Networked Printing at Home: Lexmark E120n Laser Printer

by Chris Howard Sep 05, 2006

If governments ever find out how expensive injket printer ink is, nations will go to war to get hold of it. At AUD$2,000 to AUD $3,000/litre, it must be one of the most expensive liquids on the planet.

My Canon Pixma MP150 takes a black cartridge with a capacity of 16ml. Each cartridge cost AUD$32 which equals AUD$2000/litre. Now color ink is AUD$34 for a tri-color cartridge of 12ml (i.e. 4ml/color), which equals about AUD$2800/litre.

For those who think in US gallons and US dollars, that’s around $5,800/gallon. Lucky we don’t fill our cars with printer ink. And who needs expensive French perfume? You want to impress your girlfriend—buy her printer ink.

Printing color on an inkjet is expensive, but so is any type of color printing. The problem with inkjet printers is printing black. Inkjets are a very, very expensive way to print in B&W. Mine costs me over 16 cents/page (AUD). Most laser printers in the low end of the market are around 3 cents per page (AUD).

With that in mind I’d been considering a laser printer for some time. The other day my inkjet ran out of black ink again (the black cartridges only print 200 pages) so I decided it was time to get a B&W laser printer.

After hunting around a bit, I came across a Lexmark E120n locally for a very good price. Bear in mind that I do live in a small town, so there are very few options locally.

That said, I still did my research and identified several printers I was interested in.

Obviously though, I chose the Lexmark. Two main reasons:

1) With assignments due, I didn’t really want to wait several days for an online seller to deliver
2) That little “n” in its model number. That means “Network”. Anyone who’s ever tried hanging a printer off a Mac for group use will know how excellent a printer with a built-in network card would be. The E120n is at least AUD$100 cheaper than any other networked laser printer I could find in the home-market.

Features and benefits
From the Lexmark website:
- Up to 20 ppm (Letter), 19 ppm (A4)
- 600 x 600 dpi, 1200 Image Quality
- As fast as 8 seconds time to first page
- 16MB memory standard
- PCL 6 emulation standard
- Ethernet-Ready 10/100BaseTX
- USB 2.0

And of course, most importantly, it works with Macs. (There are still a lot of printers out there in the low end that don’t work with Macs.)

The benefits of laser over inkjet are they are cheaper to run, faster, quieter, higher quality. That last point may not seem much, but despite the improvements in inkjet printing, laser printed documents still create a more professional impression.

The Lexmark E120n has one significant problem. And one I hope is not a portent of what the printer manufacturers may do in the future.
The toner for this printer works out almost twice as expensive as other laser printers I looked at. That said, it is still more than one-third the price of B&W printing with my inkjet. At my print volumes, I still save at least AUD$100/year.

When I bought my first inkjet printer 11 years ago, the price of toner cartridges doubled in six months and haven’t come down since. I hope history doesn’t repeat. But I am concerned that this high pricing of the laser toner by Lexmark for the E120n, may be followed by other printer manufacturers as low end laser printers (B&W and color) become common place. But, cynically, I think it will - because someone is losing 10 cents for every page I print on the E120n.

The E120n is also only supplied with a started toner cartridge of only 500 page capacity. But even the full capacity cartidges are small by laser standards, at only 2000 pages.

Generally the printer is quite sturdy, although the paper guides do feel quite cheap and flimsy and are difficult to maneuver when the paper tray is loaded.

I was a little hesitant that such a cheap feature packed printer would be just that - cheap and nasty. But besides the paper guides, the rest of the Lexmark E120n feels reasonably robust.

Being networkable - plus faster, quieter and cheaper than an inkjet - makes the Lexmark E120n a very appealing and serviceable printer.

If your print volume is relatively low (mine’s 50 to 100 pages per month), then the Lexmark E120n is well worth considering. But if you are printing several hundred or more pages a month, I can’t recommend it - simply because of the expensive toner. But bear in mind, if you are trying to reduce your costs of printing B&W on an inkjet, any laser printer will save you a fortune.

If not for the over-priced toner, I’d mark this printer quite high, but I am going to knock off a couple of points for that: 7/10


  • How much did you pay?  I purchased a Brother 2070N Laser printer with network capabilities for less than 200 U.S. dollars over one year ago, and its toner is affordable.  The printer is available now for around 130-150 U.S. dollars online.  I see the Lexmark for 110-150 U.S. dollars.

    If the toner is much more expensive for the Lexmark, I would look at the Brother.  I have NO complaints thusfar.

    TexasAg03 had this to say on Sep 05, 2006 Posts: 17
  • It cost me AUD$149 - which is really cheap. Everyone else is selling them here for about AUD$199

    Chris Howard had this to say on Sep 05, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • I’ve owned this printer for about 6 months or so (got it as soon as it came out).  I paid $130 at the time, which was a great deal.  The printer itself has been fantastic.  Networking works great out of the box with my MBP.
        The toner’s a bit steeper than previously, but you can get toner for $65 (for 2000 pages) - about 3.2 cents per page (US).  Not a lot to complain about - fast, easy, cheap.  Supposedly there’s a photoconductor kit that needs to be replaced at 25K pages (for about $40) but I don’t expect to ever reach that amount.  If you print low volumes (I print about 50 pages/month), it’s the way to go.

    drduuude! had this to say on Sep 05, 2006 Posts: 2
  • Thanks drdude! I notice too in the US that Lexmark have a deal on the E120n where you get the printer and a toner for $192.

    I assume it’s a scond and full-size toner, and I assume that’s good value.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Sep 05, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • why does laser-printer’s toner are so expensive?

    nana had this to say on Sep 05, 2006 Posts: 63
  • Nana, because they figured you’d be getting a great deal initially (at a great loss for them I must state here) then as soon as the trial toner is depleted, in as soon as 1 ream of paper, then Wham!... They got ya! And you will soon be providing the $$$ for their bottom-line…like everyone else.

    If you are comparing $$/page, nothing can beat dry dye sublimation color or b&w printing. Tektronix Phaser printers pioneered this and now Xerox mass-markets them as their Phaser line. These are rated just $0.02/color page ($295 toner cartridge/15,000 pages).

    Robomac had this to say on Sep 05, 2006 Posts: 846
  • I have printed some nice linen business cards using a printer over a network at home. The setup is quite easy and if you follow all the steps that a tutorial provides, you can’t miss it.

    annekingsy had this to say on Oct 10, 2011 Posts: 22
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