Not long ago, the conventional wisdom was that high-volume printing was cheaper on laser and laser-class (LED-array) printers, as opposed to inkjets. For a similar spec of printer, laser-class machines cost more but were less expensive to use, while inkjets cost less but had higher running costs.
Those days of such absolutes are over.
Nowadays, laser-class printers, especially color ones, not only often cost more than their comparable inkjet counterparts, such as the HP PageWide Pro 452dw, but their ongoing per-page operational costs are higher—sometimes, by a lot. (We’ll get into that in more detail later on in this review.) Where today’s review unit, the $349-list OKI C332dn, differs is that it’s aggressively priced for a color laser-class printer. In fact, as we were writing this, we found it all over the Internet for less than $250.
Unlike most of its contemporary counterparts, the C332dn does not deploy a laser emitter for etching page images onto the imaging drum. It’s classed as a laser-style printer, but it instead uses an array of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in place of the laser. The reason that some printer makers use LED arrays is that they’re smaller, lighter, and less expensive than lasers. As we pointed out in our review of the OKI C612dn a while back, OKI Data is one of the few printer makers left that still deploys LED arrays in most of its printers.
Why are LED arrays not in as wide use today as they once were? We’re not entirely sure. Some might conjecture that it’s because laser printers print better than LED-based models, but we won’t go that far. We’ve seen LED-array machines, such as the OKI C831n we reviewed a few years back, that churn out exceptionally good-looking pages. And, conversely, we’ve seen “real” laser printers that don’t print as well as some LED-based machines do. The answer, then, to which type of machine prints best? It depends on the implementation. Even so, most other makers of toner-based printers—notably HP, Canon, Brother, and Samsung—rely predominantly on laser imaging mechanisms these days.
Which brings us back to the OKI C332dn. Overall, it is a highly capable, mid-volume stand-alone printer that churns out respectable-looking content at a good clip for the money. Compared to its competitors, though (and that includes several inkjets), its running costs are a little high, and we’re a big proponent of low running costs. But then, in some scenarios, laser-class output (toner versus ink) is required, and the page cost is secondary.
For those cases, the C332dn is an able warrior. It’s compact, as color laser-class machines go, and its output is acceptable for all but the most exacting business scenarios. But, between its toner cartridges and imaging drums, be prepared to dig deep to pay for the supplies to keep it going for heavy use. For that reason, we like it best for small businesses and workgroups that require laser-class output in light volumes—say, under 1,000 pages or so a month.