Lexmark's C780n colour laser printer is pricey, but it pays for itself with its fast performance and exemplary print quality.

The Lexmark C780n performed very well in our tests. It printed plain text at a snappy pace of 26.1 pages per minute (ppm).

Letters looked slightly thick and chunky. Although the Lexmark C780n's graphics speed was about midrange for this price point, at 3.9ppm, the quality was impressive. On plain paper, colours looked a little oversaturated, but the graininess or moiré patterns that one often sees with a laser were restrained and unobtrusive.

Using Lexmark's own glossy laser paper yielded more-natural-looking colours and smoother textures when printing with the Lexmark C780n.

This 47kg hulk of a printer is designed for heavy workloads. Its 120,000-page monthly duty cycle is far higher than that of any other competitor in our rankings.

Standard features include a sturdy 500-sheet input tray and a 250-sheet top output tray. The 100-sheet multipurpose tray opens from the left side at a surprisingly steep angle that we found awkward to use; Lexmark says it's designed to save space. Options include a 500-sheet input tray and a duplexer, both of which are standard on higher-end variations of the same engine.

The Lexmark C780n's design is sometimes too subtle to be completely user-friendly. The fairly simple control panel features a four-line monochrome LCD and clearly labeled buttons. The LCD's messages are understandable, but how to proceed or back out of something is occasionally not clear.

Getting into the Lexmark C780n is hampered by the lack of handles or levers on the large front panel. Inside, the small leg that props up the panel is a bit hard to figure out, and the very small and unclear explanatory label doesn't help. Removing the toner cartridges requires a lift-and-pull motion that would be easier with more visual cues.

The Lexmark C780n's consumables are better-priced than we expected, given Lexmark's tendency to charge a lot for them. The machine ships with 6000-page black, cyan, magenta, and yellow return-program (for recycling) cartridges.

OUR VERDICT

With all its speed and skill, the Lexmark C780n is a good bet for a busy or growing office. In this price range, at least.