A small office printing simple, everyday documents might find the Lexmark C543DN a good value - especially considering a duplexer comes as standard. But if you need to print complex graphics, you'll find faster-printing, better-looking results elsewhere.

Setting up the Lexmark C543DN is largely a smooth process, with just one problem: the layout of the setup guide. With 24 languages jammed on each page, reading even the top line of English can induce dizziness - let alone finding one's native tongue somewhere in the middle.

The Lexmark C543DN produces mixed results on our speed and print quality tests. It printed text at a decent clip of 19.8 pages per minute (ppm) - about average compared with other colour lasers we've tested.

The text itself looks black and pretty crisp. Colour graphics proved to be a tougher haul, as they came out very slowly: the Lexmark C543DN's top speed of 2.8ppm lagged much of the competition's by a wide margin. Colour graphics and photos look pretty natural on plain paper, but photos appeared surprisingly worse on Lexmark's own glossy laser paper: washed-out, grainy, and oddly tinged. The upshot: stick to plain paper, and prepare for a wait.

The boxy Lexmark C543DN's configuration has one nice bonus, standard automatic duplexing. Everything else is basic: a 250-sheet main input tray with a manual-feed slot, and a 100-sheet top output area. If you need more paper capacity, a 550-sheet second drawer is pricey at around £150, but it includes a 100-sheet multipurpose feeder. The control panel is minimal but usable, with a two-line monochrome LCD and self-explanatory navigation buttons.

Maintaining the Lexmark C543DN is fairly simple. The new engine features keyed toner supplies nestled behind a door on the side of the printer - which makes for easier access than having to open up the printer's guts.

While it's initially unclear whether you should pull or push on the cartridge release levers, instructions inside the compartment door eased my confusion. Trickier, but rarer, tasks include replacing the Lexmark C543DN's toner reservoir and the print heads.

Low-cost lasers tend to have high-cost consumables, but the Lexmark C543DN offers some relief. In a surprisingly generous gesture, the machine ships with the high-yield, returnable versions of its toner supplies: 2500-page black (K) cartridge, and 2000-page cyan (C), magenta (M), and yellow (Y) cartridges.

Replacing these supplies by refilling the toner would cost around £60 for black and £70 for each colour, resulting in acceptable costs. It's not too bad to buy new, high-yield cartridges either, at £110 and £120 respectively. Avoid the lower-yield, 1000-page supplies, however, because they are extremely pricey: black costs around £40, while each colour costs £60. It's a false economy.

OUR VERDICT

The Lexmark C543DN would make a decent, low-cost printer for small offices with light graphics needs.