Color is overrated. Practically all the information a business generates is plain text, and the occasional pie chart or picture looks fine in black and white anyway.
Okay, we don't entirely mean that, we know you want colorful digital-camera images and it's no fun to walk into a sales pitch when your competitor's presentation handouts are in color and yours aren't. But it's easy to rave about black and white when Samsung Electronics America's new ML-1750 is on your desk: It's a monochrome laser printer about the size of a 12-pack of soda, that's fast (rated at 17 pages per minute), easy to use, and priced right at $249 (with several outlets we checked selling it for $240, some with a $30 mail-in rebate through the end of July 2003).
That's a relatively painless step up from $199 entry-level or personal lasers with lower speeds or fewer features. (One such model is the ML-1750's stablemate, the ML-1710 which has a slower processor, just one unversal serial bus versus both USB and parallel ports, and 600 by 600 dpi resolution versus 1,200 by 600 dpi).
And it gets you perhaps the nicest, "real laser printer" feature we've seen on a compact, low-cost model: a genuine photocopier-style paper drawer or slide-out, 250-sheet cassette, instead of the inkjet-style, vertical-slot-loading input of rival units. Samsung claims the ML-1710 and -1750 are the smallest cassette-loading laser printers in the world.
Ironically, we must confess that the ML-1750 jammed once early in our 500-odd pages of testing, though yanking out one sheet and turning the printer on and off to eject another fixed the snag. But call it a psychological thing: we still say that shoving shut a metal drawer feels more secure than twiddling a plastic tray, and helps make the Samsung a solid choice for a home or small office that needs to crank out plenty of text documents.
The Old Wimpy-Starter-Cartridge Trick
Setup isn't much harder than finding a 15-inch-square space on your desk to put the printer (allowing a few more inches for ventilation; freshly printed pages are decidedly warm to the touch, as is the exhaust from the printer's right-side cooling fan).
As mentioned, the ML-1750 has both parallel and USB 2.0 ports (and alas, comes with a cable for neither). In keeping with the printer's desktop rather than corridor size and shape, no network adapter or print server is available (though of course you can connect an external print server or use your networked PC as one; the Samsung's rated duty cycle of 15,000 pages per month certainly seems enough to share among a two- or maybe three-person office).
Like its $199 cousins, the Samsung achieves its low sticker price partly by putting a low-capacity starter cartridge instead of a regular toner cartridge in the box the supplied cartridge is rated for 1,000 pages instead of a replacement cartridge's 3,000. The latter should cost around $80 though the ML-1750 is so new that its cartridges don't appear on the "Order Supplies" Web page you can open by clicking a link in Samsung's software driver which would translate to a pretty thrifty 2.7 cents per page.
Speaking of the driver, it offers printer control language 6 (PCL) command-language compatibility (unlike the simpler graphical device interface (GDI) driver supplied with the ML-1710, though both printers can be used with Linux and Mac operating system as well as Windows systems). A pop-up monitor added to the system tray provides information on printer status.
Text, Text, and More Text
The software driver also offers a fair variety of fancy layout options, including N-up (two, four, nine, or 16 pages per sheet) and poster (four, nine, or 16 sheets per page) printing, as well as customizable watermarks (Draft, Confidential, or whatever). We didn't see any duplex or booklet printing options, however.
You can also specify alternate paper-feeding arrangements. In addition to the 250-sheet cassette, which is limited to letter-sized paper, a front-panel slot lets you feed one sheet at a time of legal-sized or smaller stock or envelopes (even 3 by 5-inch cards). A door opens at the rear to permit a straight-through, face-up paper path instead of the usual U-turn that leaves pages face down (Page 1 on top of the stack) on top of the printer, propped up for handy removal by a flip-up plastic hinge.
As with many desktop printers, the advertised 50-sheet output capacity gets a little overloaded after 30 or 40 sheets. Nor can you exceed 250 pages without refilling the input drawer, even if you offer Samsung extra money no second drawer or other higher-capacity option is offered. We think that's a missed opportunity to knock out a prime competitor, Minolta-QMS' PagePro 1250W, which does offer a 500-sheet secondary cassette (but whose primary input is an inkjet-style folding tray).
Aside from the power switch at the right rear, the only control is a button on the top that cancels a job in progress, prints test pages if held down while the printer's idle, or toggles a Toner Save mode that Samsung says reduces toner use and thus extends cartridge life by 40 percent. This feature makes printouts look faint, with gray rather than black text, but legible enough for in-house or draft documents though we suspect you'd get a headache from reading them all day.
We've written before that 600-dpi laser printing is more than sharp enough for text documents and presentations, and indeed 600-dpi resolution is the default or middle setting of the ML-1750 driver 300 dpi makes graphic backgrounds or fills look dotty, while the 1,200 by 600 dpi mode struck us as marginally worth its marginally slower speed, still prone to banding in solid-color areas. If you opt for the 1,200 dpi setting, you can click either a "Text Enhancement" or "Image Enhancement" check box, but we actually preferred the former for our 8 by 10-inch digital-camera photos as well as word processing documents the "Image Enhancement" mode made printouts too dark and murky.
It Won't Keep You Waiting
But while they weren't nearly as handsome as color inkjet prints, at least the 8 by 10 images arrived in a hurry averaging 18 seconds. The Samsung also came closer than many lasers to its advertised first-page-out time (12 seconds), printing our one-page business letter (with small company-logo graphic) in 13 seconds. Twenty pages of plain Microsoft Word text took 1 minute and 24 seconds (just a dozen seconds slower than the last monochrome laser we tested, which was rated 3 ppm faster).
The ML-1750 slows down a bit when asked to print complex documents with lots of graphics our six-page PowerPoint presentation with dark backgrounds took 42 seconds, versus 33 for the same number of slides with white backgrounds. And using a USB connection with our trusty 550MHz Pentium III desktop, it took a good two minutes for the "Now printing" dialog box to disappear from the foreground when we printed our 55-page Adobe Acrobat PDF file, though the total print time was a perky 3 minutes and 43 seconds. The printer's 8MB memory buffer is not expandable.
But while its graphics are nothing to sing about, the Samsung's text is as sharp and clear as any business could wish, and it'll happily and reasonably quietly, though the paper feed makes a few low-key clicks with every page crank out documents for you all day long. It's an excellent argument for equipping your home office with a black-and-white laser alongside a color inkjet printer.
Adapted from HardwareCentral.com.