With the C534, Lexmark is entering the market for quality laser printers under a grand. The initial investment is low enough for this printer to find its way into both homes and offices alike.
At this price, however, you wouldn't expect all the features you would get from the more expensive colour lasers, so there's no flatbed scanner, fax functionality or support for A3 prints. You do get duplex colour printing up to 1,200dpi, plus a fast print mechanism capable of pushing colour and mono pages out at over 20ppm once the printer has warmed up.
One annoyance is the noise from the C534, which resembles an aircraft taking off as it spits out pages. This will prove to be a major distraction if the printer is close to where you work. In addition, the C534's desktop footprint is fairly large, so prepare to donate a large chunk of space to it.
These problems are forgivable if the C534's print quality will turn heads but results here vary. Blacks come out very nicely; a test image of a white silhouette on a black background was exceptional, without verging towards one colour, as many printers can do when printing blacks.
While testing a black-and-white photo, detail was obscured by the image being too dark. The manual suggests adjusting the RGB values and toner darkness.
Colour prints also suffered from slightly dark tones, with some improvement after recalibration and adjusting settings on the software, but never looking as good as the monochrome output. A lightly coloured reproduction with a lot of yellow was very close to what was displayed on screen, but when a more green and red image was printed, colour tended to bleed on the page.
Colour toners come in at more than £60 each, with black costing slightly less. This seems a lot, but they last up to 7,000 prints. Ignoring the cost of the printer and other consumables, this works out at 3p a page, which is excellent value for money.
For perfect photograph reproduction there are countless better options than the C534 or a laser in general. For a workhorse printer employed for large volumes of text output with some colour on the page then the C534 works well.