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In this report

Sizing up reviews of monochrome laser printers

If you mainly print text pages or don't need color printing, monochrome laser printers offer sharper, cleaner printouts than color lasers. Additionally, monochrome lasers print more quickly and cost less to operate over the long run than inkjet printers.

Because of monochrome laser printers' particular niche and proven technology, models tend to be on the market longer than comparable inkjet or multifunction printers. This also means that manufacturers are slower to release new models, and reviewers tend to look at monochrome printers only sporadically. The best reviews for black-and-white laser printers come from sources that regularly evaluate laser printers and offer a way to compare models.

PCMag.com's reviews are balanced and comparative, but there are more reviews here for color laser or multifunction printers than monochrome printers. On the other hand, veteran reviewer M. David Stone's broad and up-to-date knowledge of major printer brands shines through, and the site has an impressive archive of monochrome laser reviews.

British magazine Expert Reviews' evaluations are helpfully comparative, with detailed descriptions of text and image quality. Other computer and consumer sites, such as TrustedReviews.com, IT Reviews and ConsumerReports.org, have decent reviews that fall short in key areas -- the first two aren't exhaustive in testing, while the latter lacks descriptive depth. PC World, along with sister sites PC Advisor and PC World Australia, also provides some helpful reviews, though readers may have to wade through some overlapping coverage among the three. CNET has some good reviews too, but its recent roundup features only five laser printers.

Sources like the U.K.'s Personal Computer World and Which? magazine have too little or no recent coverage of monochrome laser printers, but they still cover enough older models to be useful. Similarly, vendors such as Newegg.com and Amazon.com have amassed considerable user reviews for older models that have been on the market for a year or more.

Most reviews that we found over-emphasize the importance of speed. We found that only a minority of reviews cover any of the four major buying considerations: projected printer reliability, actual as opposed to interpolated resolution, printer paper paths and cartridge size.  

Some reviewers, as well as each manufacturer, give the cost per page of printing on monochrome laser printers. These numbers are confusing to say the least. The cost per page depends on the cost of the toner cartridge and on the number of pages that the cartridge can print -- a number that often differs between what the manufacturers' claim and the number of pages that users report they are able to print. In addition, the density of text and graphics on each page affects how many pages each cartridge will print. As the cost per page is so variable depending on how it's calculated, it's important to take these numbers with a grain of salt. In this report, we've highlighted when professional reviewers and users identify the cost of a toner cartridge as problematic.

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