An imposing laser printer with all the key features, great text quality and excellent print speeds.
The Oki MC342dnw is a business-grade laser in the same class as Lexmark’s CX310dn. In fact, it’s a step up: while Lexmark’s printer misses out on fax and wireless capabilities, the MC342dnw comes with both as standard. Not surprisingly, there’s a cost to that. Oki’s offering is the most expensive printer here, save for Epson’s EcoTank inkjet.
Still, there are reasons to invest in a good-quality laser. Speed is one of them, and the MC342dnw doesn’t disappoint here. Across all of our printing tests it proved a smidgen faster than the Lexmark: for everyday mono document printing we saw an average 20ppm, versus the CX310dn’s 18.7ppm.
Sharp, precise printing is another traditional strength of laser technology, and we can’t fault the quality of text produced by the Oki. Even under the magnifying glass, small text appeared faultlessly even and readable. Solid blocks of colour were another strength, helping charts and diagrams to really pop. The Oki’s Achilles heel is colour gradients: transitions that were perfectly smooth onscreen showed distracting banding on the page, while pale hues abruptly fall off to white rather than shading gradually away. It won’t ruin your handouts, but they’ll look slicker on the Lexmark.
Colour handling is a slightly weak point for the scanner, too. We were impressed by the fine detail the Oki could resolve, but we found the default settings produced low-contrast output: blacks were dark grey, whites were light grey, and the overall coloration was muted compared to rival scans. At first it seemed that speed would be a strength, after our 200ppi single-page greyscale scan completed in a creditable 12 seconds. But switching to the ADF didn’t speed things up as much as we’d hoped, and our ten-page document took 1min 22secs to reach the desktop. Colour scans were even slower: our 300ppi A4 page took 84 seconds to arrive, and at 600ppi it took more than four-and-a-half minutes.
The Oki’s paper-handling options are good, with double-sided printing available from either the 250-sheet paper cassette or the separate 100-sheet tray. That doesn’t justify the sheer size of the unit, though: with the tray extended and loaded with paper, the MC342dnw has a gigantic 427 x 769mm footprint, which could on its own be a deal-breaker where space is limited.
While we’re on the subject of uncomfortably large things, the Oki’s running costs do nothing to offset the high price of the printer. At 0.05c per mono page and 28c for colour, it’s not quite the most expensive printer here, but it’s not far off on either count. If you end up printing between 1,500 and 9,000 mono pages over the lifetime of your printer, the Oki is the costliest way to do it. (For larger volumes, the Ricoh takes that dubious distinction.)
We must also mention the Oki’s interface. The 9cm mono LCD is surrounded by no fewer than 40 buttons (some of which double as illuminated indicators). The onscreen directions are fairly clear – we didn’t get lost at any point while testing the printer – but it can feel overwhelming. If you value clarity and simplicity in an interface, look elsewhere.
The Oki MC342dnw is certainly a more likeable printer than the Ricoh SP C250SF, and more versatile than the Xerox 6022V. For a busy workspace where a few hundred dollars a year in running costs is a drop in the ocean, and where keeping up with large volumes of colour documents is more important than pitch-perfect colour reproduction, it could be a good fit. But since the Lexmark beats it on price, print quality and scan speed, the Oki wouldn’t be our first choice unless built-in fax capabilities are non-negotiable.
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