For speed, reliability and low cost of ownership, it's hard to beat a monochrome laser printer. OKI's most recent, the B6500N, is for all types of office environments, from an accountant's small office to a mid-size work group. And for $1754, while it might seem expensive for a one-colour printer, you do get a blindingly fast unit that's very easy to maintain, and which has a high paper handling capacity.
We clocked the B6500N at 31 pages per minute in our tests, using PDF files, which is an impressive performance, especially for busy office environments where many jobs need to be printed regularly, and its first page output was consistently less than 10sec, although full page images took slightly longer. We tested the printer with a direct USB connection to a PC, but it has built-in 10/100 networking, too, and even a parallel port for users who need to attach it to legacy gear.
The quality of its output was sharp for text, as expected, and it performed reasonably well with images, too. Of course, they won't come out in colour, but you'll easily be able to make out small details. Its standard paper handling capacity is generous at 700 sheets, while 1100 more sheets can be added through two optional 550-sheet trays (they're $405 each). A 150-sheet multi-purpose tray above the 550-sheet paper tray can be used to print on envelopes.
Private documents can be printed securely within the print driver; simply setup a PIN number for the job, then enter the PIN number through the printer's menu system to print the job right there and then. It's a little inconvenient to enter numbers, as you have to scroll through each one using arrow keys; a number pad would be welcomed for this task. Furthermore, a USB port isn't present for printing jobs directly off a USB key. You can time-delay print jobs within the printer driver, which is handy for scheduling large print jobs at the end of the day when the office is empty.
For efficiency, the B6500N can shrink multiple pages to print on one sheet (up to four pages on a single page were very easy to read), but it doesn't come with a duplex unit as a standard feature. You'll need to either spend $385 and fit it yourself, or instead buy the B6500DN for $2172, which has the duplex unit built in. Toner can be saved by selecting 'toner saving mode' in the driver, and while the output will look lighter, it will still be easy on the eyes. Conversely, you can set the printer to print at 1200dpi if you're printing important documents that need to look their best.
Physically, the printer weighs 20kg and it can be used as soon as you lift it out of the box. One toner cartridge with a built-in drum unit is present, which can be accessed from the top panel when it needs to be replaced. It's rated as being able to last for 17,000 pages, at a page coverage of 5 per cent, which works out to be a total cost per page of around 1.7 cents.
If your office is full of Vista-based PCs, then you will have to download the correct drivers off OKI's Web site, as it only ships with Windows XP-based software, but it ships with print server and template printing software, which do work under Vista.