Review of Best Laser Printers (under $500)

Written by:  • Edited by: Bill Fulks
Updated Oct 16, 2008
• Related Guides: HP | Control Panel

Todays LaserJet Printers offer near perfect text prints and excellent photo quality graphics. Although not matching color inkjet printers for photo lab quality they do provide a much better all round service, are more reliable and do not cost the earth to run. Here we review the best laser printers coming in at under $500. All of which are perfect for the family, small workgroup or home office.

Best Laser Printers Under $500

Not sure which printer is right for you? Read >>> Buying the right printer

Below is a list of the best LaserJet Printers you can buy for under $500. All offer highly impressive print quality and speed, outstanding flexibility and control of print media, with extensive features for such necessities as duplex, wireless and multi-job printing.

Dell 1320c

Dell 1320c

Price at time of review - $280
Rating Good

The Good

  • With a simple yet professional ‘box' design. Quite bulky but solid and a good all round performer.
  • Setup is simple via an automatic wizard CD. A no frills, no fuss operation.
  • Easy to maintain, minimal manual intervention or re-calibration.
  • Consumables (apart from some toners) are very reasonably priced; this is a very cost effective printer to run over time.
  • Best in class photo quality, highly vibrant and as sharp as many of the best color photo printers on the market.
  • Textual printing is crisp, with no lack of depth to darker colors, including blacks.
  • For a laser printer that doesn't have the running costs or speed issues of a color inkjet this printer produces very similar quality. It is the perfect printer for the small office, or home (provided you have the room).

The Bad 

  • The menu panel could be easier to operate and drill-down's more intuitive.
  • Additional components such as trays and top of the range toners are expensive.
  • Not ideal for a business environment that needs a workhorse printer for constant throughput as the printer itself lacks extendible paper capacity.
  • Has a rather large footprint and is quite heavy. Thus it needs space and a solid structure to be situated correctly.

HP Color LaserJet 2605dtn

HP Color LaserJet 2605dtn

Price at time of review - $499
Rating Good

The Good 

  • A robust and professional looking printer for the small office.
  • Simple to setup and maintain, additional slots for direct camera printing work seamlessly.
  • Superb set of features and easy navigation control panel.
  • Minimal running costs, the only parts that need replacing are toner cartridges which are reasonably priced.
  • Outstanding print quality in both b/w and color. Minimal distortion of color prints, perfect b/w prints with no fading of black ink projection.
  • Can hold extensively more capacity than others in this range, with two 250 sheet trays.
  • Works perfectly with HP or other branded papers, envelopes, alternative media, etc.

The Bad

  • Requires HP's Glossy Paper for optimum color photograph printing results.
  • Cartridges could last longer, do not have the lifespan of others in this range when run continuously, for example in the nine to five work environment.
  • Not the fastest printer in this group.

OKI C5650n

OKI C5650n

Price at time of review - $499
Rating Good

The Good

  • Elegant design, compact and professional, will appeal to more end users than the ‘box' look of others reviewed here.
  • Setup is simple, this is the best in class ‘plug and play' color laser printer with outstanding reference manuals and support.
  • Excellent paper capacity, solid trays and feeder mechanism requires no manual intervention during or after long print jobs.
  • Best in class print speed for text and all b/w printing. Color printing is vibrant and bright, if not on a par with the Dell 1320c or HP 2605dtn.
  • Consumable prices are reasonable, toner cartridges are durable and withstand heavy use.

The Bad

  • Printer control panels which use the ‘+' key to drill down and the ‘menu' button to exit are renowned for being easier to misinterpret and misleading to navigate through.
  • Needs OKI's glossy print media for top notch graphic printouts.
  • The photoconductor will need replacing after an extended run of around 25,000 pages.
  • Slows considerably during color image print processing.

Xerox Phaser 6180dn

Xerox Phaser 6180dn

Price at time of review - $499
Rating Good

The Good

  • Elegant design, simple yet professional, works well and leaves only a small footprint.
  • Excellent paper capacity and feeding of all types of media.
  • Outstanding running cost to print ratio. Best in class for speed of all round printing.
  • Sharp and crisp b/w printing, no discernible graininess or loss of focus, very impressive. Good saturation of color but lacking clear focus on standard paper.
  • LCD backlit control panel is superior to all in this range. Highly informative and easy to setup/re-configure.
  • Text prints are on a par with the OKI C5650 and color printing (of non graphics based content) is also top drawer.
  • Excellent documentation and troubleshooting guides, almost every question answered.
  • Perfect printer for the office as it delivers quick prints, handles jobs without fuss and has a high quality that has not been seen on many laser printers, certainly not in this price range.

The Bad

  • Color photo printing is not as good as that produced by others in this review. Still it is more than adequate for the snapshot photo user.
  • Duplex printing would require a further $200 investment.
  • Takes a while to warm up/auto-calibrate following hibernation.

Lexmark C530dn

Lexmark C530dn

Price at time of review - $420
Rating Average

The Good 

  • The tower design leaves small footprint. Slick looking printer for a static location, Brilliant design for ease of use, replacing components, re-filling trays, aligning feeders.
  • LED control panel is vibrant and easy to use. Configuring the device is a breeze.
  • Additional print administration settings that can be applied are highly impressive, restricting users over the network.
  • Best in class duplex print quality and speed. Color is impressive on both sides of media.
  • One page print speed is adequate, but quality is exceptional. Text is faultless, graphics hold color well with minimal distortion or graininess.
  • An all round brilliant office based printer, can withstand heavy use and duplex printing of such quality saves on paper tray capacity and media throughput.

The Bad

  • Toner could last longer, but is reasonably priced.
  • The photoconductor will need replacing after around 20,000 pages of print.
  • Re-calibrates itself after every large job, or if inactive after 2 to 3 hours. Can become an annoying, time consuming and noisy outage period.

…and a special mention to…

Brother HL-4070CDW

Brother HL-4070CDW

Price at time of review - $450
Rating Excellent

The Good

  • With a simple ‘box' design, robust and supremely reliable.
  • Simple setup and configuration. Works seamlessly over wired or wireless networking.
  • Considerably lower price than others offering this level of features and print quality.
  • Advanced settings to tweak brightness, contrast, color. A great snapshot photo printer with no discernible lack of quality.
  • Quick to print all kinds of output media, color or b/w, duplex, heavy duty copy, etc.
  • Fantastic total cost of ownership, not expensive on consumables.
  • Outstanding text quality, supreme for b/w printing.
  • A truly professional color laser printer. Will not disappoint, perfect for the small business or workgroup. It also comes with a high energy efficiency rating.

The Bad

  • Instructions could be simpler. Not overly intuitive for the novice user.
  • Do not believe the printer can produce 20 ppm during duplex printing. It is only able to deliver around half that mark.
  • Can take a while to warm up/calibrate and is slightly noisier than others in this range.
  • Not a photo quality printer (to Photo lab standards) but it is minimally different.

Looking for a quality LaserJet on a budget. Review of Best Laser Printers (under $250)

 
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