It’s been a while since we’ve reviewed an OKI Data stand-alone (that is, print-only) color printer. The most recent was the wide-format-capable OKI C831n back in March of 2014. Like the subject of our review here today, this was also a laser-class printer.
We call these machines “laser-class” because, though they look and act like laser printers, they use light-emitting-diode (LED) arrays, rather than actual lasers, to etch page images onto the printer drum, which the toner in turn adheres to. It’s a small technical distinction, but we make it because in places, printers like these are referred to by their proper name: LED printers. Today’s review subject, the $789-list OKI C612n, is indeed an LED-based machine.
For a while there, most of the major laser-printer manufacturers—Dell (really Samsung, behind the scenes), HP, OKI, Canon, Brother—deployed LEDs in some of their laser-class machines. Why? Because LED arrays are cheaper to manufacture, and they’re smaller, allowing printer makers to make less-expensive, smaller, and lighter machines. Nowadays, we don’t see as many LED-based printers as we once did, but OKI still deploys them in a significant portion of its product line.
In addition to being less costly and smaller (since they have fewer moving parts), LED arrays can also be more reliable than their laser counterparts. On the other hand, laser-based mechanisms are typically more precise; they have only one light source, so every pixel gets the same amount of illumination, making for a higher degree of consistency. LED arrays have thousands of LEDs, and, as a result, illumination can and does vary among them. In addition, the number of LEDs in an array determines the printer’s resolution, where most laser printers support more than one dots-per-inch setting.
Does this mean that laser output is inherently superior to LED prints? It’s not that simple. Let’s say that it can be, depending on the consistency of the LEDs across the array, and to an extent that can depend on how well it’s built. What we will say is that we’ve seen some LED-array-based printers, such as the OKI C831n mentioned above, that churn out some darn good-looking prints. So, like in so many things in life, the answer to our question is: It depends.
Which brings us back to the OKI C612dn. Currently, OKI offers two C612-series machines: the model we’re reviewing, the OKI C612dn, and the $649-list OKI C612n. The “d” stands for “duplex,” or automatic two-sided printing. In other words, to get auto-duplexing from a C612 model, you’ll have to fork out an additional $140 (or thereabouts, depending on the street prices of the printers that day). Apart from the duplexing distinction, these two printers are essentially the same.
Compared to some laser printers reviewed recently, such as the $999-list Dell Color Smart Printer S5840Cdn and the $800-MSRP HP LaserJet Enterprise M553dn, the OKI C612dn’s output is slightly subpar. And compared to that pricier Dell competitor, the running costs (the per-page cost of toner) is a little high. (For a detailed description of print quality, see the Output Quality section near the end of this review; for running costs, refer to the Cost Per Page section.) On the other hand, another benefit (aside from smaller machines) of LED-based printers is that they use significantly less power than their laser-based counterparts.
That said, whether the OKI C612dn is right for you really depends on what you’re looking for. The truth is that we’d feel much better about recommending this OKI model were its running costs a little lower. If you print thousands of pages each month, a fraction of a cent for each page can make a big difference in the ongoing cost of ownership. Other than that issue, though, the OKI C612dn is a highly capable laser printer with better-than-passable output for most business scenarios.
The HP LaserJet Pro MFP M130fw ($259.99) is an inexpensive monochrome laser all-in-one printer (AIO) designed for micro- and home-office use. Given its compact size and feature set, it should perform well as a personal AIO, too. It’s significantly smaller and lighter than the Editors’ Choice Canon imageClass MF227dw, but even though both machines are similarly priced, the M130fw comes up short in a few key areas. It supports only manual duplexing, for instance, and has higher-than-average running costs. Even so, the LaserJet Pro M130fw is a solid choice overall for low-volume small and home-based office monochrome output, as well as moderate personal printing, copying, scanning, and faxing.
The Canon imageClass D1520 ($324) is a monochrome laser all-in-one printer designed for medium-volume use in a small office or workgroup. It has high standard and optional paper capacities, but it doesn’t print photos and graphics as well as some competing models, including the Editors’ Choice HP LaserJet Pro MFP M426fdw. Unlike its more expensive sibling, the Canon imageClass D1550 , it lacks Wi-Fi Direct and near-field communication (NFC), and both imageClass models’ running costs are too high. Otherwise, its strong feature set makes it a decent choice for environments that print primarily text and require high paper input capacity.
