It wasn’t long ago that you couldn’t buy a wide-format (11×17-inch) color printer based on laser or laser-class technology that didn’t stand over three feet high, weigh well over 100 pounds, and cost upward of $5,000. (And let’s not even talk about the cost per printed page, or CPP.) As with so many kinds of computer-related tech, though, wide-format color printers have continued to get smaller, lighter, and less expensive—as well as faster and better-performing. And, as a result, more and more buyers are finding wide-format a must-have once they get their mitts on such a machine. As we noted in our review of HP’s Officejet 7610 Wide Format e-All-in-One, a tabloid-size inkjet multifunction printer we looked at a few weeks ago, once you’ve had a wide-format printer in-house for a while, you’ll probably find yourself wondering how your small or medium-size business (SMB) got by without it.
But aren’t wide-format inkjets significantly cheaper than their laser-class counterparts? You bet they are. You can find decent high-volume wide-format inkjets for under $300. Take the Brother MFC-J6920DW, which comes with two paper drawers, automatic two-sided printing, an automatic document feeder (ADF), and highly competitive per-page consumable costs (in this case, ink). That Brother went for around $230 when we wrote this in March 2014, and that’s less than half of what equivalent inkjets cost six or seven years ago. Laser-class wide-format machines like the one we’re reviewing here today, OKI Data’s $1,699-list OKI C831n, have also gotten a lot more reasonably priced over that same span.
Wide-format, or “tabloid,” printers, of course, are capable of churning out pages with twice the surface area (11×17 inches) of the standard letter-size (8.5×11-inch) pages that most of us are used to. Tabloid printers allow you to print a broader range of documents. You can, for example, easily produce four-page booklets and brochures—with just one sheet of paper. (You would print in wide, or landscape, orientation on both sides of the paper, then fold the sheet down the middle.)
Tabloid printers also allow you to create larger flyers, posters, diagrams, drawings, and spreadsheets than standard-size machines do—without your having to take time out to swing by the local Kinko’s. It’s also more economical to print your “oversize” documents on demand, as you need them, rather than shelling out on large print runs—only to have the information contained on the hard copy (such as, say, price changes) become obsolete, forcing you to toss the remaining hundreds or thousands of copies in the recycle bin.
This brings us back to the OKI C831n. It’s a single-function “laser-class” machine that uses the broadly similar LED printing technology. It’s quite a different animal from the inkjet-based HP tabloid printer we mentioned earlier, which gives you nearly every productivity and convenience feature available for a relatively low price. All the C831n provides is bare-bones printing—no auto-duplexing, no automatic document feeder (ADF), no scan or copy features, not even Wi-Fi. You can add some of these features as options, and you can boost the print capacity big-time via some additional input drawers, though this will significantly increase the cost of the printer (which we’ll talk about shortly). And OKI Data does offer an automatic-duplexing version of this printer, dubbed the C831dn, for a list price of $1,929.
If your tabloid printer must be laser-class, as wide-format models go this is a good one. It’s relatively fast and the output, aside from subpar photo output, looks good. (And really, no color laser or LED printer touches even a mediocre inkjet on photo print quality.) The black-and-white CPP is reasonable, but, as we’ll discuss in the Setup & Paper Handling section later on, high-volume machines like this one that cost more than a grand should deliver a lower color CPP. That fact cost the C831n our Editors’ Choice nod. Otherwise, we like this printer.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.