In a world of colour and multifunction printers, the monochrome laser feels like a dowdy suit. But like basic black business attire, the mono laser is an indispensable tool in your arsenal of office equipment. Mono lasers aren't just for corporate offices anymore, though. With their low prices and high quality, mono lasers are inching their way into home offices and on to the desks of paper-writing college students.
The Lexmark E350 series fits the bill for a home user or a student who needs to crank out lots of text prints. All three members of the series -- the E350d (£220), the E352dn (£275), and the E450dn (£350) -- come with a built-in duplexer, and the latter two offer wired networking.
The £162 Samsung ML-3051ND comes network-ready and offers the same processor and memory capacity as the E450dn, making it a better value than the E350d series machines. The E350d that we tested was slightly faster than the Samsung ML-3051ND, but the difference wasn't enough to make up for the value difference. We like the E350 series, but you get more bang for your buck with Samsung's mono laser offering.
The Lexmark E350d is very compact for a mono laser printer, measuring just 356mm by 259mm by 396mm. It's not that heavy, either, weighing in at a mere 11.3kg, so it's not too difficult to move. The front-mounted control panel is simple, with just a two-line text LCD, a Cancel button and five buttons to navigate the on-screen Menu. The Menu is basic, owing to the no-frills function of the printer, with easy and intuitive navigation. Both the E352dn and the E450dn use the same body.
All three models in this series come with a 250-sheet paper drawer, as well as a single-sheet manual feed slot. The paper drawer has adjustable paper guides that accommodate up to A4-size paper, though doing so will cause the drawer to jut out from the rear of the printer. Lexmark thoughtfully includes a dust cover for just this scenario; it covers the extended portion of the paper tray to keep dust out and also to prevent the tray from being shoved forward from the rear.
The top-mounted output tray can hold up to 150 sheets. In the rear of the printer is a single-sheet output -- a great option for media that may curl and jam when heated. You may opt for an additional 550-sheet drawer, bringing the maximum input capacity to 800 pages.
One of the main differences between the models is the size of the included toner cartridge. The E350d ships with a 1,500-page cartridge, the E352dn ships with a 3,000-page cartridge, and the E450dn ships with a 6,000-page cartridge. The E350d and E352dn offer the same toner replacement options: an £88, 3,500-page cartridge and a £153, 9,000-page cartridge. Both cartridges also are available at a discount under Lexmark's return cartridge program: users promise to use the toner cartridge only once (you can refill toner cartridges yourself using commercially available kits, but printer vendors insist that this reduces the quality of the prints) and to return the spent cartridge to Lexmark. Under this program, the 3,500-page unit costs £69 and the 9,000-page unit costs £127.
Replacement cartridge size options for the E450dn are 6,000 pages (£96, or £77 with the discount) and 11,000 pages £141, or £117 with the discount). For the lowest cost-per-page, you should use the high-capacity cartridges. In the case of the E350d, the per-page cost using the 9,000-page cartridge (regular price) is about 1.7p -- a decent, but not particularly impressive price, for a personal laser printer.
The feature set of the Lexmark E350d is limited, but appropriate for its function. The built-in duplexer lets you make automatic double-sided prints, which is a boon for both the environment and your budget. Using the Menu, you can make collated prints and multipage prints (up to 16 pages on a single sheet), and can automatically insert separator sheets. You also can do routine maintenance through the Menu, as well as choose options like EcoMode, which saves toner, but reduces print quality.
The E350 series is part of Lexmark's ecofriendly line of printers. It employs a separate photoconductor and toner design, and because the photoconductor has a much longer life than any of Lexmark's toner cartridges, it makes sense to separate the components so that you need to replace each one only when it expires.
The E350d and the E352dn both ship with a 366MHz processor and 32MB of onboard memory (expandable to 160MB). The E450dn has a slightly faster processor -- 400MHz -- and ships with 64MB of RAM (expandable to 320MB). All three models offer connection via USB port and a parallel connector, but the E352dn and the E450dn also offer Ethernet connectivity for sharing the printer across a network. Lexmark also offers a wireless print adaptor for cable-free printing. The Samsung ML-3051ND offers wired networking and the same processor speed and memory capacity as the E450dn, making it a better value than Lexmark E350 series.
The Lexmark E350d is a little speed demon of a laser printer. In CNET Labs' tests, it cranked out a text document at a rate of 24.13 pages per minute and a page of mixed text and graphics at an impressive 25.47ppm. The comparably priced Samsung ML-3051ND prints the same pages at 19.2ppm and 19.8ppm, respectively, and the HP LaserJet 1022n prints text at 15.91ppm and graphics at 15.3ppm. Lexmark advertises the same print speeds for all models in the E350 series, so you can apply the numbers we found to the E352dn and the E450dn as well.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Unsurprisingly, the Lexmark E350d displayed excellent text quality, with clear, sharp characters unmarred by jaggedness. The graphics quality wasn't quite as good, but more than serviceable. Details were sharp, but the photo and graphics elements were marred by some minor cross-hatching, and we noticed some minor compression in the dark end of the greyscale. We found the Samsung ML-3051ND's quality to be roughly the same.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Edited by Matthew Elliott
Additional editing by Kate Macefield