That’s demonstrated by the monochrome-laser multifunction printer (MFP) that we’re reviewing here today, Canon’s $299-MSRP ImageClass MF249dw. Not that long ago, monochrome printers, copiers, and scanners (as well as fax machines) were all separate devices, and depending on how far back in office-machine history we look, all of them were expensive. We can remember when quality monochrome laser printers and black-and-white scanners cost $2,000 or more each.
That’s all changed, of course. Today, almost any home-based office or small office can afford its own monochrome-laser MFP, and machines like these make good personal printers, if your typical applications require laser output (or, for whatever reason, you prefer it). Otherwise, compared to their inkjet counterparts (as we’ll dig into later on in this review), inexpensive laser printers tend to be costly to use, especially when you use them to their full capacity. And in this case, that full potential is a 15,000-page maximum monthly duty cycle and a recommended monthly volume of up to 3,000 pages. (A printer’s monthly duty cycle is the number of pages that the manufacturer suggests you can print each month without premature wear on the printer; consistently going over this amount could void your warranty.)
The ImageClass MF249dw replaces the Canon ImageClass MF227dw we reviewed in 2016. With the update comes support for the mobile peer-to-peer protocol Wi-Fi Direct, as well as a larger automatic document feeder (ADF), and the ability to scan two-sided originals without you having to turn them over manually. As you’ll see in the section coming up next, that last feature (the auto-duplexing ADF) can make a huge difference when you are scanning two-sided documents.
Of course, all of these features are moot without good output quality. And while yes, everything you print or copy will come out black-and-white, the ImageClass MF249dw certainly steps up here, with above-par output quality across the board—whether that’s text, graphics, or gray-scale photos you’re printing.
Our bottom line on the MF249dw is the same as our stance on most entry-level printers, inkjet or laser. If your print and copy volume is relatively low (say, a few hundred pages each month), this compact monochrome laser will provide good value. The more you print, though, the more you should consider a costlier midrange or high-volume machine with lower running costs, such as the OKI Data MB492 (a monochrome laser MFP), or perhaps a midrange-to-high-volume inkjet MFP, such as the Brother MFC-J5920DW.
If, however, occasional monochrome laser output is all you need, we suggest the Canon ImageClass MF249dw, our new Editors’ Choice for entry-level monochrome laser MFPs for home-based and micro offices. (To make the value even sweeter, while writing this review, we found it on Canon’s site and elsewhere for $209.99.)
With HP’s forthcoming acquisition of Samsung’s printer business (Samsung makes laser printers and multifunction laser printers for Dell), Dell’s place in the laser-printer market a year or so from now may be a bit up in the air. (The HP/Samsung deal is expected to close in September 2017.) At the moment, though, Dell is providing some of the most economical to use laser printers available. And that includes today’s review focus, the $999.99-MSRP Dell Smart Printer S5830dn, a very high-volume single-function monochrome laser printer.
A thousand bucks may seem like a lot to pay in 2017 for a print-only, black-and-white-only laser machine. (And unlike many Dell printers, it’s not been discounted by all that much, at least yet. At this mid-January 2017 writing, we saw it around the e-tailer circuit for $900 to $950.) But then, given its 300,000-page maximum monthly duty cycle (with a 50,000-page workload recommended), highly competitive running costs, and multiple expansion options, this is no ordinary beast. If, as we’ll elaborate on later, you use it to anywhere near its ultra-high-capacity potential, you’ll quickly regain (and surpass) in toner savings the few hundred dollars more that it costs, compared to most other laser printers we’ve reviewed.
But that doesn’t mean that the Smart Printer S5830dn is perfect, by any means. Wireless connectivity, for example, is optional; we get the reasoning for that, because this kind of printer is meant to live on a wired network. But more concerning: Unlike most Dell printers we’ve looked at lately, the output quality is merely so-so, especially when printing business graphics. Photos and text came out fine for a monochrome printer, making this an ideal machine for printing reams upon reams of all-text pages and black-and-white renditions of Web pages. But, say, presentations that begin as color documents? We ran into some issues there.
