. Text printed clearly down to about 6-point type, when even the higher-priced HP and Xerox competition start to show flaws on Times New Roman and other serif fonts. Color images we printed looked very good on all kinds of paper. The clarity and color reproduction would work fine for printing most presentations and color brochures.
Color laser printer speed (Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Laser printer quality|
The Magicolor 2300 DL comes with a typical one-year exchange warranty for units with manufacturing or design defects. In addition, Minolta-QMS offers free and toll-free phone support in English, Spanish, and French for all of its current models. Minolta-QMS also provides fee-based support for products it no longer manufactures. It costs $35 per call.
You can also look for answers yourself on the company's &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eminolta%2Dqms%2Ecom%2Fsupport%2Findex%2Ehtml" target="_blank">Web site, where you'll find an online-support database with a natural-language search form and an FTP site for drivers and updates.