Lexmark E332 Laser Printer

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, June 2005
Manufactured by: Lexmark International, go to the web site
Requires: Windows 98SE through Vista; <ac OS 8.6 through X; drivers also available for almost every server operating system on the market including Linux, UNIX, Citrix, Sun Solaris, HP-UX, IBM AIX, etc.
MSRP: $499.00

The price point . . . ah, that perfect price point. Nintendo does it again. Has the company that spawned the Nintendo DS portable game device—and owns the portable gaming market because of it—managed to trump the Microsoft Xbox 360 and the Sony PlayStation 3? The answer is, maybe—but it doesn't matter. In fact, Nintendo isn't actually competing with Microsoft and Sony. Believe it or not, Nintendo cares about what Mom thinks. Nintendo cares about the 6-12 year old crowd (and a big crowd it is). Nintendo cares about a large segment of the teenage crowd. Nintendo cares about being itself, marching to the beat of its own drum and sticking to what it does best.

We are on a quest. It's a quest for the perfect SOHO and small office laser printer. We play little make-believe games as we use and review each successive printer. Sometimes we try to fool the printer by feeding it the wrong (or really bad quality) paper to see if the feed system will choke. Other times we deliberately throw documents from different locations on our network simultaneously at the printer in order to mess up the driver, max out the internal printer memory and generally cause a traffic jam. Our latest victim is the Lexmark E332. It's supposed to be a high-performance monochrome laser printer for creating professional documents. Okey-dokey.


I installed the E332 in two places: a) on one segment of a busy network accessible mainly to some writers, researchers and a couple of middle managers, and b) in my own home office. The idea on the network was to provide access to no more than 6 people in total, a number which stretches the outer limit of most small businesses and certainly exceeds typical one or two person SOHO needs. The printer driver installed cleanly on at least half a dozen different computers.

For the record, I was completely surprised that the Lexmark was able to handle the daily, weekly and monthly network load jammed through the printer by this particular group. Over a two month period we ran at least 25,000 pages of output, very close to the maximum page count in the printer specs (15,000 per month). The printer is still working just fine. It's on the third toner cartridge and second photoconductor. The E332 is unusual in that print output is provided by a separate toner cartridge and photoconductor, the only printer in this class which uses separate print components.

In a busy network printing situation, the time to first page output is of little concern. By the time someone walks over to the printer from another part of the office, a sufficient period has almost always elapsed to allow even the slowest printer to generate the first page (if not complete the print job entirely). Using the Lexmark at home however, presented a much better perspective on time to first page. Being able to click print and almost instantly reach out to grab copy as it was produced is a revelation compared to the 5 year old Xerox P8ex lasers we used until recently. As good as that Xerox model still is, it can't hold a candle to this new generation of high quality, speedy machines.

Print output volume is another matter. I never used a desktop or network laser printer that matched its specified output per minute. Although rated at 27 pages per minute (PPM) maximum, the practical average in real working environments with varying page coverage is closer to 16 PPM. That's very good volume—almost as good as the HP LaserJet 1320. We threw jobs at the printer varying in size from single page business correspondence all the way up to 50+ page runs of financial reports and 10-15 page proposals containing dense text, graphics, illustrations, graphs and photos.

I tried a variety of output settings in order to find the optimum configuration for the printer. What I discovered was that the 1200 dots per inch (DPI) setting provided the most consistent results combined with respectable output speed. You can get faster output by reducing output to 600 DPI, but the quality of graphics and illustrations will suffer slightly. At 1200 DPI we averaged 15-16 PPM and all graphics and illustrations were rendered crisply with clean grayscale gradients and excellent image conversion. I also managed to get clean 3 point text output (practically useless for normal human beings but I had a bit of extra time on my hands to do the test output).

Cons: Lexmark recalled approximately 39,000 E332n models (among others) in September 2004. If you buy a used one, make sure it has been upgraded. Check the serial number on the Lexmark site. No duplexing (automatic two-sided) printing, unlike the competing HP LaserJet 1320. Like the HP and the Brother, the larger 550 sheet paper drawer is an (expensive) optional extra and we are once again scratching our heads over a touted small office printer with a basic paper capacity of only 250 sheets.

Pros: Enormous amount of driver support; this printer will run on any system out there. Lots of standard memory—32MB in total—which should meet the needs of most small networks at home, in SOHO situations and in small offices. That's more standard RAM than the HP LaserJet 1320n and the Brother HL-5140 (both 16MB). Fast, high quality monochrome printing. Excellent grayscale rendering of photos and illustrations. This one beats the HP LaserJet 1320 by a small margin because of slightly better print quality. Fast 8 second time to first page output, averaging only 1 or 2 seconds slower than the HP and almost 3 seconds faster than the Brother. We can't say enough about the Lexmark's clean output. Comparatively small footprint, so the printer will fit almost anywhere. Worked well with some really questionable bargain basement copy paper. Highly recommended.





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