Just missed the trifecta

Oki Data's impressive C6100n workgroup printer has almost everything the GCN Lab looks for

Oki Data's C6100n printer

Print speed: A

Color accuracy: B+

Features: B

Value: A+

Price: $899

Reviewer's comments: With the Oki Data C6100n, you can have it fast, cheap and fairly good.

Contact: Oki Data Americas, Mount Laurel, N.J., (800) 654-3282, www.okiprintingsolutions.com/us

Oki Data C6100n

You know the old workplace adage: You can have something fast, cheap or good'pick two. Trying to find a workgroup printer that delivers on all three counts is next to impossible. Generally, as the color quality gets better, the price goes up and vice versa.

Oki Data's C6100n almost achieves the Triple Crown. Its speed rivals that of printers costing twice as much (i.e. it's fast and cheap). But even though it achieved one more milestone than the racehorse Barbaro, its color quality left it one jewel short of perfection.

The C6100n printed our 30-page black-and-white text document in 1 minute and 3 seconds, or over 28 pages per minute. This is on par with much larger and more expensive printers. And it ran through a 30-page color graphics document in a remarkable 1 minute and 17 seconds, or 23 pages per minute. This is faster by a hair than any other printer we've ever reviewed.

Documents that mix color with black-and-white take a little longer to print. When we changed some of the text in our 30-page black-and-white file to color, it took 1 minute and 38 seconds to finish, mostly due to the 21 seconds it took to put out the first page (compared to 10 seconds for the straight black-and-white file). So if you have a document that isn't entirely text or mostly color photos, the C6100n will lag slightly, though still operate faster than most other printers.

Text printouts were sharp and clean, and dark enough to leap easily off the page. Line art was similarly crisp, maintaining clarity even with close-set hatch marks. Color text looked as clean as its black-and-white counterpart.

Photos were rendered with good detail, even in shadows and reflections. One thing we liked was the glossy sheen it put over most images, giving it a quality you'd expect to see on better paper.

However, the C6100n was unable to faithfully produce certain colors on a consistent basis. It struggled to handle good blues in several images and tended to exhibit washed-out colors in some of the brighter graphics. We also found it had trouble accurately rendering text over images.

Overall, we'd say the color printing was acceptable, but we've definitely seen better.

Performance aside, the unit itself is nothing special. We found the LCD screen on the front of the printer to be less than useful. It didn't show toner cartridge status, for instance, nor could we easily find that information through the menus. Job status was similarly a mystery.

The C6100n offers many paper-feed options, including a straight-through configuration that makes long banners easier to handle. The one paper tray holds 400 sheets, which is an odd size considering that standard printer paper comes in packs of 500. With an optional second tray you can have as many as 930 sheets.

Unfortunately, all the toner cartridges are exactly the same configuration, so it's possible to put the wrong one in the wrong slot if you aren't paying attention. The cartridges and slots are clearly marked, but we suspect some distracted office workers will be lulled into an innocent mistake.

Its footprint of 17.1 inches by 22.1 inches is much smaller than that of most workgroup printers. You should be able to find a spot for it almost anywhere. And while its weight of 57.3 pounds is a bit lighter than other workgroup printers, it is still heavy enough to require two people to lift it safely.

Where it's really lightest is in the wallet. The C6100n's price of $899 is literally half of the cost of other printers of comparable speed. In fact, we've seen slower machines that are far more expensive. If absolute color accuracy is not a priority, this printer will be hard to beat. It would be great in almost any office environment.

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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