Oki C321dn review
A fast, compact printer at a tempting price, but high running costs mean it’s unsuitable for busy offices
If you're looking for a cheap network colour laser with a fair turn of speed, Oki's C321dn could be just the device. It delivers mono and colour print speeds of 22ppm and 20ppm and includes an integral duplexer, yet costs just a shade over 100.
Tipping the scales at a meaty 22kg, it's no lightweight in the build department, but it's small enough to sit comfortably on a desktop. It's quiet, too, although you can't expand its paper capacity and you get only a small 5cm backlit mono LCD screen to play with.
Oki's LED technology is simpler than traditional laser designs, presenting a straight paper path through the printer. Opening up the rear paper slot and MPT at the front allows the printer to handle heavyweight stationery up to 220gsm, and print banners up to 1.3m long.
We found Oki's print-speed claims are right on the money. A 22-page Word document was delivered in 55 seconds, for a tidy 24ppm average, and duplexed at 13ppm.
It was the same story with our 24-page colour DTP test document, which averaged a perfect 22ppm at the top interpolated 2,400dpi resolution. The time to first page was never more than 15 seconds.
For general office use, output quality is more than acceptable, with pin-sharp text even at the smallest of font sizes. Our colour pie charts and graphs were also reproduced well, and looked very professional, with a smart glossy finish.
For photos, however, this is not the printer you're looking for. On all three driver quality settings, we found both mono and colour photos were murky. Large areas of single colour (such as skies), meanwhile, revealed the typical cross-hatching effect that often afflicts low-end LED printers.
Another issue is memory. We found that trying to print high-quality photos could easily cause the C321dn to run out of RAM. A spare SODIMM slot is available, but the official 512MB upgrade costs over twice as much as the printer.
Furthermore, it's expensive to run, with mono and colour pages costing an uncomfortable 2.7p and 13.5p. And heavy users will additionally need to factor in the cost of the image drum: it's rated for either 30,000 mono or 20,000 colour pages, and the printer stops dead when it reaches this limit. A new drum unit will cost you around 80 - which is nearly as much as the printer itself.
If that price sticks in the throat, a number of outlets will sell an unofficial "reset" kit for as little as 20, which puts the page counters back to zero so you can continue to use your old drum. Take this route at your peril, however: Oki, not surprisingly, advised us it will invalidate your warranty.
The Oki C321dn is simple enough to install, and its web interface provides a complete status display of all consumables and full access to all functions.
Along with PCL and PS drivers, Oki provides a small toolbox of desktop utilities, including a remote configuration manager and a right-click Windows menu option for directly printing PDFs over the network.
However, there's a complete lack of mobile apps and you can't decide who is allowed to print in colour either. All you can do is create lists of IP or MAC addresses and block or allow access to the printer.
Its steep running costs and minimal features mean that Oki's C321dn won't suit every office. On the other hand, it does deliver in the speed stakes and its remarkably low price will certainly appeal to businesses with only an occasional need for printing high-quality colour reports.
Its steep running costs and minimal features mean that Oki’s C321dn won’t suit every office. On the other hand, it does deliver in the speed stakes and its remarkably low price will certainly appeal to businesses with only an occasional need for printing high-quality colour reports.
600 x 600dpi colour A4 LED
128MB RAM (max 640MB)
250-sheet input tray
Recommended monthly duty cycle, 2,000 pages
410 x 504 x 242mm (WDH)
3yr RTB warranty
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