The Lexmark E460dn monochrome laser printer has the speed and adaptability that a small workgroup needs, plus room to grow. At a midrange price of $1394, it holds its ground against more-expensive, high-volume competitors such as the Xerox Phaser 3600/N and the Ricoh Aficio SP 4210N.
The E460dn performed remarkably well on our speed and print-quality tests. It printed plain text at a rate of 37 pages per minute--the fastest speed we've seen to date among monochrome lasers priced below $2500, and close to Lexmark's promise of 40 ppm. Though its graphics speed was middle-of-the-pack at 7.7 ppm, the E460dn's graphics quality was surprisingly good, with smooth contours and textures in photos, and a fine level of detail and gradation even in darkly shaded areas--all notoriously difficult for a monochrome laser to pull off. Overall, the E460dn prints faster and produces better-looking output than the HP LaserJet 4014n, which costs several hundred dollars more.
This two-toned gray printer offers automatic duplexing and USB, ethernet, and parallel ports. The unit's front panel opens to reveal an all-plastic (yet sturdy) multipurpose tray that holds 50 sheets. The main, 250-sheet input tray is made of sturdy plastic as well, with large, color-coded paper guides that move easily. You can expand to 800 sheets by adding a 550-sheet tray.
Lexmark put some serious thought into the printer controls, as evidenced by its four-line LCD and sophisticated menu options. Besides covering all of the essentials, submenus offer options such as 'Instructional Connection Guide', which prints a set of installation instructions directly from the printer. When the LCD displayed an error message during our testing, one of the options that appeared was 'Show me', which turned out to be a series of simple illustrations with brief instructions on how to resolve the problem. For more-detailed assistance, you can consult the excellent electronic user's guide, which installs automatically with the print driver.
You can spend a little or a lot for toner. The machine ships with a 7000-page cartridge. Returnable replacement cartridges come in three sizes, ranging from extra-high-yield (15,000 pages for $533, or 3.5 cents per page) to standard-yield (3500 pages for $177, or 5.1 cents per page). In our most recent Reliability and Service rankings, readers put Lexmark printers down near the bottom of the stack.
The Lexmark E460dn is well designed for small workgroups. It's fast enough to compete with more-expensive monochrome lasers, and it generates pages with first-rate print quality.