A Mid-Priced, Mid-Performance Color Laser

By Ronald Pacchiano | Posted April 28, 2006

Prices for color laser printers have fallen dramatically in the past few years to the point where you can buy one for less than $400. Still, if your business needs a fast, powerhouse printer that can handle high monthly print volumes, sub-$400 models may not be up to the task.

Small businesses that can afford a bit more money will buy themselves a bit more speed and a bit more quality. But how much more do you have to spend? An extra $400 will buy you OKI Printing Solutions' C5800Ldn Digital Color Printer, which carries a street price of $799 — a good deal considering the print speed and processing power it provides. You can pay a lot less for a color laser, but you won't get this kind of performance.

For example, when HP first released its Color LaserJet 2600n, it had an estimated street price of $399. It prints eight pages-per-minute (versus the OKI's 24) and has a maximum monthly volume of 35,000 pages (slightly more than half that of the C5800Ldn).

Under the Hood
The Oki C5800Ldn Digital Color Printer is powered a 200MHz PowerPC CPU and comes with a standard 128MB of RAM; upgradeable to 320MB. Out of the box the unit can support up to 400 sheets; 300 legal or letter size sheets in the universal tray, plus an additional 100 on the multi-purpose tray. This is good for things like transparencies, envelopes, index cards and so on.

If that's not enough for you, an optional second tray increases its total paper capacity to an impressive 930 sheets. Automatic two-sided, duplex printing comes standard and with a duty cycle of 60,000 pages per month, the C5800Ldn should easily handle the needs of most small offices.

Further helping to emphasize its small business capability is a built-in OkiLAN 10/100 internal Ethernet print server, which makes it easy to network. However, if you don't need networking capability, the C5800Ldn also sports a USB 2.0 interface for direct connection to your PC. If you decide to go that route though we suggest you invest in a large desk. While not objectionable in size, the OKI weighs in at about 55lbs and its dimensions of 17.1x24.3x13.4-inches are a bit larger then your average laser printer.

The C5800Ldn is covered by a one-year warranty, except for the digital LED print heads, which are covered for five years. In addition, the company provides live, toll-free technical support 24/7/365.

Setup and Configuration
Setting up the C5800Ldn is almost identical to a typical monochromatic laser printer. The only real difference between the two is that the OKI uses four separate toner cartridges; black, cyan, magenta and yellow. Opening the top of the printer to load all of those toners for the first time is reminiscent of popping the hood of a car to view the massive engine. For non-techies, this can be a bit overwhelming. Fortunately though, OKI provides a clearly written, easy-to-read setup guide. It makes getting the OKI online painless and quick.


C5800Ldn Digital Color Printer
The Middle Ground: The C5800Ldn Digital Color Printer straddles the line between price and performance.

Unfortunately, the OKI doesn't ship with either a USB cable or even an Ethernet cable — make sure you have one before you begin your installation. The Printer Reference Guide, which covers topics like paper jams and toner replacement procedures, comes with a Velcro strip on the back of it, so you can attach it directly to the printer. This way it's always available if and when you need it.

You configure and manage the C5800Ldn either through an embedded Web-server or via the two-line LCD control panel located at the front of the unit. The controls are logically laid out and the buttons are large and easy to identify.

The Proof is in the Output
The first thing you'll notice is that this is one fast printer. It takes only about a minute for the printer to heat up, at which point its capable of producing a print job in as little as 10 seconds. It produces up to 24 pages per minute (PPM) in color and up to 28 PPM in black-and-white, at a resolution of 1200x600 DPI combined with single-pass digital color technology.

You can also enhance the quality of print jobs through the use of a variety of high-end color utilities. These include the new micro-fine toner, Photo Enhance, Auto Color Balance, OKI Color Swatch and Color Correct.

The C5800Ldn produced excellent text on the majority of the fonts we tested. All of the characters appeared sharp and easy to read, whether they were printed in traditional black or in color; bold or italicized.

For the most the part graphic quality is pretty good, but it varied depending on the type of graphic. Most business graphics like charts and symbols looked fine, but complicated graphics, like multi-colored logos, were more hit or miss. Some graphics were very sharp, while others exhibited a few jagged edges. Overall though, the C5800Ldn's graphics quality is more then sufficient for PowerPoint presentations and color enhancements on documents and marketing materials.

The C5800Ldn photo reproduction capability wasn't quite as impressive. For instance, the printer's auto color setting had difficulty replicating the photo being displayed on screen. Some prints were better then others, depending on lighting conditions within the photo, but if there was a lot of shadow or excess light, colors would either appear washed out or too dark.

Of course, color lasers do a better job of adding color to documents and charts and quickly printing a high volume of pages. If you're intent on reproducing photos, you're better off with a good quality inkjet printer instead of a laser.

Bottom Line
Is the Oki C5800Ldn Digital Color Printer right for your business? You'll find faster printers and you'll find printers that product sharper color, but you'll pay more. For $799, the C5800Ldn offers a solid mix of speed, performance, features and price.

Pros

  • Good value for the price
  • Fast printing
  • Clear, concise documentation

Cons

  • Jagged edges noted on some color graphics

Ronald Pacchiano is a contributing writer for both SmallBusinessComputing.com and PracticallyNetworked.com.

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