This highly-specified premium print-only device turns out consistently high quality duplex pages at an astonishing rate thanks in part to its LED array.
- Solid build quality
- Very fast duplex printing
- User-friendly touchscreen
- High paper/toner capacity
- Pricey for a print-only device
- Wi-Fi module costs extra
- Noisey, even in standby
- AppGallery is unnecessary
We should call the Xerox VersaLink C500DN an LED printer because the print head that applies the toner is guided by an LED array rather than lasers. However, you’ll find retailers classifying it as a laser printer, because in all other respects, the technology is the same.
Inkjets, on the other hand, are a very different species. The advantage of an LED array is that it uses few moving parts, which makes it faster and potentially, more reliable. The Xerox VersaLink C500DN claims a print speed of 43ppm (pages per minute), which is almost as fast it gets and will suit medium-sized work groups with heavy print demands. Xerox aims its VersaLink line at SMBs (small to medium sized business).
The price is typically US$471 (around £359, AU$646), which puts it at the premium end of this category. That’s because as well as its high paper and toner capacity it is also fitted with an advanced touchscreen interface which can be loaded with apps and used something like a smartphone.
We should point out that the DN on the end of the model name indicates duplex printing. The basic Xerox VersaLink C500N looks identical, but the price is much lower because it can only print on one side of the page. Note also that Wi-Fi is not included in the price. We were sent the optional wireless module which plugs into the rear panel and sells for around $64.34 (£50).
Design and build
Even Xerox’s print-only A4 devices tend to be on the large side and this relatively compact model is still a two-person lift. There’s no wasted space here though. The main paper drawer is deep enough to hold 550 pages, while the multipurpose tray can take another 150. Open the top front flap and you’ll see that the four toner cartridges are not exactly small either. A high-capacity black cartridge will yield up to 12,100 pages.
Below the toner flap is the multipurpose paper tray which is where you load headed letter paper and envelopes of various sizes. The main paper tray is at the bottom. If you require more paper capacity, Xerox will sell you a compatible paper drawer to sit below this one that will boost the page count by another 2,000 sheets of A4. Printed pages are dumped in a deep paper out tray at the top, so you don’t need to empty it too frequently either.
There’s a front USB port capable of printing directly from a flash drive and another USB port at the rear for connecting a PC. There are connections for an Ethernet port and the optional Wi-Fi module at the rear too.
The one thing you notice about this otherwise fairly anonymous beige and black box is the control panel that levers up from the top panel to face you and the bright five-inch colour touchscreen it contains. Plenty of printers have touchscreens these days, but the VersaLink interface is a step ahead because the home screen can be populated by apps for various different functions and operated something like a smartphone. You can read more about this USP in the Setup and operation section.
Features and specifications
Being a print-only device, the feature list is fairly short. The Xerox VersaLink C500DN can print in colour and on both sides of the page (unlike the VersLink C500N which is the basic simplex version). It is well connected with Ethernet, two USB ports front and rear and if you shell out for the optional wireless module, it has Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi Direct connectivity as well.
The most interesting feature is the five-inch touchscreen, which undoubtedly makes it easier to set up and operate, as well as offering further apps that may, or may not be useful. Pre-loaded apps like, Print From USB, make it slightly simpler to print your documents from a flash drive by showing you relevant options on screen. Or you can download more apps from the Xerox AppGallery.
The Connect for Google Drive app for example facilitates printing from the Google cloud when you’re standing at the printer. There are currently sixteen apps available on the AppGallery, although some of these are only relevant to multifunction devices because they concern scanning.
In terms of specifications, the Xerox VersaLink C500DN is more impressive. The quoted print speed of 43ppm for either mono, or colour pages is realistic and very fast. It can process and turn out the first page in around ten seconds which is also pretty prompt.
Perhaps the main reason for buying a machine like this though is the capacity in terms of both toner and ink that it offers. With 550 sheets of A4 in the main paper drawer and high-capacity toner cartridges loaded, your workforce can spend less time refilling the machine and more time printing. When you unbox the Xerox VersaLink C500DN, you’ll find standard-size toner cartridges already loaded and these will give you 2,400 pages in colour, or 5,000 pages in black and white.
Setup and operation
Unlike some of the more sophisticated Xerox machines, you don’t need to call the IT department to get the VersaLink C500DN up and running. In fact, it is made especially simple by the intuitive touchscreen interface. Xerox says it’s like using a smartphone and that might be true if we’re talking about a smartphone from 2008. Unsurprisingly, it’s nothing more expensive than a basic touchscreen with a very slow processor behind it, but there’s no doubt that the big icons and familiar smartphone-style menu system make it easier to use than any other printer we have tested.
For a printer, the interface is slick and typing in email addresses and passwords is a painless process when you have a decent sized on-screen keyboard to play with. The toner cartridges were already loaded, so we were ready to print in less than a minute. The only problem we encountered was when we tied to sig into the Xerox AppGallery. Apparently ‘the server could not be found or is unavailable.’
You have the ability to customise the home screen so that you only see the apps that you use frequently, although because this is a print-only machine, we didn’t even fill the home screen with icons, so that feature is somewhat pointless.
Loading the paper is easy and the only jam we experienced was caused by switching the machine to standby mid-way through a print job. It was rectified by pulling the offending page out through the rear panel.
The Xerox VersaLink C500DN prints as fast as it says it can, which is the fastest we have yet come across. It rattles through big print jobs at an alarming rate, turning out duplex mono and colour documents at the same incredible speed. We could find no inconsistencies or changes in the standard of each page and were generally impressed by the print quality.
Whereas some laser printers can look a little grey when it comes to plain text documents, with the VersaLink C500DN, black text appears bold and crisp and almost glossy black against the white paper. The result looks very polished and professional.
Photos never look great from a laser printer and in this case, the usual problem of colour banding is present. It’s not bad though and because the optimised resolution is a generous 1,200 x 2,400 dpi, photos look fine when they are part of a mixed text/image document. Moreover, colour documents without actual photos in them are particularly impressive with vibrant colours and strong greyscale shading. Overall, both colour and mono pages from this printer look superb.
On the downside, this machine is rather noisy when it is rattling through a duplex print run and even in standby it makes a very quiet, but very irritating whistling noise. The sleep button blinks continuously too and the machine has a tendency to wake itself up randomly and noisily when you least expect it.
The large touchscreen display is pleasant to use, but we question how useful it really is to have the few functions that you need separated into different apps. Because we had trouble accessing the Xerox AppGallery during the test, we would have preferred a more conventional interface. While the touchscreen looks a little like a smartphone, it doesn’t behave like one and we would rather access our print jobs from a PC, or mobile device than spend time standing over a printer, however big its touchscreen is.
The Xerox VersaLink C500DN is expensive for a print-only device that’s limited to A4-sized paper, but it looks and feels like a premium machine that’s capable of printing quickly and at a consistently high quality.
Photo prints are nothing to write home about, but mono text pages turn out perfectly crisp and dark, while mixed colour documents are as good as we have seen in this category. It churns out the pages faster than any other printer we have tested too, which makes it ideal for a busy office.
A high capacity for paper and toner means you can print for longer and the print cost works out competitively, especially if you switch the the higher capacity toner cartridges when the supplied ones run out. The large touchscreen is a welcome feature even though the app-based interface is not especially useful on such a simple device.