The Lexmark E332n black-and-white laser printer looks modest, but don't let its unassuming exterior fool you. This printer's 27-page-per-minute (ppm) engine churns out the pages as fast as high-end office laser printers such as the , which costs at least another $200. Lexmark's printer matches the needs of a small workgroup better than those of a larger office, however, because of limited paper-handling options and certain design elements, such as an auxiliary tray that must be hand-fed one sheet at a time. As of October 2004, Lexmark priced the E332n, which includes an Ethernet interface, at $499; this is several hundred dollars less than the competition, and it's a good deal for workgroups. But if you're seeking a home-office printer for one person, a sub-$200 , which lacks networking capabilities, would be a better option. Note: Lexmark recalled and replaced its initial rollout of the E332n because of an electrical failure, now remedied. Lexmark made the E332n simple to handle. It weighs only 22 pounds, and at 16 inches wide by 14 deep and only 11 high, it's small enough for one person to unpack or move, thanks in part to the handgrips set into the base. The aerodynamic shell of silver-trimmed, black-matte plastic pops open for toner access in front, just below a column of indicator lights. The toner and the drum snap together easily and fit into grooves, sliding straight into the printer's belly for easy handling.
Lexmark sells toner cartridges in two sizes: the 2,500-page version ships with the printer and costs $74 to replace, and a 6,000-page model sells for $119. Add the 30,000-page imaging drum for $62.50 to the small cartridge, and a page of text costs a pricey 3.2 cents or a reasonable 2.2 cents with the larger cartridge. The back of the E332n sports a 10/100 Ethernet interface, a USB 2.0 port, and even an old-fashioned parallel port. We noticed one small design flaw: the power switch sits on the back, forcing you to grope among the ports to start up or shut down.
CNET encountered another minor problem when hooking up the E332n on a USB connection. As soon as we attached the cable, Windows XP Home jumped the gun and installed the printer as a generic PostScript device, without requesting the correct drivers. We could have avoided this detour if Lexmark had sent us the setup poster, which advises you to install the drivers first. Lexmark provides drivers for Macintosh OS 8.6 and later, Red Hat and SuSE Linux, numerous versions of Unix, IBM OS/400, and all versions of Windows since 98.The Lexmark E332n is overkill for an individual or a home office, but it's also inappropriate for a large office. Because this printer requires you to hand-feed envelopes or letterhead one piece at a time, to avoid mixing paper from two different sources, everyone in the workgroup would have to stop printing from the main tray before you start printing a hand-fed job. The main paper tray holds only 250 sheets, but you can add a 550-sheet paper tray for a pricey $199. A rear exit provides a straight paper path for card stock and labels, but you'll have to catch the prints as they exit so that they won't flutter to the floor. Lexmark doesn't sell a duplexer add-on for the E332n, an option that's available for the more expensive . The control panel's five inscrutable status lights can display 24 different conditions and errors, described on Lexmark's quick-reference card. But with so many permutations, we'd prefer an LCD to tell us what to do, the way the ones on the and the Xerox Phaser 4500B do.
The E332n supports up to 160MB of memory, but it comes with a standard 32MB, which is too limited for demanding jobs. When we fed the printer a 128-page Acrobat file to print two pages per sheet and paginate for manual duplexing, the document slowed and failed to finish, and eventually it disappeared from the print queue. Adding memory is easy, but it comes at a steep price. For example, a 64MB module costs $550, so you'll want to buy your own DIMM memory module.
The Lexmark E332n driver provides useful capabilities, such as showing you how to insert a document for manual duplexing. The driver also includes an account-tracking feature that records how much people are printing and can retrieve watermarks and overlays from the network. You can pick a watermark or an overlay to print on a page, but to create a new watermark or overlay, you have to use the Printer Properties window, which is subject to network administrator access restrictions. Unfortunately, Lexmark gives only the system administrator the power to create or delete watermarks, which takes away control from individual users. Lexmark also includes its sophisticated MarkVision network printer-management software, which provides real-time status reports for all printers on your network and even performs remote diagnostic and troubleshooting tasks. That puts the E332n's networking capabilities in a class with those of the IBM Infoprint 1332n and the Xerox Phaser 4500B.