The Oki B431DN's drab black exterior and boxy shape make it easily lost in a pile of other monochrome laser printers, but this one deserves your extra attention. Modern laser printers with extra features--like an autoduplexer for double-sided prints, an extra-large 350-sheet paper input tray, and an open Ethernet port that lets multiple users print at the same time--usually cost more than $400, but the Oki B431DN offers all of the above for an affordable $350, the same price as less functional models like the Samsung ML-2851ND. On top of its affordable price, the Oki B431DN also delivers prints quickly and with superior image quality. This printer meets and exceeds our expectations for a small business or home office imaging device and earns our enthusiastic recommendation.
Like most monochrome printers, don't expect to see the B431DN strutting down the catwalk--its matte black design is meant to match the universally drab aesthetic of most office electronics, but what it lacks in elegance, it makes up for in utility. The printer is easy to pick up at just under 26 pounds (average for a laser printer), and at 9.6 inches tall, 15.2 inches wide, and 14.3 inches deep, it's small enough for one person to transport.
You'll interact with the printer primarily through the top of the device: there you'll find the standard output tray with a small plastic tab that flips out to corral finished prints, as well as the control panel and two-line LCD screen. Since the B431DN is only capable of outputting black and white, the operation is very straightforward, and a two-line LCD is all you'll need to control it. Underneath the screen you'll see a directional pad for navigating through the onscreen menus, an online button, a cancel button, and two skinny LED lights that blink to indicate readiness or if there are any problems that require your attention.
The 250-sheet paper input tray pulls out from underneath the printer, with corral clips on each side that adjust to a variety of paper sizes. You can also fit 100 extra sheets in the multipurpose tray above the main tray, boosting the overall input capacity to an impressive 350 sheets. For comparison, the Samsung ML-2851 only gives you a 250-sheet tray for the same price.
Setting up the Oki B431DN is as easy as opening the box, unwrapping the printer, inserting the accompanying driver disc, and following the onscreen instructions. The entire process took less than 10 minutes to complete using a USB cable (not included), but you can also connect it to your computer using an older parallel cable (also not included), and the driver CD also guides you through the networking process. The software will automatically detect the printer and install it on your network using TCP/IP, so an IP address is required. Finally, the B431DN is compatible with a variety of operating systems, including Windows 7, Vista, XP, and older, as well as Mac OS 10.3 and higher.
The appeal of the Oki B431DN lies in its simple setup and ease of use, but we wish the software came with an onscreen dashboard to show information like job progress or toner levels. Still, it's hard to complain about minor details when Oki provides other productivity features, like the internal autoduplexer that lets you save money by printing on both sides of a sheet of paper.
The Oki B431DN is by far the most efficient of the printers we compared in terms of output speed, and we're impressed by how easily it outpaced the competition. The Oki product page advertises 40 pages per minute (ppm) and our test results for all three categories are just about congruent with those claims at 38.16 ppm for the 10-page presentation test, 33.3 ppm for the graphics page, and 33.86 ppm for a simple page of black text. If raw speed is your purchasing criterion, look no further than the B431DN.