The Lexmark C748de is among the fastest colour laser printer we've tested, and its output is second to none. The unit's 1200-by-1200-dpi print engine resolution plays a major role in achieving such high-quality prints: Photos are reminiscent of an inkjet's (a good thing), and text is both supersharp and superblack. Toner costs are quite good, too, though cartridges are available only in high-volume sizes - as befits a corporate printer for large workgroups that has a capacity expandable to 4,300 pages.
Setting up the C748de is a breeze. The HTML web interface and printer dialogue areas are competently rendered, and the machine comes with both PCL and PostScript drivers. The front panel includes a numeric keypad for entering passwords and passcodes for secure print jobs, as well as a 4.3-inch touchscreen control panel. The touchscreen is easy to read, but regrettably Lexmark recessed it too far into the unit: The scroll bar and other graphical elements are uncomfortably close to the edge of the screen, and the surrounding lip makes touching them slightly awkward. Aside from that drawback, the C748de is very easy to use.
The C748de seems sturdily built. The motherboard and its open SODIMM slot for expanding the unit's memory lie behind a metal plate. To remove the plate, you loosen the screws and then slide the plate up slightly. To our great disappointment, Lexmark charges ludicrous prices for memory upgrades but you can buy standard DDR2 memory online or at your local computer store for a fraction of what Lexmark will charge you - and we recommend that you do so.
In its base configuration, the Lexmark C748de offers an internal 550-sheet tray and a 100-sheet multipurpose feed--plenty of capacity for most workplaces. If you need more capacity or flexibility, you can buy 550-sheet paper trays and specialty media trays, and a 2000-sheet stackable feeder. These add-ons can increase the height of the unit considerably, so Lexmark also sells an optional caster base that lets you place the unit on the floor and roll it.
The C748de is fast by any standard, and finished second only to the Dell 5130cdn in our tests. It prints monochrome pages (mostly black text with a few simple monochrome images) at 18.7 pages per minute on the PC and 17.9 ppm on the Mac. On plain-text documents, the output rate reaches about 27 ppm. Snapshot-size, 4-by-6-inch photos print at 3.4 ppm to both plain and laser glossy paper. Full-page photos print at 1.8 ppm. The quality of the output is top-notch, with extremely sharp text, deep blacks, and photos that compare well in smoothness and detail with those produced by inkjets.
The C748de's toner cartridges have a low cost per page in any case, but they're even less expensive if you agree to use "return-programme" cartridges that go back to Lexmark after use. Follow those rules, and the 12,000-page high-yield black cartridge costs only around 1.5p per page. The 10,000-page high-yield colour cartridges (around £189 each in cyan, magenta, and yellow) cost about 1.9p per colour per page. A generous bonus: The printer ships with the high-yield supplies.
The Lexmark C748de's official monthly duty cycle is 100,000 pages, but Lexmark's recommended monthly page volume is 2500 to 10,000 pages - considerably higher than you'll see for cheaper colour laser printers. The warranty is on-site for a single year; extensions are available.
Though it's pricier than most of the colour laser printers we review, the Lexmark C748de delivers better-quality output and uses cheaper toner. If you print a lot - and you shouldn't consider this corporate printer unless you do - it will save you money in the long run. Just avoid purchasing your memory upgrades from Lexmark.