What is it: a 12ppm workgroup laser printer with a wide range of options and genuine 1,200 dpi output.
Applications: suitable for all workgroup and network printing environments with models running
at 12, 16 and 24 pages per minute. There are options available to suit every conceivable configuration.
Lexmark is best known for having made IBM?s printers before going independent in 1991, and for being the only manufacturer to produce a genuine 1,200 dpi laser printer.
Optra S is Lexmark?s latest range of mono workgroup laser printers, superseding the Optra R series and offering three engine speeds: the S1250 at 12ppm, S1650 at 16ppm, and S2450 at 24ppm, with RRPs of #999, #1,110 and #1,990 respectively in base configurations.
All three boast true 1,200 dpi resolution, employ PCL 5 and PCL XL (together making PCL 6) emulation, Lexmark?s Adobe compatible Postscript, and innovative design said to greatly ease maintenance and management. This is a key point as Lexmark breaks down the total cost of network printing as 45 per cent running costs and 50 per cent managing print and supplies, leaving just 5 per cent for the printer hardware.
We tested the smallest S1250 model in a personal environment, connected to a single PC with a parallel cable. Most workgroups will need to start adding options from day one, since all three models come with only 4Mb of RAM as standard and no network adaptors.
Sensibly, Lexmark has employed a fast PCI bus in the Optra S and, although the expansion slots look familiar, you won?t be able to pop in standard PCI networking cards. Lexmark offers three PCI networking card options: Ethernet in either 10/100 BaseT or 10BaseT/10 Base2 flavours (#350 or #220 respectively), Token Ring (#450), and tri-port (#65) which features Apple Localtalk, infra-red and serial. The S1250 features a single PCI slot, the S1650 two slots, while the S2450 boasts three.
There are a lot of paper options common to the range, all of which can be fitted in seconds without increasing the compact footprint. All input and output trays can be separately addressed by the software drivers, installed from a single CD.
Lexmark?s management software, MarkVision, lets you know what?s going on. The printer with installed options is graphically represented, along with any problem portions highlighted. Toner life is estimated from past jobs and represented as a graphical fuel gauge ? very neat.
Print quality at 1,200dpi is remarkably good, but runs around 10-15 per cent slower than the quoted engine speed. The 600dpi and 1,200dpi image quality modes operate at the full engine speed. The 1,200 IQ mode runs at 600dpi, but takes greyscale and colour information into account to produce output virtually indistinguishable from true 1,200dpi. This extra information requires more memory to process, but is in fact much faster to first page.
We did find that 1,200 IQ mode ran out of memory on our 4Mb printer when we tried to output complex graphics using PCL emulation. These problems disappeared with Lexmark?s Postscript driver, which also processed pages considerably faster.
Competition for the Optra S1250 comes from Hewlett Packard?s Laserjet 5M, a 12ppm, 600dpi, PCL6/Postscript Level 2 laser, sold with Ethernet as standard, off the page for around #1,100.
Lexmark?s Optra S range has certainly taken the lead in terms of ease of management, maintenance, options and print quality, but in this tough market, you?d be best advised to check the competition closely.
on 01628 481500
Price: From #999
Verdict: Lexmark?s Optra S range has taken the lead in terms of management, options and print quality, and therefore should be at the top of any workgroup or network printer buyer?s shopping list.
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