The Lexmark C500n is a budget-priced colour laser printer that delivers fast, high-quality text.
The Lexmark C500n is similar to the Lexmark C510n, C522n, and C524n models we've reviewed in the past, but it achieves a lower price by using a Windows GDI-based driver that renders pages on your PC.
This lets Lexmark economise with a less powerful processor, less memory, and no licensing fees for PCL and PostScript. However, the Lexmark C500n still has a two-line LCD as part of its well-designed control panel, which competitors don't yet offer at this price. Lexmark also supplies drivers for Apple Mac computers, and the printer works with Lexmark's free MarkVision Professional, a good tool for managing a network of printers.
The Lexmark C500n's GDI-based design doesn't compromise its performance. In our speed tests, it printed text at a sprightly 19ppm (pages per minute). This is faster than other Lexmark printers we've reviewed recently. Colour pages arrived at a more sedate 3.6ppm on plain paper and 1.9ppm on glossy paper, which are close to average times.
Text print quality was superb in our tests. Our panel of judges noted crisply formed characters, smooth diagonals, and consistently dark solids. Line art came out a little dark, but straight and sharp. Our grayscale image also appeared too dark, with grainy mid-tones. Colour printing was a disappointment, though.
On plain paper, graphics looked oversaturated and had strange diagonal patterns in lighter tones. Unnatural colors and odd dithering patterns were also a problem on Lexmark's Glossy Laser Paper.
For paper management, the Lexmark C500n lacks a manual paper tray and comes with just a single 250-sheet paper tray. At least it's a real paper drawer, integrated into the base of the printer, unlike the oversized manual tray of some low-priced competitors. It's also capable of holding up to 10 envelopes.
If you often print on two types of paper, or you just want to refill the tray less frequently, the optional 530-sheet paper drawer is excellent. The Lexmark C500n isn't a good choice if you print on legal-size paper, because you have to pay extra to replace the standard tray with a larger one. (The 530-sheet drawer doesn't accommodate legal paper at all.) Lexmark offers no duplexer for the C500n. The only other option is an 802.11g wireless print adaptor.
The Lexmark C500n arrives with four toner cartridges rated for just 1000 pages each. The standard replacements yield 2500 pages for black and 1500 for colour. However, the best value are the high-yield cartridges rated for 5,000 pages black and 3,000 pages colour. You also need to replace the photo developer cartridge every 120,000 black pages or 30,000 colour pages, the fuser unit every 60,000 pages, and the waste toner bottle every 30,000 pages.