Review: Xerox Phaser 3300MFP Laser MFP

Monday Nov 3rd 2008 by Aaron Weiss
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This all-in-one laser printer from Xerox is a quick, monochrome workhorse suited for small-to-mid-sized companies with moderately demanding print needs.

Years ago, multifunction printer/scanner/copier/fax machines weren't particularly great at any one task. But technology has improved, and buying an MFP is no longer a compromise. The monochrome Xerox Phaser 3300MFP ($599) offers the usual multifunction features plus flexible connectivity to network and USB storage, and a high-speed print engine suitable for small and medium businesses with higher productivity demands.

Unpacked

The 41-pound Phaser 3300MFP is compact and rather generically beige, distinguished with a corporate-blue control panel and Xerox badge. At about 18-inches high and wide, the cube-like unit is compact enough to live just about anywhere in your average office.

The main control panel provides buttons for scan, copy, and fax modes, including a speed dial pad for fax recipients. A two-line monochrome screen is easy to navigate for walk-up operations such as scanning to a thumb drive or network location, but at this price it would be nice to see a larger, more information-rich console display.

It also includes a front-side USB slot for a thumb drive, plus a manual feed door that can hold up to 50 sheets, and a typical tray that holds 250 sheets. On the back, you'll find a network jack, a USB slot for a direct computer connection, phone line in and out for fax support, and a connector for an optional secondary paper tray ($150) that can hold an additional 250 sheets. A door on the rear flips open allowing straight-through printing for jobs when you don't want the printout to curl.


Xerox Phaser 3300MFP
The Phaser 3300MFP offers walk-up print, scan, copy and fax capabilities.

The top of the 3300MFP consists of a glass flatbed scanner and a 50-sheet ADF (automatic document feeder) for batch scanning or copying. The ADF accepts pages up to legal size at the largest and slightly bigger than 5- x7-inches at the smallest.

The 3300MFP software includes both PCL and Postscript 3 software drivers for the printer and scanner (Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux), Windows software OmniPage for OCR (optical character recognition) and PaperPort, a scan management application.

Connectivity

You can connect the Phaser 3300MFP to a network (both TCP/IP and Apple's Ethertalk) or directly to a single machine using the included USB cable. You can configure network parameters manually through the console controls, but the printer should work out of the box on most networks since it defaults to receiving a DHCP IP address.

Support for Wi-Fi networks means that the 3300MFP will work in secure environments that require authentication for network access. The unit can also filter access by IP address and user authentication, options which can be configured through the Phaser's Web-based administration interface.

Walk Right Up

Like competing MFP's today, the 3300MFP offers several "walk up" features—which means you can be productive without even connecting the machine to a computer, or sitting at the computer, anyway. Copying from the scanner, of course, is a typical walk up action. You can place originals either on the flatbed or in the ADF, configure copy options (quantity, scale, quality), and press "Start".

Likewise, you can plug a USB thumb drive into the 3300MFP's front-mounted slot to use as both read and write media. The unit can print documents directly from a thumb drive as long as they are stored in one of several formats: TIFF, BMP, JPEG, PDF, and PRN (the format produced when you "Print to file" in Windows). You can also scan directly to the thumb drive, in TIFF, JPG or PDF formats, using only the console to control the process. One arguable oversight is the unit's lack of memory card reader, another increasingly common storage medium besides thumb drives.

The ID card copy mode lets you scan both sides of a card and print them on a single side of paper – handy for medical offices that scan insurance cards. Using the 3300MFP's built-in address book, you can also send faxes right from the console without any computer-based fax software.

Ready, Set, Print

First and foremost, the 3300MFP is a printer, and its primary strength is speed. The printer produces a first page in less than 10 seconds and continues pumping out pages at a rate of "up to 30" pages per minute. While the "up to" is Xerox marketing speak, our experience suggests this is not an exaggeration.

Although 3300 produces print quality up to 1,200 dots-per-inch (dpi), the software driver defaults to the faster 600 dpi ‑ more than adequate for most jobs. The unit produces the quality print you would expect. As a monochrome printer, you're hardly going to be running detailed photographs through it.

The 3300MFP includes a built-in duplexer, so you can print jobs to both sides of paper without any manual intervention and save a lot of paper—good for both your wallet and the environment. Using the manual feed tray, you can feed alternative media like bond, card stock, envelopes, labels and transparencies.

Scan Anywhere

The 3300MFP can scan documents and then store them almost anywhere. You can store them in pre-defined network shares, send them directly to specified applications on a connected PC, to an attached USB thumb drive, save them to Internet-accessible folders or FTP sites, or send scans directly to a list of recipients by e-mail.

Despite a cornucopia of scanning options, though, there are some quirks. If your scanner is connected via the network, it cannot scan directly to specific applications on a PC. This requires the PC to be connected to the scanner via USB. This is relatively easy to work around, though. For example, you can scan directly to a pre-defined folder on your PC. For most purposes, this is nearly just as convenient.

Another caveat is that the TWAIN driver also supports scanning only via USB. Suppose you launch Photoshop, for example, and want scan a document directly into the software. If you are connected to the 3300MFP via network, this won't work—the Xerox TWAIN driver can't find the scanner. If you plug the PC into the unit's USB port, this will work. We've seen competing MFPs that do support TWAIN scanning over the network, though, so we would like to see this limitation improved.

Still, scanning to a Windows share, or FTP location, is a plus. You'll need to configure these parameters, along with e-mail options (SMTP server and recipient addresses) using the Web-based administration console.

The 3300MFP scans in color with resolution "up to 4,800 dpi interpolated" but realistically, its optical performance peaks at around 300 dpi. Scan quality can best be described as office-worthy—good enough for documents, but you won't want to use the 3300MFP to scan family heirloom photographs. Both detail and color fidelity are on the slight side.

MFP Management and Consumables

The most effective way to manage the 3300MFP over a network is using its built-in Web server, known as CentreWare Internet Services. CentreWare displays the current printer status and basic performance statistics like page count and toner level.

You can define default settings for many of the walk-up operations, like size and darkness for copies; configure network printing or e-mail alerts, so that the machine will contact specified recipients to report a variety of conditions, like low toner or paper jam. Though comprehensive, the Web-based console is rather clunky to use and often produces browser errors.

The Phaser 3300MFP's 4000-sheet capacity toner cartridge ($110) works out to an affordable 2.7 cents per page. You can do even better with the available 8000-sheet toner ($169), lowering your cost to 2.1 cents per page.

All Business

Although a lighter-duty business customer might take pause at its average scan quality, lack of memory card reader or color output, the Xerox Phaser 3300MFP's automatic document feeding, built-in duplex printing, and high productivity makes it well suited for a small or medium-sized business with a moderately demanding print volume.

Aaron Weiss a technology writer, screenwriter and Web development consultant who spends his free time stacking wood for the winter in Upstate New York. His Web site is: bordella.com

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