Oki B710dn Printer

The Oki B710dn should take to a large, busy office like a fish to water. Priced at $775 (as of May 13, 2011), it's built like a tank, it has a tremendous duty-cycle of 250,000 pages per month, and page costs are exceptionally low. Speed and output quality favor PostScript over the more common PCL printer language, however. The offers a little more speed and even more paper capacity, but for a commensurately higher price.

Setting up the B710dn is easy, with one notable exception: Once you've installed the printer on a PC (but not on a Mac), you must enable the automatic-duplexing function manually. Even worse, the documentation makes no mention of this requirement; we had to search Oki's Website for the answer.

The B710dn includes a 150-sheet multipurpose tray and a 550-sheet letter/legal tray. An additional 550-sheet tray costs $312. You can easily access the combination toner/drum cartridge by flipping up the 500-sheet output tray. You can reach the rest of the paper path simply by removing paper trays or folding down the automatic duplexer on the back of the unit. The high quality of the construction stands in contrast to the limited one-year warranty; on this model, you'll encounter none of the cheap, thin plastic found in many other printers these days.

The B710dn's control panel is a minimalistic affair consisting of a five-line, backlit, monochrome LCD screen; basic navigational controls and buttons; and a keypad for entering passwords and codes. The B710dn can connect via USB, ethernet, parallel, and serial ports, so it's ready for almost any office environment except a wireless one. The printer also has a USB port on top, for walk-up printing. You may protect print jobs with PINs: Until you visit the printer and enter the code, the job won't print.

Text quality is as good as you would expect: sharp, and printed in a deep, lustrous black. While graphics quality is admittedly a low priority for a monochrome printer, the B710dn's graphics output is also driver-dependent--it suffers from horrible cross-hatching in graphics using the PCL or PCL6 drivers. Switching to the PostScript driver offers a vast improvement. You can also switch between 600 dpi and 1200 dpi for graphics (but not for text), though we saw little improvement from doing so.

A model that can print as speedily as the B710dn really has no need for a fast mode or draft mode. Text pages exited at rates of 22 pages per minute on the PC and 22.5 ppm on the Mac. Given the comparable speed and better print quality, using the PostScript driver on either platform seems like the way to go.