Review: Lexmark C912dn

WHAT’S HOT: The Lexmark International Inc. C912dn’s text output impressed us. The model printed solid black letterforms, unmarred by the shiny surfaces we’ve seen from many color lasers, and with no hatching or jagged edges on straight strokes or curves. Plus, in an array of narrow parallel lines it kept each line distinct.

The C912dn has plenty more in its favour. It comes with an internal duplexer, and prints text at a big-office-friendly pace of 15.4 pages per minute. It can print on ledger-size (11-by-17-inch) paper out of a tray, and on hand-fed banner-size (12-by-36-inch) paper. Two paper trays and a multipurpose feeder put the default paper-handling capacity at 1,200 sheets.

Though the C912dn is huge, we found it very easy to operate despite its intimidating appearance. The control panel buttons correspond well to the hierarchy of the on-board menus. The top half of the printer lifts up on sturdy supports, allowing easy access to the toner and other imaging components; and the entire paper path slides out on rails from a side door, so clearing jams is easy. Lexmark provides an excellent setup manual and extensive on-screen documentation.

WHAT’S NOT: At US$5,499, the C912dn costs considerably more than the two other large-format colour laser printers with built-in duplexers on our August issue’s chart. The printer weighs 231 pounds, spreads 27 inches wide with the auxiliary paper trays closed (54 inches wide with them open), and stands 25 inches in height — tall enough that when the printer is perched on a typical office-cubicle desk a short person may have trouble reading the control panel LCD.

Lexmark’s driver attempts to give gray-scale photos more depth by seeding them with speckles of colour. The technique definitely improves detail, but the colour is too obvious and thus doesn’t blend well with the black. Colour photos are the C912dn’s weak point —our test prints didn’t look bad, but they showed some banding and slight muddiness.

WHAT ELSE: The company sells quite a set of paper-handling options for the C912dn. You can stack the printer on top of two more 550-sheet paper trays for US$500 each, attach an external 3000-sheet paper feeder that costs US$1,311, and set up your own finishing shop with a US$2,000 sorter that staples and punches holes. The C912dn’s driver can hold print jobs in memory even without a hard drive installed; the printer will store your protected job until you enter your password on the device’s control panel. Most printers with such a feature require an internal hard drive to cache the data.

UPSHOT: Big offices that need high-quality text output, large paper capacity, and complex finishing options will like the C912dn.