“Lasers! We’re under attack!” That might be our headline here, were we writing a cheesy 1950s sci-fi epic, not a laser-printer review. But, nonetheless, that’s a pretty accurate summary of affairs in the laser-printer market nowadays.
We’ve been saying for some time that, on the value front, high-volume inkjet printers have been edging out entry-level and midrange laser models. That’s happened for a number of reasons. Among them? Better-than-ever text printing from the inkjets (and, as ever, superior photo printing), plus competitive per-page costs for consumables.
In short, recent business-class inkjets went and cut away two of the major reasons that companies opted for laser- or laser-class printers in the first place. And laser makers have been scrambling of late to catch up.
Every now and then, though, we come across a laser-class machine that upholds the old-school laser tradition of aggressively priced consumables and excellent print quality. One of them is the topic of this review, OKI Data’s $499-list B512dn Monochrome Printer.
This is a printer clearly meant for churning loads of plain document pages, given that OKI tags it with a healthy 100,000-page maximum monthly duty cycle. (That’s the recommendation for the most pages you should run through this printer in a given month. Of course, you’ll need a forklift for all that paper delivered at once.) That rating, paired with the excellent text-print quality and a cost per page (CPP) of under 1.5 cents, made a fine impression on us. It’s not all that often anymore that we run across laser-class output in a new printer at this competitive a CPP.
That said, this OKI printer’s only real flaw—its somewhat slow print speed—offsets its appealing qualities a bit. After all, if you mean to print thousands of pages a month, it’s going to take thatmuch more time. But it’s not a deal-killer unless you mean to max out this laser-class printer, all day, every day.
Notice that we refer to the OKI B512dn as a “laser-class” printer, rather than simply a laser printer. We do so because this is not a “true” laser printer, in a sense. A classic laser printer deploys an actual laser mechanism inside to draw the page image to be printed onto the printer’s drum. (The drum, charged by the laser in that pattern, then attracts toner and transfers it to the page.) OKI’s model is more accurately termed an LED-based printer. An LED printer works similarly to a laser, but it charges the page image onto the drum with a fixed array of light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
The reason for using an LED array instead of a scanning laser is simple: LEDs cost less. Substituting LEDs for lasers also allows printer manufacturers to make smaller and lighter printers with fewer moving parts. All else being equal, LED models tend to cost less to manufacture than their laser counterparts, too. Aside from the economics involved, LED-based printers look from the outside very much the same as laser devices do, and they function and act identically, too; hence, the “laser-class” name. Unless you dismantled the printer, you’d likely never know the difference.
We like the per-page economics on this OKI printer, but overall, as modern printers go, this one is a little thin on features. According to OKI, it’s really designed to sit there and churn out page after page of text at a rate of up to 45 pages per minute. (More on that later.) Out of the box, though, it has no wireless connectivity (that feature costs extra), and it supports only a smattering of mobile-printing features.
As we’ve pointed out in many recent reviews, fewer businesses today—especially smaller ones—rely as much as before on single-function, monochrome laser-class printers, one reason being that their now-more-economical inkjet counterparts print nicer graphics and images, and in color. However, there will always be those offices that, for one reason or another, require laser output and don’t care about image printing. Think about all those tire shops, doctors’ offices, and other places of business and points of sale that require short black-and-white documents and receipts in a jiffy.
The good news about the OKI B512dn is that it can serve these needs and more while keeping a light touch on your budget. And that’s a huge part of what we expect from a high-volume printer—and what can make one a success. A printer like the OKI B512dn may be light on frills, but you don’t fault a bulldozer for pushing through big jobs and delivering muscle where it is needed—and that’s what this printer does with monochrome documents.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.