Lexmark's C780n colour laser printer is pricey, but it pays for itself with its fast performance and exemplary print quality. The company's worse-than-average reliability rating in our Reliability and Service survey might make one pause, though. Its service rating was average.
The C780n performed very well in our tests. It printed plain text at a snappy pace of 26.1 pages per minute--close behind the speed leader, the Oki Printing Solutions C5800Ldn. Letters looked slightly thick and chunky. Though its graphics speed was about midrange for the group, at 3.9 ppm, 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.
This 105-pound 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 I 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 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 machine 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 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.
With all its speed and skill, the C780n might have rated higher, if not for its dicey reliability rating. For a busy or growing office, however, it's a good bet in this price range.