The Lexmark C500n is a basic, single-function colour laser printer geared for small offices and home offices. At £250 it seems expensive for a single-function machine, but the C500n's fast print speeds and network-readiness make it a good addition for small offices that have high-volume text printing needs. Although, for about the same price, the Samsung CLP-510n offers a duplexer, and the Konica Minolta Magicolor 2430DL serves up a PictBridge port.
If you have the budget, a colour laser multifunction is a cash- and space-efficient option -- it saves you from having to purchase separate devices, then find room for them. The HP Color LaserJet 2840 is more than twice the price of the Lexmark C500n, but it includes fax, copier and scanner functions -- useful in any office environment. If you're happy with the functions of the C500n but just want a speedier option, check out Lexmark's own C522n, which printed colour text and graphics at about twice the speed of the C500n and has more expandability options, too.
Like all laser printers, the Lexmark C500n is a monolithic piece of machinery -- make sure you have room for it. It stands 480mm by 419mm by 386mm and weighs a back-breaking 30kg. Unfortunately, it has no built-in hand wells, so moving it is a slow and painstaking task -- you're better off getting someone else to help you.
The standard version of the printer comes with a single 250-sheet input tray. You can purchase an optional 530-page drawer to increase your total input to 780 pages. Additionally, the above-mentioned trays can handle up to A4-size paper only, but Lexmark also sells a legal-size paper drawer. Maximum output is 250 pages as well, and the output tray has a simple foldout flap to catch longer sheets. There's no straight pass-through on this machine, so be wary of using paper that has a tendency to jam when curled.
The C500n is network-ready (wired only), which is ideal in a multiuser environment. Another unexpected benefit to the networkability is that the printer is noisy, even while idling, so you may want to stick it in an unpopulated area. Even better, it supports both Mac and Windows PCs. It comes with 64MB of nonexpandable memory and a 200MHz processor. It has no duplexer, so double-sided printing is a manual operation.
The entire front wall swings down to expose the four toner cartridges. They're set in a single-pass array, which makes for faster colour printing than with the older drum laser printers, which had to make a separate pass to lay on each colour. The C500n ships with starter toner cartridges. Unfortunately, Lexmark consumables are pricey -- the standard black toner cartridge (2,500 pages) costs £69, and the standard colour cartridges (1,500 pages) cost £76 each. If you do a lot of printing, you're better off with the high-yield cartridges -- the black (5,000 pages) will cost you £104 and the colour cartridges (3,000 pages) are £92.
The C500n has a simple top-mounted control panel. It consists of a Start/Go button, a Cancel button and four buttons for navigating the short menu -- Left/Right, Back and Select. A two-line monochrome LCD shows you the menu options, which are limited to basic configuration options and test/calibration options. Unfortunately, the LCD isn't backlit, making it difficult to see in low light.
If you do a lot of black printing, this might be the printer for you. The Lexmark C500n was a speed demon when printing black text and graphics -- 19.86ppm and 19.80ppm, respectively. It slowed down a good deal when dealing with colour, but it's still on a par with or better than the competition -- 6.43ppm for colour graphics and 6.88ppm for colour text. Lexmark's own C522n proved faster at graphics prints than the C500n. The print quality of the C500n was also quite good. It excelled at printing black graphics -- the text was clean and crisp.