The Okidata Oki C5200n uses LEDs instead of a laser beam to print a page, but otherwise it operates just like a color laser printer. Although it doesn't produce real-world documents as fast as its specs--24 pages per minute (ppm) for black-and-white and 16ppm for color--lead you to expect, the C5200n's color speed still bests that of similar models, such as the , the , and the . The affordable $800 price tag, which includes an Ethernet interface and fabulous black-text quality, is within reach of a small workgroup seeking a solo printer. In a bigger office, you'd need to pair the C5200n with a high-output grayscale laser such as the or the . The putty-colored Okidata Oki C5200n looks utilitarian but sturdy. In some color laser printers, the paper passes through four separate print jobs, but the Oki C5200n picks up all four colors in one trip through a straight paper path, where four rows of LEDs take the place of a swiveling laser beam. Printers with this single-pass design usually take up a ton of desk space, but the C5200n squeezes into a petite footprint, at 16 inches wide by 22 inches deep with the auxiliary tray closed, and only 13 inches high.
The Oki C5200n weighs just shy of 60 pounds with consumables installed, which makes it easy to move--for someone in great shape. You'll have to be creative when hoisting the printer, since Oki provides only two handholds along the bottom edges. If you want to deploy the C5200n in a home office, you'll be glad to note the USB 2.0 port next to the Ethernet port. The control panel's backlit LCD angles upward from the printer's front lip to allow people of any height to read it clearly.
The single-pass design makes for simple maintenance. The C5200n's entire top panel, with the four LED arrays affixed to it, opens like a clamshell, exposing vertical slots where the four snap-together toner-and-imaging-drum assemblies drop straight in for easy replacement. For easy access to paper jams, the toner and the drum lift out to expose most of the paper path, and the front wall flops down to reveal more paper-jam sites. A back flap opens to allow stiff or delicate media such as card stock and labels to exit in a straight line, and a durable flap catches outgoing pages instead of letting them drop to the desk or the floor.
The per-page cost of the toner and the imaging drum for the C5200n adds up to a costly 2.9 cents per page, or 2.5 cents for black, depending on whether you buy 3,000-page or 5,000-page toner cartridges; at 16.8 cents or 14.1 cents per page, its color pages are steep compared to those of color lasers.
Without documentation, we managed to guess our way through a local installation. We couldn't find server-installation details on Okidata's Web site, so your network manager will likely improvise to set up a complicated network. Oki provides drivers for Windows 98 on up and for Macintosh starting with OS X 10.1.Despite the Okidata Oki C5200n's affordability, it's equipped for an office rather than a well-heeled home user. That's clear when you look at Oki's software, which includes an embedded HTTP server that allows you to check the printer's status and even change its setup over an IP network. A management utility, PrintSuperVision, can report on how much workgroups are printing and at what cost. The printer can also send e-mail alerts when something goes awry.
The basic Oki C5200n model includes a 300-sheet main paper tray and a 100-sheet auxiliary tray. Oki sells an additional 530-page paper tray for a stiff $456. The C5200n comes with only 32MB of memory but features an easily accessible slot that can hold a standard DIMM memory module to expand up to 256MB.
The C5200n's control panel is a model of clarity. Along with the backlit LCD and clearly labeled buttons, its hierarchical menu is easy to navigate to set up the printer's IP address, time sleep mode, or adjust color densities and registration. The driver software provides standard features with useful variations. Unlike those of most printers, Oki's driver allows you to choose the number of pages to fit onto your document when creating a patchwork-style poster. The Oki C5200n also prints banners up to 47 inches long. But the driver doesn't support manual duplexing, which forces you to spring for the $320 duplexer option if you want to conserve paper or create booklets by printing on both sides of a sheet.The Okidata Oki C5200n delivered well-rounded printing speeds in our tests. Unlike most color printers, Oki machines print both monochrome and color at a similar rate; however, the C5200n was unimpressive in CNET Labs' grayscale printing tests, delivering only 13ppm for both text and graphics. But it's the fastest color printer we've tested, at 8.1ppm for text and 12ppm for graphics.
Unlike its speed, the Oki C5200n's print quality fluctuated significantly between grayscale and color. Black text was perfect; our juries found no defects. The grayscale graphics, while short of flawless, were also very good. On the other hand, both color text and graphics suffered from color mismatching, and graphics, despite great detail, were dotty and showed a lot of banding.