We’ve reviewed many business-minded laser printers in recent months, but none with the potential output volume of this one. Only its sibling, the like-priced Dell Color Smart Printer S5840Cdn (and its 150,000-page monthly duty cycle) comes close, but even that model, not really. And then there’s the consumables cost. Apart from several high-volume inkjet multifunction printers (MFPs), such as the Epson WorkForce Pro WF-R4640 EcoTank All-in-One and Brother MFC-J5920DW, we don’t know of any laser machines with monochrome running costs lower than these two Dell single-function machines. So this machine does have some key strengths.
Of course, those Epson and Brother color inkjet MFPs don’t come close in capacity to today’s Dell; both have much lower maximum monthly duty cycles, of well under 100,000 pages. (Also, the Epson machine actually costs $200 more than our S5830dn review unit, on a list-price basis.) Our bottom line for this machine is that, as we’ll get into in more detail near the end of this review, we can’t suggest it for printing Excel bar charts and PowerPoint handouts, if that’s your main aim. But if, on the other hand, you print tens of thousands of plain-text and/or text-document pages containing photos each month, the Smart Printer S5830dn was built for just that. We don’t know of a more economical-to-use, focused solution for mass monochrome laser printing, month in and month out, of up to 50,000 pages or so, and even as much as 250,000 pages, on occasion.
The Brother MFC-L5700DW ($349.99) is a capable midrange monochrome laser all-in-one printer designed for micro offices and small workgroups. It has a generous standard paper capacity that’s highly expandable, and text print quality is above average (though grayscale graphics and photos are not as good). Like the Editors’ Choice HP LaserJet Pro MFP M426fdw, it’s inexpensive and small enough to serve as a relatively high-volume personal machine. Unlike the M426fdw, though, the MFC-L5700DW’s automatic document feeder (ADF) is not auto-duplexing. Because of that, and a comparatively low monthly duty cycle, its $100 lower list price is not quite enough to help it replace the LaserJet as our top choice for heavy-duty use in a micro office.
The Brother HL-L6300DW ($399.99) is a standalone mono laser printer designed for small or medium-size offices with high-volume print needs. It’s fast, and it has a strong feature set and a high standard paper capacity, with the ability to expand if necessary. Its running costs are among the lowest for a monochrome laser printer in its class, and its security features include an integrated near-field communications (NFC) card reader. It churns out terrific-looking text, too, though it doesn’t print graphics and photos as good as what you’ll get from the Dell Smart Printer S2830dn or the HP LaserJet Pro M501dn (both Editors’ Choice models). Otherwise, the HL-L6300DW is a good fit for offices and workgroups with heavy-duty print volumes, making it our new Editors’ Choice for a moderate- to high-volume monochrome laser printer for small offices and workgroups.
Several entry-level single-function monochrome laser printers have debuted recently, including the Canon imageClass LBP151dw and the Brother HL-L5200DW, both Editors’ Choice winners. The Dell Smart Printer S2830dn ($279.99) is similar to the Canon LBP151dw in that it quickly churns out good-looking black-and-white pages, but it does so at a significantly lower cost per page. Although its running costs are slightly higher than those of the Brother HL-L5200DW, the S2830dn delivers better graphics quality. In fact, it brings enough to the table to make it our new Editors’ Choice mono laser printer for a micro or home office.
Read the entire S2830dn review at PC Magazine
The Canon imageClass MF416dw ($499) is a capable monochrome laser all-in-one printer for a small, home, or micro office. Its strengths include excellent text quality, a wide range of connection choices, and a generous feature set with goodies like a duplexing automatic document feeder. But the MF416dw has relatively high running costs, and thus it’s best reserved for moderate-duty use.
Read the entire review at PC Magazine
The Brother MFC-L5800DW ($399.99) is a monochrome all-in-one printer for small or home offices that is relatively fast and performs well overall, plus, it’s loaded with convenience and productivity features. These strengths, combined with a competitively low cost per page, make it a good value, but the image and graphics quality are just so-so, and the MFC-L5800DW lacks a duplexing automatic document feeder (ADF). For many would-be buyers, our current Editors’ Choice, the HP LaserJet Pro MFP M426fdw, is a better bet.
Read entire review at Brother MFC-L5800DW