Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/11/14/review_printer_samsung_ml_1630w/

Samsung ML-1630W wireless network mono laser printer

A great-looking printer that's quick and quiet

By Simon Williams

Posted in Hardware, 14th November 2008 09:02 GMT

Review Laser printers aren’t the most photogenic of kit and you’d usually want to relegate one to an office or workroom. Samsung has given its latest offering a makeover, though.

Mono laser printers may have been eclipsed in the home by inkjets, but they’re faster and produce better black print. They’re also pug-ugly, built for function not looks. Not so Samsung's ML-1630W, which it claims is "based on the design of a Steinway piano".

Samsung ML-1630W printer

Samsung's ML-1630W: inspired by a piano, apparently

It does have a glossy black case, but that’s black plastic, rather than polished wood, with all veneers for a single instrument taken from the same tree. But get past Samsung’s enthusiasm, and this is still a special-looking printer, very little like a conventional laser. The glossy black case looks something like a record deck and is a similar size, with a step at the front... yes, all right, it's a bit like a piano keyboard.

The control panel consists of a 13 x 5 matrix of blue LEDs which shine through its upper surface. As well as some animated blue symbols, this matrix reproduces simple words, like 'open', when the case is opened and the number of pages being printed, in case you forget.

The big, blue lights are largely cosmetic and look out of place against the four, little, red-LED icons, which light up for important things like errors: low paper, low toner and paper jam. A separate, blue LED for power and another for wireless connection complete the set, and there’s a touch-sensitive switch for standby. A second switch is ready to stop the current print job.

The only physical buttons on the ML-1630W are there to release the spring-loaded paper tray and to open its top cover. The tray takes up to 100 sheets of 75gsm paper, fewer than that of typical 80gsm office laser paper. This isn’t much, even for use in a printer aimed at the home – many inkjets take more than this.

Unless you want printed pages ending up on the desk or floor, you’ll need to clip in the transparent plastic paper support at the front of the printer, which to an extent spoils its lines and is conspicuously absent from any of Samsung's product shots.

Samsung ML-1630W printer

The tray takes fewer than 100 sheets, so refill frequently

Lift the shiny lid and you have a very low-profile laser engine which uses an integrated drum and toner cartridge good for 2000 pages. This is a fair yield for this class of printer, and the flat-and-low design of the mechanism means the cartridge ‘sits in’ from the top, rather than having to slot in from the front, which is more fiddly.

Emphasising the possibilities of moving the printer physically away from the computer, Samsung has built 802.11b/g Wi-Fi into it, as well as standard Ethernet and USB 2.0 connections. This is unusual in a mono laser printer at this price point, where you normally consider yourself lucky to get a single USB port.

Setting up the wireless isn’t nearly as easy as it should be. Given that the printer is aimed at the home, where dedicated sysadmins are rarely in evidence, having a network and wireless setup involving IP addresses, MAC addresses and WEP/WPA codes is daunting and is bettered by rivals like Canon and Lexmark, who build the whole thing into a simplified installation. These wireless printers may require brief USB connection while setting up, but this is preferable to the messy process Samsung puts you through.

Once set up, the printer driver is well equipped, offering up to 16 pages per sheet, watermarks and overlays and manual duplex, by printing odd pages and even pages separately. There’s no automatic duplex option and no extra paper tray. In fact, there is nothing you can add to it, but it does come with a pale blue polishing cloth, so you can keep the piano black in Steinway glossinesss. Bless.

Samsung printer comes closer to its published print speed than many printer makers' offerings do. It claims the ML-1630W churns pages out at a rate of 16 per minute, and we printed a 20-page text print in one minute 33 seconds - 12.9ppm. That time is for a click-to-drop test - from clicking OK in the Print dialog to the last page dropping into the output tray, so includes processing time. A 6 x 4in photo on an A4 page took a very commendable 15 seconds to appear.

Samsung ML-1630W printer

The cartridge is easy to replace

You may not often want to print photos on a monochrome laser, but many documents now have greyscale elements, so it’s good the extra processing time doesn’t slow this printer down by much.

Print quality is generally very good. Black text is jet-black and crisp, with little sign of any toner spatter. Greyscale graphics, derived from colour documents, show no banding and have a wide range of shades, so you lose none of the differential between colours, even at the printer’s default 600dpi resolution. The maximum resolution is 1200 x 600dpi, though this is achieved by interpolation.

Our photo print showed that for most purposes, there’s not a lot of difference between the two resolutions. The print was well reproduced in both modes and, although there’s some slight micro-banding in areas of solid fill, this is less than often seen in lasers at this price.

As we mentioned, the machine uses a combined drum and toner cartridge and this is the only consumable. The cheapest source we could find was just over £55 including VAT, for a cost per page of 2.80p.

This is quite a bit for a mono laser page, where even competitors in the same price range average out closer to 2.1p - equivalent to a £42 cartridge. There’s a trade off, of course, between the asking price for the printer and its running costs – the more you pay up front, the cheaper it is to keep running.

Samsung ML-1630W printer

Fit this, or your prints end up on the floor

Samsung claims a good noise figure of 45dBA for this laser, thanks to its "NoNois" [sic] technology – basically a consequence of the engine design. We measured our sample at peaks of 54dBA at 50cm away, which is louder than that, but still quieter than a lot of its rivals, which often peak at over 60dBA.

Verdict

Samsung has succeeded in producing a better-looking laser printer than most. The print quality’s good, it prints reasonably quickly and quietly and is easy to maintain. However, the page cost is high and its paper tray capacity is low, so it’s best for those whose printing needs are modest, but who like shiny stuff.