The diminutive but full-featured Konica Minolta Magicolor 2430DL pushes the color laser price tag down to near inkjet levels. At only $500, it could accommodate a small workgroup, and it prints surprisingly quickly. Other Ethernet-equipped color lasers cost more; for example, the runs $700 and up, as does the . And Konica Minolta is sending this machine into photo territory, where no color laser has gone before: it brashly popped a PictBridge port into the front of the printer so that you can plug in and print straight from a compatible digital camera. Konica Minolta rates the print speed of the Magicolor 2430DL at 20ppm (pages per minute) for black-and-white and 5ppm for color--as usual, higher than the performance in CNET's tests--but the 2430DL did well against similar printers. However, while its 600dpi engine turns out prints that look fine for a color laser, it can't hold a candle to high-quality inkjets--not a surprise. You should think of the PictBridge port as an added convenience, not a sign of phenomenal graphics quality. Like any color laser, the 2430DL's strength is its combination of full monochrome quality with quick, basic color. At first glance, we couldn't believe that the tiny Konica Minolta Magicolor 2430DL was a color laser printer. How did Konica Minolta squeeze four toner cartridges and other essentials into a package only 16 inches wide by 14 high and 19.5 deep? Part of the secret is its four-pass design: four toner cartridges snuggle into a spindle that rotates and delivers toner to the single imaging drum, one color at a time.
The 2430DL is small and cleanly designed. It weighs 45 pounds with toner and drum installed and has two deep handgrips on the sides so that one person can lift it. The USB-based PictBridge port is embedded in the front next to the paper tray where it's easy to connect your camera's signal cable. A small, unadorned control panel sits atop the printer on a sloping edge, so your fingers can push the buttons easily. You can grab a handle to open the top section of the machine to clear paper jams or to change the imaging drum and the toner cartridges. The drum slides into place on pegs; you use the onboard menus to change the toner cartridges.
While adequate for a home office, the printer's shell and paper trays should be sturdier for a work space with multiple users. For example, we treated the paper tray's front door gently, but a hinge broke when we flopped the tray down to accommodate legal-size paper. The output tray, a flap at the printer's crown, also feels flimsy.Konica Minolta equipped the Magicolor 2430DL sparingly but with enough capabilities to accommodate an individual or small workgroup. The buttons for navigating its LCD menus are clearly labeled and easy to operate, but we recommend you print the excellent menu map, from the Special Pages menu, before descending into the system maintenance or network setup functions. Also, we wish the control panel's 2-line-by-16-character LCD were backlit.
The vanilla, basic configuration of the 2430DL doesn't include a lot of hardware. It has a single, 200-sheet, legal-size paper tray; you can stack a 500-sheet paper feeder underneath the printer for a pricey $299. The base memory configuration is only 32MB, enough for an individual printing ordinary documents but not to share on a network or to enable the PictBridge function. To print from a camera, Konica Minolta recommends upgrading the memory with an extra 128MB of RAM for $129, or 256MB for $20 more. The system can hold up to 544MB, though we can't imagine a situation that would demand so much.
Connecting the Magicolor 2430DL to a PC via the USB 2.0 port is simple. The 2430DL's Windows driver provides useful features, such as n-up printing to reduce and print multiple pages onto one sheet; the ability to print a watermark or an external file behind pages; and adjustments for contrast, brightness, saturation, and color-matching. The duplex feature doesn't work without the optional, $399, backpack-style duplexer, however.
From a digital camera connected to the PictBridge port, the onboard LCD menus let you print n-up and tweak sharpness and brightness. But they don't support cropping or borderless printing, and you have to select images to print from the camera rather than from the printer's control panel. CNET tested the Magicolor 2430DL with two PictBridge cameras: a Pentax Optio S40 and a Minolta-brand Dimage Z3. We weren't able to get the printer to work with the Pentax camera.
And just because it hooks up to a camera doesn't mean this printer will produce frameworthy photos--but then again, no color laser can. Still, the PictBridge port might come in handy for business or insurance purposes, such as printing an instant record of a fender-bender. And you can even print on glossy paper for, say, a newsletter.
Konica Minolta ships the Magicolor 2430DL with almost-empty starter cartridges specified to print only 1,500 pages. Once you replace those with the standard 4,500-page cartridges, which cost $85 for black and $130 each for color, a page of black costs a reasonable 1.9 cents worth of toner, and a color page runs 10.6 cents.