The Lexmark C746dn is a colour laser printer geared to mid-sized workgroups, and it’s a close relative of the Lexmark C748de. The C746dn lacks the latter's massive touchscreen and can't handle quite as much in terms of print volume, but the trade-off is that it costs less.
The grey-and-white C746dn measures 434 x 399 x 455mm (WxDxH), and weighs 25kg – this tall and hulking printer is best moved into place by two people. Set in the middle of the front panel is a 2.4in non-touch colour LCD, which is controlled by a 4-way rocker with central button. Other buttons include Back, Home, Sleep, and Cancel. To the right of the screen is an alphanumeric keypad. A front USB port lets you print from a USB stick, though you can't preview the documents.
The C746dn has a standard paper capacity of 650 sheets, split between a 550-sheet tray and a 100-sheet multipurpose feeder. You can add an optional 2,000-sheet tray (pictured right), although at £761 direct from Lexmark, it costs more than the printer itself. On top of that, you can add up to three additional 550-sheet trays (at £384 each) to bring the maximum paper capacity to 4,300 sheets (and the price to an absolutely eye watering level). Another option is a 160 GB hard drive which is more reasonably priced at £387. The printer’s maximum monthly duty cycle of 85,000 pages is slightly less than the C748de's 100,000 pages.
The C746dn comes with an automatic duplexer for printing on both sides of a sheet of paper as standard. You can hook it up via USB or Ethernet (optional Wi-Fi is available); I tested it over an Ethernet connection with its driver installed on a computer running Windows Vista.
The C746dn, rated at up to 35 pages per minute for both colour and monochrome printing, printed out our business applications suite (timed with QualityLogic's hardware and software) at an effective 7.5 pages per minute (ppm). That’s a solid enough performance which is in line with its rated speed, and should be about the speed you’d get if you were to print text only.
Overall output quality based on our tests was par for a colour laser, with below-par text, above-par graphics, and par photo quality. Text quality was suitable for general business use, but not for documents like resumes in which you seek to convey an impressive visual impact, nor for desktop publishing or marketing materials.
Graphics quality was very good, with bright colours and only minor flaws, namely dithering (graininess) and trouble printing some thin, coloured lines. This printer is certainly good enough for PowerPoint hand-outs or graphics in formal reports, including ones going to people you're seeking to impress, or for graphics-heavy marketing materials. Photos were of a quality suitable for use in client newsletters.
Lexmark's claimed cost per printed page for the C746dn is 1.8 cents (1.1 pence) per monochrome and 12.8 cents (8.1 pence) per colour page. The Lexmark C748de has the same claimed 1.8 cent (1.1 pence) monochrome running cost, but a lower colour cost at 9.8 cents (6.2 pence) per page. There are printers with lower running costs around, certainly, such as the LED-based OKI C711dn which is pegged at 1.1 cents (0.7 pence) per monochrome page and 7.9 cents (5 pence) per colour page.
Businesses looking for a workhorse printer for mid-sized workgroups to output colour graphics should take special note of the Lexmark C746dn. It costs less than the Lexmark C748de, yet has comparable speed and showed better graphics quality in our testing. The C746dn falls short on text quality, though, and its running costs aren’t the cheapest we’ve seen.
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