Konica Minolta Magicolor 4650DN

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The Konica Minolta Magicolor 4650DN goes a long way to reducing the gap between inkjet and laser colour handling. Overall the Magicolor was very easy to use, and the basic unit is great value for money.

Test procedure
In assessing a printer we consider, print speed, print quality, ease of use, and construction.

Speed:Standard documents are used to assess peak machine speed (printing plain, monochrome text at 5 percent coverage) and also average machine speed (documents contain images and a variety of fonts and colours) in both colour and monochrome mode. Spool times are omitted from speed calculations as is on-printer processing time for the peak pages per minute score.

Quality: Standard files are printed and assessed against standard hardcopies used in all Enex TestLab printer testing. Test, graphics and photos are assessed for quality of colour, contrast, graduated shades/hues, line fineness and positioning, and also handling of colour boundaries.

Construction: We look at the quality of the engineering in terms of design and implementation.

Ease of Use: We judge the useability of the product, including quality of documentation and menu function.

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Design and Features
At last, something is going right this week -- finally a network printer that is simple and fast to set-up.

With the Magicolor, we just plugged it in, inserted the driver disk and asked for the printer to be installed. The installation was done in seconds. It took longer to get it out of the box!

As the name suggests, this a network model with automatic duplexing. It was supplied with the optional 500-page tray and internal 40GB hard drive -- commonly printed documents can be stored onboard the Magicolor for faster access -- and without need to turn on your computer.

PictBridge allows printing from USB devices including cameras. Another hardware option is direct-print of files, such as PDF and JPG, from a CF card (CF reader and hard-drive cannot both be installed in one machine).

The casing has attractively curved styling in cream and charcoal. The blue, back-lit LCD display allows four lines of text. The menu is straight forward to use and text large enough to be easily read. Connectivity is via Gigabit Ethernet, USB or parallel port. This is a real work horse with a monthly duty-cycle of up to 90,000 pages. Including the optional 500 page paper tray this machine has a total paper capacity of 800 pages. This is a beautifully engineered machine with easy access for toner and drum maintenance.

When printing the user can choose to simply print or send the file to the hard-disk for later use or both. Stored files can be accessed direct from the printer where they are indexed according to the user which sent them. The printer software has been designed to be compatible with Windows (including Vista), Mac OS, Linux (Redhat & SUSE) and Netware.

Running costs were calculated based on the printing of monochrome pages at 5 percent coverage. Including toner, drums and waste bottle the price is 3.35c per page (excludes paper and electricity). This cost is quite reasonable. You should note that colour printing costs are higher.

It is a remarkably compact unit given the need to install four toner cartridges and drums inside and the fact that it is capable of automatic duplexing. Weighing in at around 35kg you will need a hand setting it up on a bench, but it does not take up a ridiculous amount of space. User manuals were fine -- but there was little need to look at them.

Overall the Magicolor was very easy to use, although the page size default was a minor concern -- the default button forces the page size back to "Letter" -- even when the hardware default has been set to A4.

Mono and colour print speeds are quoted at 24 pages per minute maximum (24 PPM). We measured 24 PPM and 23 PPM respectively for mono and colour printing. The slightly lower colour speed is quite possibly experimental error.

The average print speed was 17 PPM and in the maximum duplex speed was 13 PPM. The speeds were not spectacular and the duplex speed is hardly going to promote environmentally friendly paper use.

Print quality was very good. Blues were perhaps a bit too purple, and there was too much warmth to the "grey" formed by mixing CMY components. Overall colour was very good albeit a bit too vivid.

Some minor streaking sometimes spoiled broad colour swathes. The separation of colour, even with complex borders, was excellent. Contrast and dithering were also very good. Fine lines emphasise the excellent resolution and dithering ability of this machine. Shading was generally good, but we noticed a sudden step in colour at around 95 percent when printing a grey scale.

The base unit, or unit with lower paper tray, is great value for money (AU$1,699 base + AU$299 for additional tray.)

We were, however, disappointed by the price of the hard-drive -- AU$699; the unit is small and has a very specialised connection making it impossible to use a cheaper device. The standard one year onsite warranty can be extended to three years if desired.