Canon i-Sensys LBP3100

Cheap and better than cheerful

One place where Canon’s specs don't tie up with reality is in the noise level of the machine. Canon quotes 50dBA, which is about right for most of the print cycle, but there's a loud clunk as each page is taken up by the feed roller, which peaks at 63dBA. This is quite loud for a machine you're going to have sitting next to on the desk and it's a shame the feed mechanics let the rest of the engine down.

Canon i-Sensys LBP3100

Compact and clean-lined when stowed

The combined drum and toner cartridge is the only consumable in the LBP3100 and is rated at 1500 ISO pages. However, the one in the box is a 700-page ‘starter’ cartridge. How much to you imagine the trade price of an 800-page pile of laser toner is? Our guess would be a fiver at most, so there little excuse for not including a full cartridge.

Especially since the starter cartridge isn't smaller - it's just a half-filled – or in this case less than half-filled - regular cartridge. There’s only one reason for including it: so you have to start buying consumables sooner. If you print 100 pages a month on the LBP3100 - not an unreasonable rate for a home or personal laser - you'll pay out in total around £110 in the first year, rather than the £75 you'd have to cough up if a standard consumable was included.

Canon isn’t alone in providing starter cartridges, of course, and they’re more common in lower-priced printers, as you might expect. In fact, using the best price we could find for the drum and toner cartridge gives a cost per ISO black page of 2.4p, which bears up well against other entry-level lasers.

Canon i-Sensys LBP3100

It should come with a full-capacity cartridge not a 'starter' pack

You can see from this figure, though, that black print from entry-level lasers isn't necessarily cheaper than from an equivalent inkjet. Depending on model and the price you can find for consumables, black text inkjet print can be close to the 2.5p per page mark. Comparative black text quality from the two technologies is a different thing, of course.

Verdict

If your needs are simple and your pocket shallow, you won't do much better than the Canon i-Sensys LBP3100 for day-to-day correspondence printing. It prints quickly, produces excellent text, is cheap to run and folds away to a compact unit when not in use. Pretty much all the boxes ticked, then. ®

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Canon i-Sensys LBP3100

Canon i-Sensys LBP3100

Cheap and better than cheerful, this is a quick, well-designed printer, ideal for personal monochrome output.
Price: £115 RRP