The Oki C5500n is a network-ready, color laser printer that’s geared for small work groups and home users with high volume-printing needs. Its $630 price is a bit steep, especially considering it doesn’t have a built-in duplexer or an automatic document feeder. It’s fast with all printing tasks, however, and shows great print quality across the board. You can go cheaper with the $400 Lexmark C500n, but you’ll need to buy a separate cassette feeder if you print legal-size documents. For just a bit more than you’d pay for the Oki C5500n, you can get a color laser multifunction such as the HP Color LaserJet 2840; it includes fax, copier, and scanner functions–useful in any office environment. If you don’t need the other functions and want to stay in this price range, we recommend the Lexmark C522n, which is less expensive and offers excellent print quality, as well as print speeds that are nearly as fast.
The Oki C5500n is big, even for a color laser printer. It’s deeper than it is wide because it handles legal-size paper as a matter of course. It stands 17.1 inches wide, 22.1 inches deep, and 13.4 inches high, and it weighs a hefty 57.3 pounds. Two hand wells on either side of the printer make moving it a bit easier, but it’s still pretty unwieldy. The printer has two input options. The standard paper cassette slides out of the base and holds a maximum of 300 sheets as large as legal size. An auxiliary paper-input tray folds out of the front and can handle as many as 100 sheets. An optional 530-page cassette can be purchased for about $185, which brings the maximum input to 930 sheets. The standard output tray resides in the top of the printer, but you can a panel folds out from the printer’s back side for straight pass-through. This option is great for heavier card stock or media that tends to curl from the printer’s heat.
The control panel for this printer is basic, reflecting the fact that the printer does only one thing: print. Back, menu up and down, and enter keys allow you to navigate the menu. Online and cancel buttons round out the panel. The two-line LCD is backlit, for viewing in low-light conditions. Through the menu, you can specify the type of media, set the number of copies to be printed, switch between input trays, make maintenance configurations, and check the remaining life of your consumables.
The entire top of the printer lifts up to reveal the toner cartridges, which are arranged horizontally instead of vertically as HP and Lexmark prefer. The cartridges are easy to pull out and replace. Oki’s consumables are cheaper than Lexmark’s: the standard black toner cartridge costs $50 and the color cartridges are $78 each for 2,000-sheet capacity. The high-capacity toner cartridges are more cost-effective: the black costs $108 and the colors cost $165 each (5,000 sheets). According to Oki’s estimates, a page of black text costs about 2.3 cents, while a color page costs approximately 12 cents (based on the high-capacity cartridges), just slightly less than the per-page costs for the Lexmark C522n and slight more than the average HP color laser printer’s cost per page.
Setting up the printer is a simple task. Insert the driver CD, click through the setup, and plug in the printer, either via USB or Ethernet, for a networked connection. A hard copy installation guide walks you through the steps, and a spiral-bound reference guide fills in the details. (The reference guide even comes premounted with a piece of Velcro on the back, so you can stick it to the side of the printer, where it’s always handy.) The printer supports both Mac and Windows OSes, so everyone on your network will be happy. The C5500n comes standard with a 200MHz processor and 64MB of RAM, which you can upgrade to 320MB. An optional duplexer is also available for about $145.
The Oki C5500n was speedy at all print tasks, making it a valuable addition to a print-intensive work environment. It churned out black text at a speedy 17.92 pages per minute (ppm) and black graphics at an even-faster 18.41ppm. Its color performance was a little slower but still faster than most of the competition’s: 11.37ppm for color text and 14.85ppm for color graphics. The C5500n’s print quality was also impressive, especially the text quality. Black text was flawless, and the color was beautifully rendered, with only the slightest hint of dots or cross-hatches in some of the smaller point sizes. The black-and-white graphics print was also impressive, with solid details and distinct progression through the grayscale. The color graphics page had sharp details and smooth curves, although the color handling was a bit off. The color and grayscale gradients showed distinct banding, and the color photographic elements were too red, while the grayscale photographic element was a touch too blue. Overall, though, the print quality was well above average for a printer of this class.