Sunday, October 20, 2013

OKI B731dn

The OKI B731dn is the new flagship model of OKI's B700 line of mono laser-class printers, and is capable of printing a prodigious volume of documents for a mid-sized workgroup. Intended for mid-sized workgroups, it offers a high maximum monthly duty cycle, good standard and optional paper capacity, and solid output quality. One downside is that in our testing, it was slow for its price and rated speed.

The B731dn uses an LED-based print engine, which is essentially the same as a laser, except that it uses LEDs instead of a laser as a light source. The printer measures 16.1 by 17.1 by 19.6 inches (HWD), larger than you'd want to share a desk with, and weighs 59.5 pounds. The front panel houses 5-line backlit monochrome display and an alphanumeric keypad for password-protected printing. On the printer's side is a forward-facing slot for a USB thumb drive.

Paper Handling

The B731dn has good paper handling features and options, befitting its massive monthly duty cycle (280,000-page maximum, with a recommended maximum of 30,000 pages). Its standard paper capacity is 630 sheets, split between a 530-sheet main tray and a 100-sheet multipurpose tray, and it includes an automatic duplexer for printing on both sides of a sheet of paper. Maximum paper capacity is 3,100 sheets, when you add a second 530-sheet tray ($223.99 direct) and a 2,000-sheet feeder with casters ($700.99). Alternately, you can add up to 3 optional 530-sheet trays if you don't go with the feeder.

The B731dn offers Ethernet (including Gigabit Ethernet) and USB connectivity; I tested it on an Ethernet network with drivers installed on a PC running Windows Vista.

OKI B731dn

Speed and Output Quality

I timed the B731dn, rated at 55 pages per minute, on our business applications suite (using QualityLogic's hardware and software for timing), at an effective 9.4 pages per minute (ppm), essentially tied with the OKI B721dn's 9.5 ppm despite the latter being only rated at 49 pages per minute. (The rated speeds are based on text-only printing, while we test with a combination of text pages, graphics pages, and pages of mixed content.) It's also slower than its predecessor, the OKI B730dn, rated at 52 pages per minute, which I tested at 12 ppm in 2011; the B730dn is still being sold.

The B731dn was considerably slower than the Editors' Choice Dell B5460dn, rated at 62 pages per minute, which zipped through the same test at 18.7 ppm.
The Editors' Choice HP LaserJet Enterprise 600 Printer M601DN, rated at 45 pages per minute, turned in a speed of 13.4 ppm, while the HP LaserJet Enterprise 600 Printer M602DN, rated at 52 pages per minute, tested at 14.1 ppm.

Graphics output was typical of a mono laser, good enough for internal business use, but whether you'd distribute it as, say, PowerPoint handouts to a client you were seeking to impress depends on how picky you are. Very thin lines in one illustration did not show at all. The printer did poorly in an illustration that contains a gradient from very dark to very light tones, showing little distinction between them. Some backgrounds looked slightly blotchy.

Photo quality was also typical of mono lasers. The printer is capable of printing out recognizable images from Web pages, but whether you'd consider the output good enough for use in a client newsletter depends on how picky you are. There was frequent dithering in the form of graininess. In certain prints there was a loss of detail in bright areas. Two photos showed slight banding (a regular pattern of faint striations).

The OKI B731dn's running costs of 1.3 cents per page, based on price and yield figures provided by the company, are reasonably low; lower than the OKI B721dn's and HP M601dn's 1.7 cents per page and just higher than the HP M602dn's 1.2 cents per page.

The OKI B731dn brings a lot to the table: A prodigious monthly duty cycle, good standard and optional paper capacity, solid output quality, reasonably low running costs. But if you're in need of the high-volume printing that the B731dn affords, speed will likely be a factor, and in our testing it was slow for its price and rated speed. If that's not an obstacle, the B731 is a capable and otherwise well-rounded workhorse mono laser capable of anchoring a busy workgroup.

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