Lexmark C500n - printer - color - laser review: Lexmark C500n - printer - color - laser

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Fast black text and graphics prints; excellent text handling; good graphics prints; inexpensive.

The Bad High consumables cost; limited functionality; no duplexer; nonexpandable memory.

The Bottom Line The Lexmark C500n is a fast color laser printer fit for a multiuser environment with high-volume printing needs. The competition offers more features, but slower printing or lower-quality prints.

7.1 Overall
  • Design 6.0
  • Features 6.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Service and support 7.0

The Lexmark C500n is a basic, single-function color laser printer geared for small offices and home offices. After reviewing a bunch of multifunction color printers recently, $400 seems like a lot for a single-function machine. The C500n's fast print speeds and network-readiness, however, make it a good addition for small offices that have high-volume text printing needs. Although, for about the same price, the Samsung CLP-510n offers a duplexer, and the Konica Minolta Magicolor 2430DL serves up a PictBridge port. If you have the budget, a color laser multifunction is a cash- and space-efficient option; it saves you from having to purchase separate devices, then find room for them. At $899, the HP Color LaserJet 2840 is more than twice the price of the Lexmark C500n, but it includes fax, copier, and scanner functions--useful in any office environment. If you're happy with the functions of the C500n but just want a speedier option, check out Lexmark's own C522n, which printed color text and graphics at about twice the speed of the C500n and has more expandability options, too.

Like all laser printers, the Lexmark C500n is a monolithic piece of machinery; make sure you have room for it. It stands 18.9 inches wide, 16.5 inches deep, and 15.2 inches tall and weighs a back-breaking 66 pounds. Unfortunately, it has no built-in hand wells, so moving it is a slow and painstaking task. You're better off getting someone else to help you move it. The standard version of the printer comes with a single 250-sheet input tray; you can purchase an optional 530-page drawer to increase your total input to 780 pages. Additionally, the above-mentioned trays can handle up to A4-size paper only, but Lexmark also sells a legal-size paper drawer. Maximum output is 250 pages as well, and the output tray has a simple foldout flap to catch longer sheets. There's no straight pass-through on this machine, so be wary of using paper that has a tendency to jam when curled.

The C500n is network-ready (wired only), which is a boon in a multiuser environment. Another unexpected benefit to the networkability: the printer is noisy, even while idling, so you may want to stick it in an unpopulated area. Even better, it supports both Mac and Windows PCs. It comes with 64MB of nonexpandable memory and a 200MHz processor. It has no duplexer, so double-sided printing is a manual operation.

The entire front wall swings down to expose the four toner cartridges. They're set in a single-pass array, which makes for faster color printing than with the older drum laser printers, which had to make a separate pass to lay on each color. The C500n ships with starter toner cartridges. Unfortunately, Lexmark consumables are pricey: the standard black toner cartridge (2,500 pages) costs $90, and the standard color cartridges (1,500 pages) cost $98.45 each. If you do a lot of printing, you're better off with the high-yield cartridges: the black (5,000 pages) will run you $134.70 and the color cartridges (3,000 pages) are $119.70.

The C500n has a simple top-mounted control panel. It consists of a Start/Go button, a Cancel button, and four buttons for navigating the short menu: Left/Right, Back, and Select. A two-line monochrome LCD shows you the menu options, which are limited to basic configuration options and test/calibration options. Unfortunately, the LCD isn't backlit, making it difficult to see in low light.

If you do a lot of black printing, this might be the printer for you. The Lexmark C500n was a speed demon when printing black text and graphics: 19.86ppm and 19.80ppm, respectively. It slowed down a good deal when dealing with color, but it's still on a par with or better than the competition: 6.43ppm for color graphics and 6.88ppm for color text. Lexmark's own C522n proved faster at graphics prints than the C500n. The print quality of the C500n was also quite good. It excelled at printing black graphics: the text was clean and crisp. The black graphics prints were also good, with decent detail in the image portions and a good handling of the grayscale. We liked the color text handling, too, though in smaller point sizes, we could see visible dots and cross-hatching. Color graphics is where the C500n fared the worst, and it actually wasn't all that bad. We saw visible banding in the grayscale and some jaggedness on curved lines. Color graphics looked decent, though we did see a bit of banding in the color gradients. In the photo elements, skin tones looked believable, though slightly ruddy.

CNET Labs' color laser speed tests (pages per minute)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Color graphics  
Color text  
Black graphics  
Black text  
Lexmark C500n
6.43 
6.88 
19.8 
19.86 
Samsung CLP-510n
5.34 
4.88 
17.5 
17.87 
Konica Minolta Magicolor 2430DL
4.43 
4.88 
14.04 
14.26 
HP Color LaserJet 2600n
6.31 
6.64 
6.78 
7.03 

CNET Labs' color laser quality
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Color graphics  
Color text  
Black graphics  
Black text  
Lexmark C500n
good 
good 
excellent 
excellent 
Konica Minolta Magicolor 2430DL
good 
good 
good 
excellent 
HP Color LaserJet 2600n
fair 
good 
good 
excellent 
Samsung CLP-510n
good 
good 
good 
fair 

Lexmark backs the C500n with a one-year warranty. Free, toll-free phone support is available on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Saturdays from noon to 6 p.m. ET for the length of the warranty. You can add a year of support for $124, two years for $244, or three years for $402.

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