In a world of color and multifunction printers, the monochrome laser feels like a dowdy suit. But like basic black business attire, the mono laser is an indispensable tool in your arsenal of office equipment. Mono lasers aren't just for corporate offices anymore, though. With their low prices and high quality, mono lasers are inching their way into home offices and onto the desks of paper-writing college students.
The Lexmark E350 series fits the bill for a home user or a college student who needs to crank out lots of text prints. All three members of the series--the E350d ($350), the E352dn ($450), and the E450dn ($600)--come with a built-in duplexer, and the latter two offer wired networking. The $350 Samsung ML-3051ND comes network-ready and offers the same processor and memory capacity as the E450dn, making it a better value than the E350d series machines. The E350d that we tested was slightly faster than the Samsung ML-3051ND, but the difference wasn't enough to make up for the value difference. We like the E350 series, but you get more bang for your buck with Samsung's mono laser offering.
The Lexmark E350d is very compact for a mono laser printer, measuring just 14 inches wide by 15.6 inches deep by 10.2 inches tall. It's not that heavy, either, weighing in at a mere 25 pounds, so it's not too difficult to move. The front-mounted control panel is simple, with just a two-line text LCD, a Cancel button, and five buttons to navigate the onscreen Menu. The Menu is basic, owing to the no-frills function of the printer, with easy and intuitive navigation. Both the E352dn and the E450dn use the same body.
All three models in this series come with a 250-sheet paper drawer, as well as a single-sheet manual feed slot. The paper drawer has adjustable paper guides that accommodate up to legal-size paper, though doing so will cause the drawer to jut out from the rear of the printer. Lexmark thoughtfully includes a dust cover for just this scenario; it covers the extended portion of the paper tray to keep dust out and also to prevent the tray from being shoved forward from the rear. The top-mounted output tray can hold up to 150 sheets. In the rear of the printer is a single-sheet output, a great option for media that may curl and jam when heated. You may opt for an additional 550-sheet drawer, bringing the maximum input capacity to 800 pages.
One of the main differences between the models is the size of the included toner cartridge. The E350d ships with a 1,500-page cartridge, the E352dn ships with a 3,000-page cartridge, and the E450dn ships with a 6,000-page cartridge. The E350d and E352dn offer the same toner replacement options: a $157, 3,500-page cartridge and a $267, 9,000-page cartridge. Both cartridges also are available at a discount under Lexmark's return cartridge program: Users promise to use the toner cartridge only once (you can refill toner cartridges yourself using commercially available kits, but printer vendors insist that this reduces the quality of the prints) and to return the spent cartridge to Lexmark. Under this program, the 3,500-page unit costs $132 and the 9,000-page unit costs $242. Replacement cartridge size options for the E450dn are 6,000 pages ($166, or $141 with the discount) and 11,000 pages ($239, or $214 with the discount). For the lowest cost-per-page, you should use the high-capacity cartridges. In the case of the E350d, the per-page cost using the 9,000-page cartridge (regular price) is about 3 cents--a decent, but not particularly impressive price, for a personal laser printer.
The feature set of the Lexmark E350d is limited, but appropriate for its function. The built-in duplexer lets you make automatic double-sided prints, which is a boon for both the environment and your budget. Using the Menu, you can make collated prints and multipage prints (up to 16 pages on a single sheet), and can automatically insert separator sheets. You also can do routine maintenance through the Menu, as well as choose options like EcoMode, which saves toner, but reduces print quality.